Plans for the November Offensive
During the last week of October the XII Corps began to map plans for the day when the Allied supply situation would allow the Third Army to resume the offensive. On 3 November General Eddy issued Field Order No. 10 giving the general mission for the drive now scheduled to open between 5 and 8 November. Faulquemont, about twenty miles east of the front lines of the 80th Division on the main railroad between Metz and Saarbruecken, was designated as the first objective. Thereafter the XII Corps was to advance "rapidly" to the northeast and secure a bridgehead over the Rhine River, in the sector between Oppenheim (south of Mainz) and Mannheim. The first general objective east of the Rhine was indicated tentatively as the Darmstadt area.
General Eddy had a very sizable force under his command for this operation: three infantry divisions, including the veteran 35th and 80th--now brought up to strength by replacements--and the new 26th; two veteran armored divisions, the 4th and 6th; and seventeen battalions of field artillery, approximately nine engineer battalions, seven tank destroyer battalions, seven antiaircraft artillery battalions, three separate tank battalions, and two squadrons of mechanized cavalry.
American intelligence agencies estimated the German strength opposite the XII Corps as two complete infantry divisions (the 559th and 361st VG Division), plus a part of the 48th Division and some smaller formations, giving a strength of about 15,000 men and twenty tanks or assault guns. In addition it was believed that the 11th Panzer Division and the panzer regiment
of the 21st Panzer Division were re-forming in rearward areas within the XII Corps zone of advance. This G-2 appreciation was fairly accurate, although the 21st Panzer Division actually was far to the south in the Nineteenth Army area.
The 361st VG Division (Colonel Alfred Philippi) had come into the Moyenvic sector on 23 October, there relieving the 11th Panzer Division. New and unseasoned, it was organized under a reduced T/O with two battalions per regiment and manned with a collection of sailors, Luftwaffe personnel, and a miscellany of other similar troops stiffened by a substantial number of veteran officers and noncoms. Artillery and train were horse-drawn--indeed the movement of the division from north Holland had been delayed for several days by an epidemic among its horses. Unlike other divisions, whose artillery had been left immobile by the shortage of automotive prime movers and gasoline, the 361st was able to haul its full complement of guns. In addition the division had one battery of assault guns.
The 559th VG Division (Muehlen), still in the Château-Salins area, had been roughly handled by the XII Corps in earlier fighting but could hardly be considered a weak division--at least in comparison with other VG divisions on the Western Front. However, it did lack tank destroyers and other heavy antitank weapons. The 48th Division (Generalleutnant Carl Casper) had fought against Third Army troops at Chartres and then, in September, had taken extremely heavy losses in the fighting in Luxembourg. On 13 October the 48th was sent in opposite the 80th Division to relieve the wrecked 553d VG Division, although it too was far below strength. The 48th had been rebuilt, but with over-age replacements, and now it was considered one of the poorest divisions on the First Army front. Two of its regiments had had some training, but the third (the 128th Regiment) was not yet ready for combat.
During October the headquarters of the Fifth Panzer Army and the XLVII Panzer Corps had been withdrawn from Army Group G. On 1 November the LVIII Panzer Corps headquarters went north to the Seventh Army and was replaced by the LXXXIX Corps (General der Infantrie Gustav Hoehne), which took over the sector on the left flank of Priess' XIII SS Corps. On the eve of the American offensive the German order of battle opposite XII Corps was as follows: the 361st VG Division, assigned to the LXXXIX Corps, disposed in the sector from the Marne-Rhin Canal up to a point just west of Moyenvic; the 559th VG Division, deployed toward the west with its right boundary at Malaucourt; and the 48th Division, holding a
line from Malaucourt to north of Eply. These last two divisions were under the XIII SS Corps.2
Although General Balck had outlined a detailed defense plan to his subordinates, based on the collection of local reserves for immediate counterattack, the German divisions, understrength as they were, could not afford the luxury of large tactical reserves. Early in November the 48th Division had one battalion in reserve at Delme Ridge; the 559th VG Division was rotating its regiments in a reserve position in the Château-Salins area, and the 361st VG Division had a battalion in reserve near Dieuze. Few, if any, changes were made in these allocations of reserves before the American attack. The 11th Panzer Division remained the only division in operational reserve available to Army Group G in the area west of St. Avold. This division had been re-equipped after the September battles with the 4th Armored Division; on 8 November it had a complement of nineteen Mark IV tanks and fifty new Panthers, but not more than one or two tank destroyers. The reserve location of the 11th Panzer Division had been chosen with an eye to meeting an attack from either Thionville or what the Germans still called the "Pont-à-Mousson bridgehead." But when the First Army commander had raised the question as to where the 11th Panzer Division would counterattack in case the American offensive should strike in both these sectors, General Balck, with no other reserves at hand, could only defer an answer.
Hitler himself added another reserve component to Army Group G at the eleventh hour by sending it the 401st Volks Artillery Corps. The five artillery battalions making up this new unit were detraining at St. Avold in the first week of November. Finally, the 243d Assault Gun Brigade--really a battalion--was ordered to the Dieuze area and plans were made to relieve the 21st Panzer Division from the Nineteenth Army and send it behind the First Army lines for needed rehabilitation. Both of these units, however, failed to arrive in the First Army zone before the Americans struck.3
During its first weeks in France, General Patton's Third Army had thrust deep into the Continent. In contrast to this swift campaign, the operations of XII Corps, begun on 8 November and continued through early December, took on the character of a far more conventional type of warfare. The offensive spirit had not changed--but the terrain and the weather had.
After passing the Moselle River and clearing the irregular scarps to the east, the right wing of the Third Army had debouched into the rich farming country of Lorraine. The territory east of the Moselle, called by the French "la Plaine," was gently rolling, interspersed with irregular watercourses and dotted with forests and hills. Military geographers and historians recognized this area as "the Lorraine gateway," since historically it had formed a natural route between the Vosges mountains to the south and the western German mountains in the north. But although it permits greater ease of entrance or exit between eastern France and the Rhine Valley than the mountains on either side, the Lorraine gateway also has its barriers. To the east the Sarre River and the lower Vosges act as a curtain connecting the bastions formed by the Vosges and the western German mountains. The Sarre River position in turn is strengthened on its southern flank by the maze of forests, swamps, and lakes in the triangle bounded by Dieuze-Mittersheim-Gondrexange, and on its northern flank by the Saar Heights which rim the Saar Basin.
West of the Sarre River and directly in front of the XII Corps lay two long, narrow plateau spurs paralleling the projected American line of advance. (Map 7) These two outcroppings are separated by the Petite Seille River. They are generally known by the names of the most important towns near them--the Morhange plateau in the north and the Dieuze plateau in the south. Perhaps a more accurate identification is furnished by the forests which cover them, since the Forêt de Bride et de Koecking runs nearly the entire length of the Dieuze plateau, and the Morhange plateau is outlined in its southwestern extremity by the Forêt de Château-Salins. Any advance eastward along the valley of the Seille would have to pass under the shadow of the plateau covered by the Forêt de Bride et de Koecking, and any move northeast toward Morhange would be constricted by the two plateaus. To the northwest lies an isolated military barrier known to the Americans as Delme Ridge (Côte de Delme). It has fairly abrupt slopes and dominates the Seille Basin. Delme Ridge has long been recognized as having a prime tactical importance: first, because the Seille River, at its foot, forms a local natural re-entrant running back into the Moselle position; second, because Delme Ridge itself affords observation over the entire area bounded by the Nied and the Seille.
In the years prior to 1914 the French General Staff, under the influence of the Grandmaison school of strategy, planned, in the event of war with Germany, to take the offensive in the first days and strike obliquely, into the
XII Corps Front
Morning, 8 November 1944
flank of what the French thought would be the German route of advance, with a double-headed offensive through the Belfort Gap and the southern sector of the Lorraine gateway. On 14 August 1914 the French began this double attack. Four days later, after overrunning the forward German defense line which extended from Delme Ridge via Château-Salins and Juvelize (or Geistkirch) across the Marne-Rhin Canal to Blâmont, the French Second Army (Castelnau) and a part of the First Army (Dubail) were in contact with the main forces of the German Sixth Army, commanded by Archduke Rupprecht of Bavaria. The battle which followed, on 19 and 20 August, is generally known as the Battle of Morhange, although it covered much more terrain than just the approaches to that city. This battle is instructive since the French were faced with most of the tactical problems encountered on the same ground by the XII Corps in November 1944.
Because the Germans in 1914 held Delme Ridge in strength and could readily be reinforced from Metz, Castelnau made no attempt to take the ridge, leaving a reserve infantry division to contain the position and cover his left flank and rear. The 20 Corps, commanded by General Foch, advanced across the Seille between Chambrey and Moyenvic, took the valley route toward Morhange (with its ultimate objective as Faulquemont), skirted the Forêt de Château-Salins, and crossed the western tip of the Forêt de Bride et de Koecking. Initially the enemy opposition in the valley was none too strong and by the morning of 20 August the 20 Corps held a line from Chicourt to Conthil. On the right the 15 Corps attacked diagonally from Moncourt into the Seille valley and after bitter fighting reached Dieuze, which it held for a few hours. Farther to the east the 16 Corps advanced directly north, threading its way through the swamps and forests between Dieuze and Saarburg in an attempt to turn the German position by an attack along the east bank of the Sarre River. The terrain forced the 16 Corps to dissipate its strength in small detachments and the advance finally was brought to a halt in the neighborhood of Loudrefing. Then, as the German artillery began to play havoc with the attackers on the morning of 20 August, the 16 Corps was forced to fall back in a hurried retreat. Now the Bavarians counterattacked all along the front, leaving the cover of the forests and pouring down from the Dieuze and Morhange plateaus, while their heavier guns silenced the French 75's. Caught in the valleys below, the French could not hold. Castelnau's army fell back on Nancy and the Grand Couronné, covered by Foch's 20 Corps which fought a rear guard action near Château-Salins where the two valleys converged. In August 1914 the French were beaten by heavy field artillery, by the machine gun, and by the German possession of admirable defensive positions. In November 1944 the attacker possessed the superiority in matériel--as well as numbers--but the Germans again had the advantage of the ground and in addition were to be favored by the autumn rains.4
The XII Corps plan of attack was ready by 5 November. D Day would be set by General Patton. The scheme of maneuver was simple. Since the area ahead was so broken up by streams, woods, and isolated elevations as to make detailed tactical planning fruitless, General Eddy and his division commanders allowed a free hand to the subordinate leaders who would direct the action on the battleground.5 The three infantry divisions would launch the attack, making a co-ordinated advance along the entire corps front. The two armored divisions, the 4th behind the right wing and the 6th behind the left, had orders to push into the van and lead the attack as soon as the German forward lines were broken and a favorable position for further exploitation was secured.
In this attack, as in the three-division operation a month earlier, the XII Corps could rely on its tremendous superiority in the artillery arm--a superiority which made initial success certain whether or not the American Air Force was able to support the offensive. The XII Corps artillery fire plan again was elaborate and detailed. Tactical surprise would be sacrificed in order to bring the greatest weight of metal against the forward enemy positions, on which the Germans had worked and sweated for a month past under the glasses of American observers. The seventeen battalions of corps artillery would fire a preparation for three and a half hours (H minus 60 minutes to H plus 150), with twenty battalions of division artillery strengthening the fire during the first thirty minutes. Of the 380 concentrations planned, 190 would be fired on enemy artillery positions; for the most important targets a concentration was charted every three minutes. To thicken this terrific fire the 90-mm. guns of the antiaircraft artillery battalions, the 3-inch guns of the tank destroyers, and the 105-mm. howitzers of the regimental cannon companies were pushed forward close behind the infantry's line of departure. By 5 November the artillery had completed its registrations, and only just in time, for torrential rains and low-hanging clouds grounded the artillery observation planes and blinded the American observation posts.6
These preparations were reminiscent of the tactics of 1916 and the close co-ordination then developing in the artillery-infantry team. There was less
unanimity of thought, however, on the use of armor in the coming operation. General Patton believed, and stated this belief at every opportunity, that tanks could easily breach the West Wall, now the big obstacle athwart the route to the Rhine. But many of the veteran junior officers in the armored divisions were less sanguine and privately held the opinion that the armor would be cut to pieces in the maze of antitank defenses ahead. Of greater immediate concern was the problem of tank going in the November mud. Many believed that the campaign was beginning a month too late--a belief shared by infantry and armored officers alike. There was nevertheless considerable optimism among the troops and their leaders, though this optimism was less flaunted than it had been in August and September. Now it was tempered by the long period of inactivity, the mud and the rain, and their exaggerated estimate of the strength of the German West Wall.
Beginning on 5 November, the first date possible for the attack according to Third Army plans, rain fell with only brief intermissions. On 7 November a downpour began that lasted without a break for twenty-four hours. General Patton could wait no longer for flying weather and gave the code words, "Play ball," which were to begin the XII Corps advance on the morning of 8 November. At nightfall on 7 November the infantry slowly toiled through rivers of mud into position for the attack. So began the Third Army's education in Napoleon's "fifth element of war"--mud--bringing for some a personal appreciation of what other Americans had experienced in France a generation earlier. This November campaign would lack the dash and the brilliant successes of earlier operations by the Third Army, but it would record a heroic story of endurance and devotion to duty.
H Hour came at 0600 on 8 November with most of the elements of the three infantry divisions moving forward as had been planned. On the right the 26th Division advanced with the 104th, 101st and 328th Infantry abreast (left to right). In the center the 35th Division, attacking on a narrower front, led off with the 137th and 320th Infantry in line (left to right) and the 134th Infantry in reserve. On the left the 80th Division attacked with the 317th, 318th, and 319th Infantry abreast (left to right). The XII Corps right flank, abutting on the Marne-Rhin Canal, was covered by the 2d Cavalry Group; its left flank was protected by the XX Corps, whose advance was scheduled to begin on the following day.
The opening bombardment by the massed field artillery battalions smashed the forward enemy positions, destroyed communications, and effectively neutralized
most of the German guns. The XII Corps artillery fired 21,933 rounds in the twenty-four hours from 0600 on 8 November to 0600 of the next day, the gunners using time fire wherever possible because impact fuses often failed to detonate in the mud. Later, as the bad weather abated, planes from the IX and XIX TAC's swooped down to give close support by striking at woods, towns, and entrenchments.
The infantry advance, in its early hours, found little will to resist among the German grenadiers and machine gunners whose carefully prepared dugouts and trenches had received such a merciless pounding. As always, there were small islands of resistance where a few determined grenadiers held stubbornly in place and forced the attackers to recoil, necessitating the arduous business of outflanking the position or making costly and repeated frontal assaults. Mud, however, slowed the American infantry more than did the German line. The Seille River had flooded its banks, with the highest waters since 1919, and fields and woods along the river channel had turned to quagmires or veritable lakes. But in spite of the mud and cold the infantry moved steadily forward. Over a thousand Germans in the front-line positions were captured in the rapid advance of this first day and a large quantity of enemy equipment was taken or destroyed.
It is impossible to tell to what degree the German troops and commanders were caught by surprise on the morning of 8 November. German intelligence had reported unusual vehicular activity behind the XII Corps lines on the nights before the attack. But the top intelligence officers at Army Group G believed that in all probability the next major American thrust would come in the Thionville sector or between Metz and Pont-à-Mousson. This opinion was reinforced by the continued activity on the XX Corps front, and by the American destruction of the Etang de Lindre dam, which was interpreted as an indication of a purely defensive attitude in the XII Corps sector. OB WEST did not share the view that Patton would make the prospective drive with his left. On 2 November the G-2 at Rundstedt's headquarters predicted that the Third Army would launch a general attack all along its front--but he did not hazard a guess as to the date. Apparently the enemy front-line troops did not anticipate any immediate danger, for those taken prisoner on the first day said that their positions were regarded as a "winter line," in which they were to sit out a lull in operations until spring arrived. Possibly there was a division of opinion in the higher German headquarters. There is evidence that at least a few German intelligence officers predicted that General
Advance in 26th Division Zone
8-17 November 1944
Patton would launch an attack on 8 November in commemoration of the Allied landings in North Africa on that date two years before; but no last-minute changes were made in the German order of battle to indicate that such a prediction was given any weight.7 In any case it is unlikely that the limited German forces opposite the Third Army could have done more than they did in the face of the first crushing blow of men and metal thrown against them. Most of the German officers who faced the attack of 8 November later agreed that careful preparations and excellent camouflage had won tactical surprise for the Americans.8
The First Phase of the 26th Infantry Division Advance
On the night of 7-8 November the 26th Infantry Division moved up to its attack positions, prepared to carry forward the right wing of the XII Corps in the drive scheduled for the morrow. (Map XXVII) The 104th Infantry assembled opposite Salonnes and Vic-sur-Seille, the assault companies of the 101st concentrated near the "Five Points" on highway 414, which led to Moyenvic, and the 328th faced east toward Moncourt and Bezange-la-Petite. The right flank of the division was covered by a cavalry screen thrown out by the 2d Cavalry Group, which General Eddy had attached to the 26th to cover the gap between the Marne-Rhin Canal and the main forces of the division. South of the canal the dispositions of the Seventh Army assured a solid anchor on the right of the Third Army base of operations. The left boundary for the 26th Division zone ran from Chambrey through Château-Salins, thus placing Dieuze and the eastern Seille in the division sector, as well as the eastern half of the valley of the Petite Seille which offered a natural route to the town of Morhange. The zone of advance would require that the commanders of the smaller units be given a free hand. The 328th Infantry (Col. B. R. Jacobs), on the right flank of the division, was ordered to make a feint toward Moncourt and Bezange-la-Petite--the obvious route toward Dieuze and the one taken by the French troops in 1914. In the center the 101st Infantry (Col. W. T. Scott) was given the mission of seizing the Seille crossing at Moyenvic. Once across the river the regiment would attack Hill 310 (Côte St. Jean), about 2,400 yards to the north, which formed the forwardmost bastion of the 8½-mile plateau-wall covering Dieuze. The main
CÔTE ST. JEAN
assault would be made by the 104th Infantry (Col. D. T. Colley), crossing at Vic-sur-Seille and advancing east of Château-Salins so as to swing into the attack on the north side of the Koecking ridge. Two small task forces, made up of tank destroyers, tanks, and engineers, were added to reinforce the 104th Infantry.9
On the morning of 8 November the 26th Division attack began, moving with speed and élan much as had been planned. At 0600 the American gunfire lifted. The 104th Infantry drove into Vic-sur-Seille and after a short, sharp fight seized some bridges which the outposts of the 361st VG Division had not completely demolished.10 At the same time the 2d Battalion of the 101st Infantry (Lt. Col. B. A. Lyons) jumped off to take the Seille bridge at Moyenvic, while the 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. L. M. Kirk) made a diversionary attack toward the east near Xanrey. The Moyenvic assault gained complete surprise. Just before dawn the 101st Field Artillery Battalion opened fire on Hill 310 and then "rolled back a barrage" through Moyenvic as the 2d Battalion attacked. The dazed German garrison yielded 542 prisoners. Company E, stealing forward from house to house, managed to reach the bridge over the Seille before the enemy demolition crew could blow it and crossed the river at once to begin the fight for Hill 310, there joining riflemen of F Company who had swum the river.
This dominating ground was held by troops of the 953d Regiment and 361st Engineer Battalion, reinforced by six infantry howitzers as well as mortars and machine guns. The forward slopes extended for some fifteen hundred yards, mostly open but dotted here and there with lone trees and small clumps of woods. Company E moved up the slope to the assault, but about five hundred
yards from the top of the hill was stopped by the murderous fire delivered from the German entrenchments on the crest and field guns firing from the village of Marsal. This fusillade cost E Company its commander and several men. Company F, following on the left, lost all of its officers. The two companies crowded together, seeking shelter where they could, and tactical organization soon was lost. All heavy weapons had been left behind to enable the troops to move quickly up the slope; sporadic and uncontrolled rifle fire could not pin the enemy down.
About 1100 G Company was committed, but its commander was hit while crossing the Moyenvic bridge and the company remained on the slope below E and F. An hour later two companies of the 3d Battalion arrived on the slope in accordance with the timetable earlier arranged for an attack by column of battalions, but the assault could not be started forward again. Here the infantry huddled through the afternoon, the clumps of trees where they sought cover continually swept by cross fire and by German guns on the crest. As dusk came on the enemy guns blasted the slope with a 20-minute concentration, causing heavy casualties and still further disorganizing the American assault force.11 During the night the engineer battalion of the 559th VG Division arrived to reinforce the German hold on the hill.
Although the initial attack at Hill 310 had failed, the 26th Infantry Division generally had been successful in the first day of the new offensive. The 101st and 104th had the Seille bridges securely in hand, while the demonstration toward Dieuze by the 328th Infantry had pushed the American lines past Bezange-la-Petite and Moncourt, pinning at least six companies of the 952d Regiment to the defense of this sector, although with heavy cost to the attackers.12
Now the 26th Division began a three-day battle to maneuver around Hill 310 and pivot onto the Koecking ridge. The weather suddenly had turned cold; snow and rain fell on 9 November. The 101st Infantry, whose men had shed even their field jackets in the assault on Hill 310, suffered particularly, and exposure started to reduce the already weakened rifle strength on the slopes. Carrying parties could reach the 101st only through a deadly cross fire, and food had to be sacrificed for ammunition. Cold, hungry, with its ranks thinned and many of its officers casualties, the 101st tried to envelop the enemy positions on the crest. On the morning of 9 November the 1st Battalion, which had skillfully disengaged at Juvrecourt and come up through Moyenvic during the night, attempted a double envelopment but was stopped in its tracks by the German fire and by the mud which bogged down its supporting tanks at the base of the hill. The 3d Battalion finally dispatched two companies in an attack north up the ravine toward Salival, a little hamlet from which enemy machine gun fire enfiladed the western slope. At dark Salival was taken and the American infantry passed into the woods beyond, where German trenches, strongly manned, covered the flank and rear of the 953d positions atop Hill 310.
Meanwhile the 104th Infantry, which had moved to flank Château-Salins in conjunction with the 35th Division attack toward the Forêt de Château-Salins, fought its way into this key town. On 9 November the troops from the 559th VG Division which were holding Château-Salins were ejected by the 104th, and the right flank of the regiment was extended to Morville-lès-Vic in an attempt to put troops on Koecking ridge behind Hill 310. Morville was taken about 1500 by one of the task forces (Task Force A) attached to the division. Company K, 101st Infantry, cleared the town in a house-to-house fight, after the lead tank of a platoon from the 761st Tank Battalion was knocked out by a bazooka, blocking the narrow road into the town and forcing the infantry to go it alone. Then the little task force continued on toward Hampont, its progress slowed by mud and antitank fire. Capt. Charles F. Long, the K Company commander, was killed and half of the infantry company was lost in this fight.
The infantry had borne the burden of the attack on 9 November. Visibility was poor for the supporting gunners. Many of the artillery liaison planes
were grounded, some of them standing in water up to their wings. Not only was the artillery blinded to the point where it could give only limited support, but the air co-operation which had played such an important role in earlier operations also was drastically curtailed. The IX Bombardment Division sent 110 bombers to attack Dieuze, but because of the murky weather only 29 aircraft arrived over the target.
Nonetheless the left wing of the 26th Division had driven far enough to clear the way for intervention by the armor and, without realizing it, had forced a wedge between the left wing of the 559th and the right wing of the 361st.13 On the night of 9 November General Eddy ordered CCA, 4th Armored Division, to attack on the following morning. At 1055 CCA (now commanded by Lt. Col. Creighton W. Abrams) began crossing over the Seille bridges en route to Hampont. But the appearance of the American tanks had no immediate effect on the battle still being fought for the possession of Hill 310.
The 1st Battalion of the 101st Infantry continued to work its way around Hill 310 on 10 November. About 1610 Colonel Scott gave the order to assault the ridge behind the hill. This assault was the turning point in the fight for a foothold on the Koecking plateau. Company C, attacking with marching fire behind a curtain of shells, succeeded in pushing the Germans off the ridge northeast of Hill 310. A company of enemy infantry counterattacked immediately, but C Company beat off the attack, although it was badly mauled; it then dug in while the German gunners took over the fight and tried to shell the Americans out of the position. The rest of the 1st Battalion swung around to the left, into the Bois St. Martin, and reached out to meet the 3d Battalion, which the day before had wheeled in a wider arc to move onto the Koecking ridge. The 3d Battalion literally blasted its way out of the thick, dark woods and on 11 November reached a road junction south of Hampont, where about a hundred Germans were captured.14 Then the 3d Battalion turned back on the main ridge line to meet the 1st Battalion. On the same day, the 1st had finally driven the enemy off Hill 310 and from this vantage point was now directing the American batteries in counterfire against the German guns at Marsal and Haraucourt-sur-Seille in the valley below. Firmly astride the Koecking ridge, the 26th Division could begin the slow and costly process of fighting step by step to clear the Koecking woods, displace
the enemy on the plateau, and seize the villages in the valleys and on the slopes. The 26th Division, however, already was understrength. The fight for Hill 310 alone had cost 478 officers and men, dead and wounded.15
Initial success in the penetration by CCA, 4th Armored Division, in the Hampont sector offered some possibility for maneuver by the 26th Division's left. On 11 November, therefore, General Paul switched the 328th Infantry to the center of the division zone--on top of Koecking ridge--sent the 104th Infantry in on the left to support CCA in the drive toward Rodalbe, and turned the 101st to the east in an advance along the southern slopes of the Koecking ridge.
The CCA Attack along the Valley of the Petite Seille
The 4th Armored Division entered upon the November campaign as one of the crack armored divisions in the American armies in Europe. It was now a thoroughly battlewise division, imbued with a high degree of confidence as a result of the successful tank battles in late September, with relatively few green replacements, and with nearly a full complement of tanks and other vehicles. However, the 4th Armored, as well as General Patton's other armored divisions, was faced with a combination of terrain and weather which promised very bad tank going and which would inevitably restrict the mobility that had distinguished American armored formations in preceding months. During the final phase of the November operation the 4th Armored Division would be handicapped also by the fact that the right boundary of the Third Army continually was subject to change, making it necessary for the division constantly to alter its axis of advance in order to stay within the proper zone, and even, on occasion, to double back on its tracks.16
General Wood appears to have suggested that his entire division be used in an attack through the Dieuze defile, along the Moyenvic-Mittersheim road. General Eddy did not favor this plan because reports from the corps cavalry indicated that a considerable German force had been gathered to hold the narrow avenue through the Dieuze bottleneck.17 Furthermore, Mittersheim, the Dieuze road terminus, lay inside the projected Seventh Army zone. General
Eddy and his staff considered putting the 4th Armored Division through north of Château-Salins as the spearhead of the XII Corps advance. But General Patton's decision to add the 6th Armored Division to the XII Corps for the November offensive necessitated a regrouping of Eddy's armored strength. In the final plan the 4th Armored Division was given a "goose egg" on the map, covering the Morhange area, as an initial objective. Its additional and very tentative assignment was to continue the offensive in the direction of Sarre-Union and the Sarre River crossings there. In this plan it was intended that CCA would advance on the right, pass through the 26th Division, attack northeast along the valley of the Petite Seille, bypass Morhange, and strike out along the Bénestroff-Francaltroff road. CCB meanwhile would circle to the north of the Morhange plateau, in order to free the one good road through the valley of the Petite Seille for CCA, and capture the vital road center at Morhange. Both combat commands would have to contend with the lack of hard-surfaced roads in the area. As a result the routes finally followed consisted of a series of zigzags and cutbacks--the whole further complicated, as events showed, by the movement of supply and transport for the infantry divisions on these same roads.
On 9 November CCB (Brig. Gen. H. E. Dager) jumped off through the 35th Division bridgehead.18 The following day CCA entered the attack, Colonel Abrams19 passing his lead column (Major Hunter) through the 104th Infantry, which was fighting the rear guard of the 559th near Morville. Hunter's column moved slowly, since even the limited enemy resistance encountered at road blocks along the way caused delay and confusion. Maneuver generally was impossible. Tanks and trucks that went off the black-top surface of the main highway had to be winched out of the quagmire. Hunter's tanks drove through Hampont before dark on 10 November, but CCA's second column (Lt. Col. Delk M. Oden) was unable to make a start along the crowded roadway and did not reach Hampont until the close of the next day.
Hunter's column fought its way toward Conthil on 11 November but ran into serious difficulty south of the village of Haboudange, where a battalion of the 361st VG Division and the 111th Flak Battalion had assembled in preparation for a counterattack to regain contact with the retreating 559th.20
TASK FORCE ODEN LEAVING CHÂTEAU-SALINS, on the morning of 11 November.
At this point the road passed through a narrow defile formed by the river on one side and a railroad embankment on the other. As the column entered the defile hidden German dual purpose guns opened fire. The leading tanks were knocked out, blocking the road and bringing the column to a halt. Four American officers were killed, one after another, as they went forward to locate the enemy gun positions. Finally Hunter turned the column back and continued the move by a side road, bivouacking that night between Conthil and Rodalbe, while two companies of the 104th Infantry outposted the latter village. Progress had been slow this day, impeded by the German antitank guns and minor tank sorties, but Hunter's column had destroyed fourteen enemy guns and three tanks--although at considerable cost in American dead and wounded.21
The next morning Oden's column drew abreast of Hunter, with the 2d Battalion of the 104th Infantry (the regiment was now commanded by Lt. Col. R. A. Palladino) following in support. Oden turned off the main road and took Hill 337, southeast of Lidrezing, a commanding height that overlooked the enemy positions along the path of advance eastward. About noon Hunter's column reached Rodalbe, which had been occupied the previous evening by K and L Companies of the 3d Battalion (Lt. Col. H. G. Donaldson), and started north toward Bermering with the intention of cutting off the troops of the 559th VG Division now retreating in front of CCB and the 35th Division. However, the enemy had had enough time to prepare some defense and the road north of Rodalbe had been thoroughly mined. While the tanks of the 37th Tank Battalion were trying to maneuver off the road in order to avoid the mines, a number became hopelessly mired and an easy target for the German guns which opened up from the north and from the Pfaffenforst woods. Hunter's column was forced to fall back under the rain of shells and took cover in the Bois de Conthil, about a thousand yards west of Rodalbe.
The enemy was ready to capitalize on the thin, elongated outpost line held by the 104th Infantry. On 10 November Balck finally had committed his armored reserve, the 11th Panzer Division, against the left and center of the XII Corps, and by 12 November the German tanks were in action along a 12-mile front. The width of this front made any linear defense impossible and Wietersheim was forced to rely on a mobile defense, counterattacking wherever
opportunity availed. Wietersheim had sent his reconnaissance battalion, ten Panther tanks, and a battalion of the 110th Panzer Grenadier Regiment to support the elements of the 559th VG Division in the Rodalbe sector and restore the connection between the XIII SS Corps and the LXXXIX Corps. This combined force unleashed a full-scale counterattack on the heels of Hunter's withdrawal. The American artillery broke up the first attack aimed at Rodalbe on the afternoon of 12 November; but back to the west the enemy surrounded two companies of the 1st Battalion of the 104th in the neighborhood of Conthil--only to lose his intended prey when the Americans fought their way out of the trap.
The next morning the Germans launched an infantry attack against the 3d Battalion troops in Rodalbe but were repulsed. Just before dusk the enemy returned to the attack after extremely accurate counterbattery fire had effectively neutralized the American artillery. The German grenadiers pushed into the town from all sides and their tanks followed down the Bermering road. A 28-man patrol from the 2d Battalion, 104th, succeeded in entering the town with orders for the 3d Battalion troops to withdraw, but it was too late. The 2d Battalion patrol became engulfed in the fight and only one officer and three men returned to report the fate of the Rodalbe force. Company I, the regimental reserve, by this time reduced to twenty-three men, tried to force a way through to relieve the trapped companies; but the German tanks now held all the entrances to Rodalbe. West of the village Panther tanks, mines, and antitank guns barricaded the highway against an attack by the American tank battalion in the Bois de Conthil. Actually the mud and the darkness prevented any such intervention. Inside the village the American infantry took refuge in cellars and attempted to make a stand, but civilians pointed out their hiding places to the enemy tankers who blasted them with high explosives at short range. A few Americans escaped during the night; two officers successfully led thirty men of M Company back to the American lines. But some two hundred officers and men were lost in Rodalbe, although a handful of survivors were found in hiding when the village finally was reentered on the morning of 18 November.22
The reverses suffered on 12 November brought CCA and the 104th Infantry to a halt. Hunter's force was placed in reserve, while waiting for new
tanks to replace those lost by the 37th Tank Battalion, and Oden detached a task force which recaptured Conthil and opened the main supply route back through the valley. The 104th Infantry, now badly understrength, took up positions along the arc made by the Conthil-Lidrezing road. This whole line formed a salient in which the weakened 104th Infantry "stuck out like a sore thumb," with CCB and the infantry of the 35th Division on the left flank stepped back along the railroad line between Morhange and Baronville, and the balance of the 26th Division advancing slowly and painfully to the right and rear along the Koecking ridge.
The Fight for the Koecking Ridge23
Since the 101st Infantry had been badly cut up during the fight for Hill 310, General Paul committed the 328th Infantry in the center of the division zone to carry the main burden of clearing the forest atop the Koecking ridge. He added the 3d Battalion of the 101st Infantry to the left flank of the 328th in order to strengthen the attack. The woods ahead were mostly beech, still covered with leaves that gave the forest a dark and somber aspect even during the light of the short November days. Dense copses of fir trees within the forest formed cover for machine gun positions and for snipers. Mines, booby traps, barbed wire, and concrete pillboxes reinforced the old zigzag trench positions of World War I. Nor had the attackers escaped the mud; even on this plateau the forest floor had turned into a bog under the constant rain. There were numerous trails and clearings, but the most important avenues of advance were a steeply banked east-west road, which traversed the entire length of the forest, and a lateral road running from Conthil to Dieuze, which had been prepared by the Germans as a reserve battle position. The enemy force there deployed to meet the 328th was small, consisting of the 43d Machine Gun Battalion and the 2d Battalion of the 1119th Regiment (some elements of the 553d VG Division had been taken over by the 361st VG Division). Nevertheless, these units were veterans, skilled woods fighters, and well entrenched on ground with which they were familiar.
The 328th Infantry started east through the forest on the morning of 12 November and at first encountered little opposition. Shortly after noon the advancing skirmish line reached an indentation in the woods made by a large
clearing around Berange Farm. Here small arms fire from German pillboxes, reinforced by a very accurate artillery concentration, brought the advance to an abrupt halt and wounded the regimental commander, Colonel Jacobs. The 2d Battalion, which had reached another large quadrangular opening in the woods southeast of Berange Farm, was hit by a sudden hail of mortar fire as it entered the clearing. Many were killed, including the battalion commander, Maj. R. J. Servatius, who had taken over the battalion only the night before. The Americans rallied all along the line, however, and by 1530 the German defenders had been driven back. The strong point at Berange Farm was cleared after 120 rounds of artillery were poured in on the farm buildings.
Now the night turned cold and snow fell on the foxholes in the sodden forest. The infantry had left their blankets behind during the attack. After the day of severe fighting, exposure also took its toll.
South of the woods the 1st Battalion of the 101st embarked on an attack to take St. Médard. Here the open ground was swept by cross fire from the edge of the forest and from the enemy guns at Dieuze, which for three hours shelled the attack positions of the 101st and inflicted severe losses. General Paul then called off the 101st advance until the 328th could outflank the St. Médard position from the north.
On 13 November the German batteries in Dieuze became even more active, and the 328th, advancing along the east-west road, found itself under almost constant shelling. Early in the day the advance was slowed down by fire from automatic weapons sited in the underbrush. Tanks and tank destroyers advancing along the east-west road gradually blasted the Germans out of the woods on either side and by nightfall the skirmish line was abreast of the lateral highway. The progress of the 328th had carried it well ahead of the 101st (-), still held up at St. Médard and Haraucourt, and the 328th found enemy pressure increasing on its exposed right flank. The 26th Division was slowing down, with its rifle companies much below strength and its flanks contained by a stubborn enemy. The 101st Infantry had just received some 700 replacements, but it would require time for so many new officers and men to learn their business. The 328th Infantry had lost many battle casualties in the forest fighting, but exposure had claimed even more victims: over five hundred men were evacuated as trench foot and exposure cases in the first four days of the operation. The 104th was even weaker. Its rifle companies averaged about fifty men; in the 1st Battalion some company rosters
showed only eight to fifteen effectives. Said an officer of the 104th: "All through this I think we were taking a worse beating than the Jerries. They fought a delaying action, all the way. When things got too tough they could withdraw to their next defense line. And when we sat for awhile, they pounded us."
This bitter fighting had been done at high cost to the enemy as well. The weak German battalions, although reinforced by the 2d Battalion of the 953d Regiment and a Luftwaffe engineer battalion, could hold no position for any great length of time. On 14 November CCA made a sweep through the Bois de Kerperche, the northeastern appendage of the Koecking woods, and this pressure on the German flank and rear helped pry loose the enemy grip on the Koecking ridge. The 328th, reinforced by the 3d Battalion, 101st, put its weight into an attack on 15 and 16 November which drove straight through to the eastern edge of the woods. Little fighting was involved, for most of the enemy had withdrawn on the night of 14-15 November. At the same time the 101st Infantry and 2d Cavalry Group pushed toward Dieuze, following the enemy who were now in full retreat. On 17 November the 26th Infantry Division regrouped, parceled out new batches of replacements to the 104th Infantry, issued dry clothing, and prepared to attack the next German position.
Meanwhile the enemy undertook a general withdrawal in front of the 26th Division; concurrently Balck shifted the bulk of the German artillery, which had played so important a role, northward for use against the XII Corps left and center. The new enemy line, facing CCA and the 26th Division, followed the railroad spur between Bénestroff--an important railroad junction east of Rodalbe--and Dieuze. This position had little to offer in natural capabilities for defense, except on the north where woods and hills masked Bénestroff. But solid contact had again been established on the right with the 11th Panzer Division.
Task Force Oden Attacks Guébling
Colonel Oden's column, CCA, 4th Armored Division, made the initial attempt to penetrate the new German position between Bénestroff and Dieuze. Oden's objective was Marimont-lès-Bénestroff, a crossroads village about one and a half miles southeast of Bénestroff. A passable road led out of the
GUÉBLING. Circles indicate wreckage of German tanks.
Koecking woods through Bourgaltroff to Marimont, avoiding the hills and woods around Bénestroff. This road intersected the German line at the village of Guébling, about four miles north of Dieuze, which would be the scene of the first American assault.
Leaving Hunter's column to cover the exposed flank and rear of CCA, Oden's column, divided into two task forces, struck out from an assembly area near Hill 337 at first light on the morning of 14 November. Task Force West skirted the Bois de Kerperche and moved by a secondary road southeast toward Guébling. Task Force McKone took a route directly through the woods, which had not yet been cleared of the enemy by the advance of the 328th Infantry, but found the forest road so heavily mined that it was forced to turn back. About 0845 Major West's force encountered six Panther tanks which had taken position among the buildings at Kutzeling Farm on the road to Guébling. These tanks belonged to a detachment of ten Panthers that General Wietersheim had dispatched from the 15th Panzer Regiment as a roving counterattack formation. For nearly six hours the German tanks fought a stubborn rear guard action along the road to Guébling, using the long range of their high-velocity 75-mm. guns to keep the Americans at bay. After much maneuvering at Kutzeling Farm, West's tanks closed in and disabled three of the Panthers. The rest escaped under a smoke screen. Later in the day five Panthers made a stand just west of the railroad, where a corkscrew road out of the forest dipped abruptly toward Guébling. Again the Panthers showed themselves impervious to long-range fire from the American M-4's and supporting 105-mm. howitzers, and again maneuver was used to bring the Panthers within killing range. Fortunately, the German tanks were so closely hemmed in by their own mine fields as to be virtually frozen in position. Snow and rain precluded an air strike by the fighter-bombers, but finally an artillery plane managed to go aloft and adjust fire for the 155-mm. howitzers of the 191st Field Artillery Battalion. This fire forced the Panthers to close their hatches, and A Company of the 35th Tank Battalion charged in on the flanks of the partially blinded Germans. Leading the attack, 1st Lt. Arthur L. Sell closed within fifty yards of two Panthers and destroyed them, although two of his crew were killed, two seriously wounded, and his own tank was knocked out.24 Sell's companion tanks finished off the remaining Panthers, and as the afternoon drew to a close Task Force West rolled into Guébling.
The village itself was quickly secured, but the short November day gave no time for the armored infantry to take the high ground and the German observation posts that lay beyond.
Next morning about 0300 three gasoline trucks came into the village to refuel the task force. The sound of movement inside Guébling reached the enemy observation posts and brought on the worst shelling the American troops had yet experienced. The gasoline trucks were destroyed and several tanks and other vehicles were damaged. Early in the morning Task Force McKone arrived to strengthen the detachment in Guébling, and at daylight the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion was thrown into an attack to clear the high ground beyond the village. The armored infantry pushed the attack with vigor and determination but were beaten back by the German gunners. American counterbattery fire failed to subdue the enemy batteries, the guns shooting blindly into a curtain of snow and rain.
About noon the 4th Armored Division commander ordered Colonel Oden to withdraw from the precarious position in Guébling and return to the original assembly area at Hill 337. Oden evacuated his wounded, destroyed his damaged vehicles, and gave the order to withdraw. By this time the German guns had ranged in on the exit road running back to the west and the Americans were forced to run a 1,500-yard gauntlet of exploding shells, with only the cover provided by a smoke screen. Oden's command finally extricated itself, suffering "severe losses" in the process, and rejoined the 26th Infantry Division. This venture had cost the armor heavily--the 35th Tank Battalion had only fifteen tanks fit for battle--and on 16 November General Wood gave orders putting an end to independent attacks by elements of the 4th Armored Division.25
The Attack by the XII Corps Center
On the eve of the November offensive the 35th Infantry Division was deployed with the 134th Infantry (Col. B. B. Miltonberger) on the right, holding the Forêt de Grémecey, and the 137th Infantry (Col. W. S. Murray) on the left, aligned along the ridges running from the Forêt de Grémecey to the 80th Division boundary northwest of Ajoncourt. At H Hour on 8 November the 320th Infantry (Col. B. A. Byrne) was scheduled to pass through
Advance in 35th Division Zone
8-15 November 1944
the lines of the 134th Infantry, the latter going into division reserve while the 320th made the attack. (Map XXVIII) As elsewhere in the XII Corps no detailed plan had been laid down for the division scheme of maneuver except to set a line through Laneuveville-en-Saulnois, Fonteny, and the southwestern section of the Forêt de Château-Salins as the initial objective. Once the 35th Division had achieved a hold on the terminus of the Morhange plateau and the 26th Division had broken through the enemy on the right, the entrance to the valley of Petite Seille would be open for a thrust by CCA, 4th Armored Division. CCB, assigned to work with the 35th Division, was to pass through the attacking infantry as quickly as possible and advance toward Morhange, while the infantry followed to take over successive objectives softened up by the armor. General Eddy also foresaw some possibility that the 6th Armored Division, teamed with the 80th Division on the left, might find a weak spot in the German line and ordered General Baade to put his reserve regiment in trucks, prepared to exploit a break-through by either the 6th Armored Division or CCB of the 4th.
The rain had been pouring down steadily for five hours by 0600 (H Hour) of 8 November, flooding the roads and footpaths along which the 320th Infantry was moving to its line of departure. Before day broke and the line of departure was reached, the assault troops on the right already were tired and gaps appeared in the ranks as stragglers fell behind. However, most of the formations slated to make the attack were able to jump off close to schedule.
The 137th Infantry, on the division left, had as its mission to establish a bridgehead across the Osson Creek and make a quick jab at Laneuveville, some four miles distant, in order to cut the main highway between Château-Salins and Metz. In September, when the 35th Division had fought along its banks, the Osson had been no more than a small stream. Now the flood waters of the sluggish Seille had backed into the creek, increasing its width to about fifty yards and making it a real barrier. The engineers had prepared for this obstacle, however, and by 1040 the attackers had put a prefabricated bridge across south of Jallaucourt. Two hours later the 1st Battalion of the 137th, supported by tanks of the 737th Tank Battalion, was in the shell-torn village itself. The enemy soldiers froze in their places at sight of the tanks and surrendered. A second bridge opened the road into Malaucourt, and shortly after 1600 two companies of the 2d Battalion, supported by tanks, took the village. By midnight the 137th Infantry was in position on the ground rising east of the two villages, having taken some two hundred prisoners (mostly from
the 1125th Regiment of the 559th VG Division) at a cost of eighty-two casualties.26
On the right wing of the 35th Division the 320th Infantry attacked to secure a foothold in the Forêt de Château-Salins on the Morhange plateau, in conjunction with the 26th Division attempt to gain a position on the Koecking ridge. The only road that led from the 35th Division area into the Forêt de Château-Salins was blocked by the German possession of Fresnes, about 1,200 yards north of the 35th Division lines. Until Fresnes was taken and the road eastward cleared, no tanks could be used in support of the 320th Infantry attack on the forest, and supply had to be made by carrying parties wallowing up to their knees in mud. Apparently the Americans had hoped to clear Fresnes by a quick stroke and thus open the vital roadway in time to send the tanks into the forest edge in conjunction with the infantry assault. But the German hold on Fresnes was far more tenacious than on the villages in front of the 137th Infantry. Fresnes had been an important supply and communications center for the enemy in earlier operations and had received constant and heavy shelling by the American artillery. As a result the German garrison, estimated to be a battalion, had dug in deep and was little disturbed by the heavy shelling on the morning of 8 November. When the fire lifted, the garrison rose to meet the American attack. The 3d Battalion, 320th Infantry, and a company of tanks succeeded in entering Fresnes after a bitter fight; but all during the night and for part of the next day the German defenders fought on, barring the road into the forest.
While the 3d Battalion hammered at Fresnes, the 2d Battalion, on its right, began a frontal attack toward the western extension of the Forêt de Château-Salins known as the Bois d'Amélécourt--only to suffer a series of costly mishaps in this first day of the offensive. The assault troops of the 320th Infantry had had to pass through the lines of the 134th Infantry during the night of 7-8 November. This move, difficult enough under favorable conditions, was further complicated by the seas of mud, and the two companies leading the attack arrived on the line of departure at the northeast edge of the Forêt de Grémecey a half hour late, their rifle strength already depleted by stragglers who had fallen out along the way or been lost in the woods.27
When the 2d Battalion finally moved into the attack, daylight already had come and the smoke screen which had been fired for ten minutes before daylight was beginning to dissipate--leaving little cover as the companies started to cross some two thousand yards of muddy ground. The Bois d'Amélécourt was held by a battalion of the 1127th Regiment, whose northern flank in turn was covered by a battalion from the 1125th Regiment. The Germans in the woods held a strong position on the higher ground and were supported by three infantry howitzers that had been wheeled forward to the tree line so as to cover the open ground over which the Americans had to attack. In addition the highway passing in front of the woods had been wired and mined as a forward defense position, and was further strengthened with machine guns sited in enfilade.
The Americans crossed the first few hundred yards of open ground without drawing much fire. Company G, on the left, reached the enemy outpost line, which here followed a railroad embankment, and took some forty Germans from their foxholes. Beyond the railroad F Company drew abreast of G Company and the two started toward the woods. When the first assault wave reached the wire along the highway the guns and mortars in the woods opened fire, while the German machine guns swept the American right flank. Under this hot fire Company F fell back, until rallied by a battalion staff officer. Company E, the reserve, attempted to intervene but also was repelled by the German fire. Company G, somewhat protected by a slight rise, reached the edge of the woods and hurriedly dug in. During the afternoon the two rifle companies still outside the woods made a second effort. In the midst of the assault the American batteries firing smoke in support of the infantry ran out of smoke shells, and as the smoke screen blew away a fusillade poured in from the German lines. Again the attack was brought to a halt and the two companies withdrew to the cover of the railroad embankment. The 2d Battalion had suffered severely but was saved from complete destruction by the mud, which absorbed shell fragments and in which the German shells, fitted with impact fuses, often failed to explode.
In the late afternoon Colonel Byrne ordered the 1st Battalion of the 320th Infantry up from reserve to close the gap between Fresnes and the Bois d'Amélécourt. Mine fields slowed down the battalion, however, and when darkness fell it halted at the Fresnes road. During the night of 8-9 November the 3d Battalion mopped up the enemy still holding on around Fresnes. The
2d Battalion sent carrying parties back to evacuate the wounded and bring up ammunition, which had run low during the fire fight in the afternoon. This still further depleted the rifle strength opposite the enemy; indeed it is characteristic of most of the woods fighting in November that a considerable part of the roster of every unit had to be detached from the fire line to keep communications to the rear functioning over terrain where vehicles could not be used.
When morning arrived on the second day of the battle the engineers cleared the mines from the road east of Fresnes and the 1st Battalion marched to the aid of the 2d Battalion. Company C, 737th Tank Battalion, which had played a major role at Fresnes, followed behind the infantry, although it was seriously crippled and had lost six of its tanks in the fight for the village. Meanwhile the 2d Battalion resumed the attack on the Bois d'Amélécourt. Two of the troublesome German howitzers had been knocked out by the American artillery, but the enemy machine guns still were in position to rake the American flank. Once again the attack was broken by the withering fire and this time the dispirited infantry could not be induced to return to the assault. About 1000 the tanks from Fresnes arrived on the scene. Their appearance abruptly shifted the balance against the enemy. The tank gunners quickly destroyed the German machine gun nests and drove the enemy back from the edge of the woods, putting the 1st and 2d Battalions inside the tree line.28
Once inside the woods, however, the infantry found the enemy cleverly entrenched and determined to fight for every yard of ground. Barbed wire, prepared lanes of fire, dugouts roofed with concrete and sod, foxholes, and breastworks improvised from corded wood provided an intricate net of field works facing the attackers wherever they turned. Once again the German grenadier proved himself an experienced and resourceful woods fighter, clinging obstinately to each position and closing to fire rifle grenades and even antitank grenades point blank at the American infantry. Significant of the stubbornness with which the defense was conducted, the enemy left more dead than prisoners in American hands.29
On the north flank of the 35th Division the rapid advance made by the 137th on the first day of the attack offered an opening for armored exploitation.
WOUNDED SOLDIER HELPED TO AID STATION, after fighting in the Forêt de Grémecey.
General Eddy committed CCB, 4th Armored Division, on the morning of 9 November, sending it wheeling north of the Forêt de Château-Salins in a drive toward Morhange. General Dager, CCB commander, followed the usual practice of the division and attacked in two columns: the left column (Maj. Thomas G. Churchill) passed through the 137th near Malaucourt; the right column (Lt. Col. Alfred A. Mayback) struck into the open near Jallaucourt. The enemy had not recovered from the brusque attack made by the American infantry on the previous day and could present little in the way of a co-ordinated defense against the armored columns. Churchill's column was able to stick to the highway, though five medium tanks were lost to mines, and reached the village of Hannocourt. Here the enemy had emplaced a few antitank pieces to cover the road, but the 510th Squadron of the XIX TAC, flying cover over the American tanks, blasted the German gun positions with fragmentation bombs and napalm. Churchill's advance uncovered the southern flank of the 48th Division position at Delme Ridge--directly in front of the 80th Infantry Division--and enabled the 137th Infantry to capture the village of Delme, an attack made in conjunction with the 80th Division assault against the ridge itself.30
On the right Colonel Mayback's column met much stiffer opposition but moved speedily ahead despite concrete road blocks, antitank gunfire, and the necessity of having to halt and clear German foxhole chains alongside the road. At first the troops of the 559th were slow to react to the appearance of the American armor deep inside their lines. At Oriocourt the 1st Battalion of the 137th Infantry, following close behind the tanks, bagged a battery of field guns and 150 prisoners. At Laneuveville the American tanks overran the enemy guns before the startled crews could get the covers off their pieces. The supporting infantry captured 445 prisoners with only slight losses in their own ranks. While the infantry mopped up in Laneuveville Mayback's armored column moved east toward the village of Fonteny. In midafternoon the American advance guard had just begun to descend the road into the draw where the village lay when suddenly enemy guns opened fire from positions on a hill northeast of Fonteny and from the Forêt de Château-Salins. The Americans had run into a hornet's nest: this was a prepared secondary position which had been heavily armed in early November by guns from the 9th
TASK FORCE CHURCHILL CROSSING THE SEILLE RIVER
Flak Division.31 Having brought the column to a halt the enemy struck with a detachment of tanks against the American flank. A lieutenant and a small party of armored infantrymen equipped with bazookas drove off the German tanks, though nearly all of the little detachment were killed or wounded during the fight.
Meanwhile, Colonel Mayback sent forward C Company, 37th Tank Battalion, to help the advance guard. The main body of the column had been somewhat protected by a small rise of ground, but the moment the company of medium tanks crossed the sky line three tanks were knocked out. When C Company attempted to deploy off the road the tanks bogged down, presenting more or less a series of sitting targets for the German gunners. Nevertheless C Company inflicted considerable damage on the German batteries (it was later estimated that the tanks had put thirty German guns out of action) and continued the duel until the ammunition in the tanks was expended. As night
fell Colonel Mayback ordered his forward elements to withdraw behind the ground mask southwest of the village. The American losses, mostly sustained in the fight outside of Fonteny, had been heavy: fifteen tanks, ten half-tracks, and three assault guns. But the column had made an advance of some four miles into enemy territory and had broken a way for the infantry.32
When word of the fight at Fonteny reached General Dager the CCB commander ordered Mayback to hold up his advance and wait for reinforcements from Churchill's column, bivouacked near Hannocourt. The marching American infantry was still about five miles behind the armored columns. During the night of 9-10 November enemy infantry and tanks from the 11th Panzer Division cut in behind Churchill's force and occupied the village of Viviers, thus severing the only usable road to Fonteny. This German force was fairly strong, including troops of the 43d Fortress Battalion and the 110th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, as well as a large number of self-propelled guns. The fight to clear the enemy from Viviers on 10 November developed into a series of confused actions. The 22d Armored Field Artillery Battalion, located on Hill 260, halfway between Viviers and Hannocourt, entered upon an old-fashioned artillery duel with some batteries of the 401st Volks Artillery Corps to the north which were harassing Churchill's column. The American tanks attempted to open the road to Viviers but were forced off the highway by the enemy antitank guns and mired down in the boggy fields.33 The 2d Battalion, 137th Infantry, which had come up from the west, then carried the attack into Viviers in a battle that continued through the entire afternoon.34 At dusk the infantry secured a firm hold on the village, after a heavy shelling had somewhat softened up the enemy garrison. More than one hundred dead Germans were counted in the streets and houses and some fifty surrendered, but a small and desperate rear guard detachment held on in the burning village through most of the night.
The 35th Division fought a punishing battle all along its front on 10 November and only slowly eased the enemy pressure on CCB. While the 2d Battalion of the 137th Infantry attacked at Viviers, other elements of the regiment pushed past Laneuveville and joined Mayback's column west of
Fonteny, there extending the flanks of the 51st Armored Infantry Battalion which had been thrown out as a screen for the armor. During the day the Germans directed one small tank attack against Mayback's command, but this was repelled handily by the American tank destroyers.
In the center of the division line the 320th Infantry passed from the Bois d'Amélécourt and continued the fight in the mazes of the Forêt de Château-Salins, its men soaked to the skin and harassed day and night by enemy detachments that slipped through the woods like Indians in raids on the flanks and rear. German reinforcements were coming in from the 1126th Regiment and the 110th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, bringing the numbers on each side to something approaching equality. The 3d Battalion relieved the 2d Battalion, as the fighting strength of the latter diminished, but even when placed in reserve the tired American infantry had to battle heavily armed German patrols sneaking through the fragmentary front lines. General Baade had put the 134th Infantry in on the right of the 320th Infantry, on 9 November, with the mission of clearing the eastern edge of the Forêt de Château-Salins and covering the division's flank. Here, too, the Germans stubbornly contested the ground; by the night of 10 November the regiment still was short of Gerbécourt, only a third of the way alongside the forest.
Resistance in the Forêt de Château-Salins began to slacken on 11 November, and during the afternoon the 559th commenced a general withdrawal toward a line between Frémery and Dalhain, giving the fighter-bombers an appetizing target as the columns of infantry and horse-drawn artillery debouched into the open. The 365th Squadron destroyed fifty-eight guns and vehicles in a single sweep. No continuous front line remained--only German rear guard detachments holding out grimly at points of vantage. Their stand, coupled with the miserable conditions of the roads and early darkness, made the 35th Division advance a slow affair. Both the 320th and 134th Infantry made some progress, but both were beset by the difficulty of getting food and ammunition forward through the rivers of mud.35
On the left of the division, resistance briefly increased in front of CCB and the 137th Infantry, and shellfire poured in as the German artillery sought to halt the American advance long enough to permit the troops in the Forêt de Château-Salins to escape. Early in the day a counterattack was thrown at
Churchill's force, which had been ordered to continue toward Morhange, only to be dispersed by the armored artillery. During the day the column destroyed fourteen antitank guns yet was unable to fight its way clear of the Bois de Serres, through which the main roads to Morhange passed. The Mayback column made an attempt to drive straight through Fonteny but was beaten back by direct antitank fire at close range. Meanwhile the 1st Battalion, 137th Infantry, and a tank company had come up to aid in the assault and another attempt was made with an attack in deployed order. Shortly after noon the Americans entered the little village, and the fight continued from house to house all during the afternoon and through most of the night. During this action Colonel Mayback and Lt. Col. William L. Shade, commanding officer of the 253d Field Artillery Battalion, were mortally wounded; command of the column passed to Maj. Harry R. Van Arnam. In the early morning hours of 12 November the 11th Panzer detachment evacuated Fonteny, saving most of its guns and infantry but abandoning three Panther tanks.
The 3d Battalion of the 137th Infantry came up to relieve the 1st Battalion in Fonteny, the 2d Battalion of the regiment seized Faxe--thus reopening contact between the north and south columns of CCB--and the armor and infantry struck east to secure the entrance into the valley of the Nied Française, through which passed the route to Morhange. Before the day ended the American tanks reached the village of Oron, there seizing a bridge across the Nied Française. The retreating Germans had offered little co-ordinated or effective resistance, and over six hundred surrendered to CCB and the 137th Infantry.36
The German withdrawal on 12 November placed the 35th Division and CCB in position for a final drive against the outpost villages guarding the western approaches to Morhange. In the center the 320th Infantry finally cleared the Forêt de Château-Salins. The regiment was placed in reserve and the shivering, weary men given fresh clothing--the first dry apparel for most of them since the fight for the forest began. On the east flank the 134th Infantry advanced almost without opposition. General Baade finally ordered the regiment to a halt at Bellange, about three and a half miles southwest of Morhange, so that warm clothing and dry socks could be issued to the attacking troops. The week-long rain had come to an end, but this brought no relief to the soldier, for bitter cold followed. The XII Corps commander ordered
PRISONERS BEING MARCHED TO THE REAR, after surrendering to Combat Command B on 12 November.
that overshoes be returned to the troops--they had been discarded at the beginning of the offensive37--and extra blankets and heavy clothing were issued as quickly as they could be brought into the front lines. Winter warfare was about to begin.
The Drive toward Morhange
Any military map of Lorraine will show the importance of Morhange as a road center. In 1914 the control of Morhange gave the German armies a sally port from which to debouch into the Seille Basin. In November 1944 the forces driving northeastward out of the Seille Basin were forced to funnel, at least in part, through Morhange. But a map will reflect the difficulty of reaching Morhange in force except by an attack along the chain of ridges leading in from the west.
The drive toward Morhange began on 13 November. On the left CCB moved east along the valley of the Nied Française with the 137th Infantry close behind. Van Arnam's column, south of the river, though advancing slowly in the face of successive mine fields and blown bridges, at dark was astride a ridge north of Achain and less than three miles from Morhange. Churchill's column, which had crossed to the north bank of the Nied Française at Oron, advanced by road as far as Villers-sur-Nied. At this point the enemy had mined the highway so thoroughly that Churchill decided to take his command cross country. In the course of this maneuvering Company A of the 8th Tank Battalion worked its way to the rear of some German batteries covering the Villers-sur-Nied-Marthille road. The light tanks of the battalion pointed the target with tracer bullets; then the company of mediums rolled over the gun positions with its own pieces blazing. Taken completely by surprise the German crews were unable to bring their guns to bear, and in one blow the American tankers destroyed seven 88-mm. and eleven 75-mm. field pieces. Churchill's column laagered on a ridge north of Marthille not far from Van Arnam's column during the night of 13-14 November, and the engineers undertook the difficult and dangerous task of clearing the mines from the road to the rear.
The next day CCB and a battalion of the 137th attacked the villages of Destry and Baronville, preparatory to flanking Morhange from the north in conjunction with a drive from the south and west by the bulk of the 35th Infantry Division. The attack was successful, although the enemy fought back doggedly until well into the night. Fresh German replacements, just arrived from Poland, here had entered the 559th VG Division line with orders to hold until the last man. The journals of the American troops who opposed them at Destry and Baronville all speak of "extremely bitter resistance" ending only with the death or capture of the German grenadiers.
However, the plans for CCB to close on Morhange from the north and continue the drive to Sarreguemines were doomed by the weather, rather than enemy resistance. The rains resumed, the armor was road-bound, and the left flank of CCB was left hanging in the air along the Metz-Sarrebourg railroad. While engaged in futile attempts to maneuver off the roads CCB received orders from XII Corps headquarters on 15 November to hold up the attack. Two days later CCB moved south to join the rest of the 4th Armored Division in a drive through the Dieuze gap, thus ending seven days of what the combat command would later recall as a "heart break action."38
The pressure applied in the Morhange sector by the American armor had helped to render the new German defensive line untenable and may have weakened the enemy will to resist. But the final phase of the operation, that is, the frontal attack by the 35th Division in the direction of Morhange, cost the American infantry heavily. After a night of snow and bitter cold the 134th Infantry moved out on the morning of 13 November to clear the natural causeway along which the Château-Salins-Baronville road led into Morhange. The 3d Battalion, on the left, was ordered to take the section of the ridge line known as the Rougemont (later known to the Americans as "Bloody Hill") and then drive astride the highway to the northeast. The 3d Battalion was roughly handled, losing its commander, Lt. Col. Warren C. Wood, when he was wounded and suffering severe losses during the advance across the valley floor and up the slopes of Bloody Hill, an advance in which each rifleman was outlined as a perfect target against the fresh white snow. Nonetheless the
battalion took the objective and wheeled toward Morhange, bypassing Achain where the 2d Battalion was heavily engaged.
The 2d Battalion had jumped off at Bellange on the morning of 13 November and there begun an advance up the open valley with Achain as its objective. Three rifle companies took part in the 1,800-yard advance, under heavy fire from guns on Bloody Hill. The American casualties were severe; one company lost every officer before Achain was reached. About noon the assault wave hit the edge of the village, beginning a bitter fight that lasted for nearly ten hours. The American attack was pushed relentlessly, and ultimately the last of the German defenders were killed, captured, or driven in flight from the village. During the engagement Sgt. Junior J. Spurrier of Company G distinguished himself by making a lone sortie west of Achain while his comrades attacked east of the village. In the course of this one-man advance, Sergeant Spurrier killed twenty-five of the enemy and captured twenty-two. He subsequently was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. A total of 150 Germans surrendered in Achain, but the advance up the valley and the fight for the village cost the 2d Battalion 106 officers and men.
At Morhange the enemy troops--mostly from the 1127th Regiment--found their position increasingly precarious as the American infantry and armor closed in on 14 November.39 As early as 11 November the American 155-mm. guns and 8-inch howitzers had brought the town under fire, and on 14 November the 240-mm. howitzers joined the bombardment. During the night of the 14th, the 105-mm. howitzers were brought into play; one battalion (the 216th Field Artillery) fired 999 rounds into the town. On the morning of 15 November the 1127th withdrew from the battered town and filed toward the northeast, blowing bridges and strewing mines in its wake.
In midafternoon the 35th Division reached the Metz-Sarrebourg railway. Here General Baade halted his troops to await new orders. The division had advanced twelve miles in eight days of hard fighting and had captured or destroyed fifty-three pieces of artillery--of 75-mm. caliber or larger--as well as twenty-six vehicles. The 137th Infantry, which had been in position to bag the most Germans, had taken over one thousand prisoners.40 The 35th was given little rest, however, for on 17 November the corps commander ordered a resumption of the advance toward the Sarre River.
Advance in 80th Division Zone
8-16 November 1944
The XII Corps Advance on the Left
At the beginning of the November offensive the 80th Infantry Division front extended from the XX Corps boundary line, west of Cheminot, southeast to Chenicourt, where the 35th Infantry Division sector began. The left and center of the 80th was posted along the west bank of the Seille River. But on the right wing the Germans still retained a foothold on the American side of the Seille in the re-entrant formed by a loop in the river north of Létricourt. (Map XXIX)
The regiments of the 80th Division, all committed on 8 November, were drawn up with the 317th, 318th, and 319th Infantry left to right. The main formations of the enemy force opposite the 80th Division were from the 48th Division, whose zone ran from north of Malaucourt to north of Eply. In addition the left flank of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division abutted on the 48th Division, with the result that some elements of the 38th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment faced the 317th Infantry.41
The 80th Division position placed it on the shortest and most direct axis for a drive toward the important communications center at Faulquemont (Falkenberg, as it is called in the XII Corps Field Orders). Therefore, the XII Corps plans for the 8 November offensive provided that the 80th Division should establish a bridgehead over the Seille, through which the 6th Armored Division could be passed, and that the armor should then attack toward Faulquemont. Once across the Seille River the 80th Division was scheduled to follow the armor, relieving the 6th Armored Division somewhere in the vicinity of Faulquemont.
The terrain in front of the 80th Division was somewhat less difficult than that in the center and on the right of the XII Corps zone of advance. The road system running northeast to Faulquemont was adequate, though the main highway--via Luppy and Han-sur-Nied--lay well off center in the division zone and confusingly close to the XX Corps boundary. However, the 80th Division did face a number of terrain obstacles, made more difficult than usual by the November rains and the mud. The first barrier was the Seille River, swollen grossly out of its ordinary channel. Next, the Delme Ridge rose to command the Seille Basin, covering so wide a portion of the 80th Division front that direct assault could hardly be avoided--although the ridge
could be turned from the 35th Division zone or by a narrow thrust along the XII Corps north boundary. Beyond lay the Nied Française, another flooded watercourse, which angled across the axis of advance. Southwest of Faulquemont this channel divided into the Nied Française proper and the Rotte; the latter stream then turned into an east-west channel. Of all these natural defense lines the Delme Ridge was believed by American intelligence to be most heavily fortified; for a month past 80th Division observers had watched the Germans busily digging and wiring on the heights.
At 0500 on 8 November the XII Corps artillery began firing in preparation for the Seille crossing, and shortly before H Hour the divisional artillery, tanks, tank destroyers, and infantry cannon companies joined to swell the barrage from positions about 3,000 yards west of the river.42 At 0600 the main attack echelons of the three regiments jumped off and the battle for a bridgehead east of the Seille was begun.
The 319th Infantry, on the right, used its 1st Battalion to clear out the Seille loop between Abaucourt and Létricourt, and to take a crossing at Aulnois-sur-Seille--which was in American hands two hours after the attack began. In the center the 318th Infantry experienced some delay in crossing the river. Infantry footbridges, thrown across the Seille by the engineers early in the morning, were washed away in the flood waters and the bulk of the assault echelons had to be ferried across in assault boats. Once across the river the two leading battalions swung either side of Nomény, meeting sharp mortar fire as soon as they began the advance away from the river.43 The 2d Battalion, on the left, sent troops into Nomény, which the Germans had fortified as a strong point at the river line. These elements of the battalion immediately became engaged in a hot fight which continued on into the following morning and cost over a hundred American casualties.44 By that time supporting tanks were moving forward over heavy bridges and a company of mediums rolled into Nomény, ending the struggle for the village. The 317th Infantry, making the attack on the left on 8 November, put two battalions
across the Seille by footbridges, rubber assault craft, and fording. Using tactics similar to those employed at Nomény, the 1st and 3d circled Eply on the north and south, leaving the 2d Battalion, which was crossed behind the rest of the regiment, to clear the village itself.45
Late in the afternoon of 8 November the enemy began to react with artillery and small local counterattacks, this activity becoming most pronounced in front of the 317th Infantry whose advance had struck hard against the seam between the 38th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the 48th Division. North of Eply field artillery brought up from the 17th SS caught a company of the 317th just as it was digging in on the forward slope of Hill 237. During the shelling the company suffered many casualties and all of the company officers were killed. But the 317th got its revenge when, just at dusk, a company of German infantry--apparently moving to attack the 3d Battalion--unwittingly marched straight across the front of the 2d Battalion and was cut to pieces.
At dark on this first day the 80th Division had ten bridges across the Seille River and a sure footing on the enemy bank. Tactical surprise had been achieved, the enemy communications destroyed, and in the first hours of the attack the German artillery had been successfully neutralized. The American advance had carried far enough east of the Seille to roll back the south flank of the 38th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment in the direction of Metz and had cut through the forward lines of the 48th Division. At Nomény the entrapped 1st Battalion, 126th Regiment, was destroyed during the night of 8 November. The 1431st Fortress Battalion, which had held the sector north and west of Nomény, also was overrun and almost completely erased.
On the morning of 9 November the 48th Division rallied on Delme Ridge to stop the advance of the 80th Division. Delme Ridge was naturally a strong position and loomed large as a tactical problem for the Americans. General McBride's first intention had been to make a hook to the north end of the ridge with his center regiment, the 318th, which then would drive from north to south along the crest of the ridge and meet the 319th on the southern tip. The progress of the 318th on 9 November was impeded by the mud; as the morning advanced it appeared unlikely that the regiment would reach
its objective. McBride decided to release his division reserve, a battalion of the 319th, and throw the right regiment into a frontal attack against the enemy defending the ridge. The 319th Infantry, supported by tanks that had crossed the river during the night and early morning, stormed up the heights, through little villages and terraced vineyards, sweeping past mine fields and over gun positions in which two battalions of captured Russian artillery had been emplaced. Fortunately the slopes were dry and provided good flotation for the American tanks, which easily disposed of the dug-in batteries.46 The German mines, however, inflicted numerous casualties among the troops that moved on foot.
On the left the 317th Infantry took very heavy losses. Here the Germans made a stubborn stand and threw in the 1st Battalion of the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment to reinforce the line on the high ground north of Delme Ridge proper. In addition the 317th was forced to attack with its northern flank exposed, since the 5th Infantry Division of the XX Corps had not yet come up abreast of the XII Corps advance. During the day the 1st Battalion, 317th, advanced in front of the other battalions by a matter of some three thousand yards and ran into bitter fire from its front and flanks. By the following morning each of the three rifle companies in the 1st Battalion had been reduced to an average strength of fifty-five men. The 3d Battalion also was cut up badly during this attack. Nevertheless the 317th Infantry succeeded in taking all but the northern tip of the ridge line to its front.
Late in the afternoon of 9 November the 357th Squadron of the XIX TAC intervened in the battle at Delme Ridge and struck at the enemy on the reverse slopes and in the woods to the east. Meanwhile the three American battalions of medium and heavy artillery which had earlier pounded the enemy works on the ridge lifted their fire and began to beat the German rear areas. During the evening the 137th Infantry, attacking from the 35th Division zone, took the village of Delme, unhinging the German left and spiking down the right flank of the 80th Division advance. By this time the 5th Infantry Division had come up on the left, and the 80th was in position to mop up the last of the Delme line and continue the attack. The second day of the offensive had been highly successful. Most of the Delme Ridge position was in American hands. The 48th Division had been badly beaten, as German reports show,
and more than a thousand prisoners had been taken by the 80th Infantry Division.
The successes won by the infantry had made room for the armor, and while the 80th Division still was fighting at Delme Ridge, on 9 November, General Eddy ordered General Grow and his 6th Armored Division into the attack. The division was a veteran formation, at full strength, and highly confident as the result of its earlier successes in the Brittany peninsula and east of Nancy.47 In late October some thought had been given to a maneuver in which both the 4th and 6th Armored Divisions would drive between Château-Salins and Delme Ridge. General Wood and General Grow had viewed this proposal with a skeptical eye. Later the XII Corps commander had considered using the 6th Armored to turn the north flank of the Delme Ridge position. But General Patton's decision for a rapid advance to cross the Sarre River and breach the West Wall had widened the scope of the 6th Armored mission. In the final plan--the result of much careful work in the corps and division headquarters--the 6th Armored was to attack from the 80th Division lines with two combat commands abreast, each with two columns, crossing the Nied River on a ten-mile front. The objective given the 6th Armored Division in the XII Corps plan was the high ground overlooking the town of Faulquemont. CCA, now commanded by Col. John L. Hines (Colonel Hanson had been injured), would have the mission of seizing the hills southeast of Faulquemont, in the vicinity of Guessling-Hémering; the objective for CCB (Col. G. W. Read) was the rising ground northeast of the city.
About noon on 9 November Combat Team Brindle (86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized (-) plus D Company, 15th Tank Battalion) jumped off at the head of CCB and succeeded, though with great difficulty, in crossing its light equipment at Port-sur-Seille. Moving on side roads the cavalry advanced to a point west of Alémont, where German antitank guns brought the thin-skinned light tanks and armored cars to a halt. Here again the autumn mud nullified a tactical plan based on speed and surprise. The lightweight armored vehicles of the cavalry combat team had less flotation than the medium tanks and could neither deploy off the road nor readily bypass the guns and road blocks which the German defenders had sited for
RIVER CROSSING AT PORT-SUR-SEILLE. The 15th Tank Battalion crosses its light equipment with considerable difficulty.
a defense in depth. A lightning cavalry dash was no longer possible. The 6th Armored Division would have to fight its way to and across the barrier of the Nied Française.48
While Lt. Col. Harry C. Brindle's cavalry probed toward the east, elements of the 318th Infantry and armored infantry from the 6th Armored mopped up the rear guard enemy detachments in the neighborhood of Nomény. Nomény and Port-sur-Seille at this moment offered the only bridge sites suitable to crossing heavy armor; approaches to the other bridges in the 80th Division zone were under water and could not be used by medium tanks or artillery. Before the day ended both CCA and CCB had advance guards across the Seille. The remainder of the division passed over the river on 10 November, and the two combat commands struck out toward the Nied Française.
Meanwhile the 80th Infantry Division advanced rapidly on 10 November, working closely with the armor and driving nearly eight miles eastward despite mud and congested roads. The 48th Division, decimated as it was, made its withdrawal toward the next line of defense at the Nied in surprisingly good order. General Balck had no troops to throw in for a counterattack. His armored reserve, the 11th Panzer Division, had been dispatched from the Morhange assembly area on 9 November to make a counterattack and restore the lines of the 48th. American fighter-bombers had checked this move before the German columns could engage in force in the Delme sector. Subsequently most of the 11th Panzer was diverted southward to meet the attack by the American 4th Armored.49 During the day, however, the 318th Infantry encountered a few troops from the 951st Regiment, 361st VG Division, which had been rushed north by bus and thrown into the line piecemeal to fight a holding action. Although the 80th Division made a very substantial advance on 10 November, the total number of prisoners taken was only about 350.
The 6th Armored Division attack was complicated by the fact that there was only one hard-surface road in the division zone. It ran from Pont-à-Mousson,
via Vigny and Luppy, to the Nied Française crossing at Han-sur-Nied. Although CCB had the initial running rights on the Han-sur-Nied road, both combat commands finally would swing astride the road, entering at different points. Furthermore the 5th Infantry Division also had to use this road in order to support the advance on the right wing of the XX Corps. That this congestion did not act to halt the armor was a tribute to excellent--albeit unplanned--traffic control.
CCB, moving on the left, and CCA, on the right, swung obliquely to the northeast so as to get astride the Han-sur-Nied road at different points. Mud and mines on the side roads and trails provided the chief barriers during the early hours of this move. However, when the leading combat team of CCA reached Luppy a detachment from the 11th Panzer Division contested the possession of the highway and the combat team spent the remainder of the day clearing the village. Back to the west, CCB fought its way onto the road at Vigny and Buchy. Again the enemy used the cover offered by the villages to make a fight for the road, but CCB, aided by the 2d Infantry which had come up from the XX Corps, cut off and captured both villages. Such German rear guard tactics would often delay the American advance during November; yet in sum these tactics could result only in progressive attrition as the enemy lost village after village and garrison after garrison.
General McBride and General Grow pressed their commanders to continue the attack--now really a pursuit--to the limit that men and equipment could endure. Both armor and infantry strained to keep the retreating Germans off balance and deny them time and opportunity to dig in for defense of the Nied Française. On the heels of the advance, corps and division artillery displaced forward with such speed as the mud and crowded roads allowed. On 11 November the 6th Armored Division celebrated Armistice Day by driving east on a ten-mile front and advancing about five miles to the Nied Française. Here, with the help of the 80th Division, the armor secured two bridgeheads in a series of bold and lucky strokes, and threw across a treadway bridge to support a third.
Early that morning CCA found its road blocked by an extensive mine field outside the town of Béchy. Here the left-wing elements of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division reinforced the 48th and the German resistance was well organized. Entrenched riflemen, covering the mine field, fought a tenacious delaying action for over two hours. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion of the 317th Infantry, which had been leading the regiment along the highway
behind the armor, arrived at Béchy. Lt. Col. Sterling S. Burnette, commanding the battalion, intended to seize the bridge at Han-sur-Nied and therefore made arrangements with Colonel Hines to combine forces for the drive to the river. The augmented column moved toward Han-sur-Nied with a platoon of light tanks forming the point, followed by five half-tracks carrying troops of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion. Company A, 317th Infantry, marched behind the half-tracks. The remainder of the infantry were strung out along the road to the rear, while the medium tanks and tank destroyers moved cross country on the flanks of the column.
Shortly after noon the head of the column reached a patch of woods which looked down a slight slope onto the bridge and the village of Han-sur-Nied, a little cluster of some twenty buildings on the east bank of the river. Here the Americans saw a truck-drawn field artillery battalion moving across the narrow bridge, while beyond the river what seemed to be "hundreds of vehicles" were streaming along the roads running east and south from the village. An artillery observer in a light tank radioed for time fire to be put on the bridge and its approaches. Perhaps this shelling drove off the German bridge guards, perhaps they were waiting for orders; in any event the wooden structure, already prepared with explosives and wiring, was not blown.50
Colonel Hines ordered an immediate assault. The 1st Platoon of B Company, 68th Tank Battalion (1st Lt. Vernon L. Edwards), led, firing at the Germans in foxholes on the west bank and engaging the antitank guns across the bridge as it advanced. Behind the tanks the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion (-) deployed in a thin skirmish line and started down the slope. Capt. James A. Craig and A Company of the 317th, now reduced to some sixty rifles by the fighting of the past few days, followed about two hundred yards to the rear. When only three hundred yards from the bridge, the armored infantry skirmish line was hit by high explosive shells from a detachment of sixteen 40-mm. antiaircraft guns posted on a hill northeast of the village. The armored infantry froze in their places or tried to reach the shelter of the ditches alongside the road to the bridge, while projectiles from the German guns, fired with almost sniperlike accuracy, swept up and down their ranks. The 231st Armored Field Artillery Battalion turned its howitzers on the enemy batteries, but as the German gunners were blasted--arms and legs flying into the air--others ran forward to serve the weapons.
About this time Lieutenant Edwards' platoon of medium tanks started across the bridge. The first tank crossed successfully. The second stalled on the bridge when the platoon commander was hit; for a brief while the tank stood there, Lieutenant Edwards' body dangling from the open turret.51 The third received a direct hit and burst into flame, but was backed off the wooden bridge by its commander after he had ordered his crew to leave the blazing tank. During this effort by the tankers 1st Lt. Daniel Nutter and Cpl. Charles Cunningham, B Company, 25th Armored Engineer Battalion, ran forward to cut the wires leading to the demolition charges. Lieutenant Nutter, at the enemy end of the bridge, was killed just as he completed his task. Corporal Cunningham, who had cut the wires at the western end, saw the lieutenant fall, raced across the bridge, and returned with the body of his commander.
Meanwhile Captain Craig's company of the 317th moved in single file down around to the right and crept toward the bridge, under the shelter of a railroad embankment paralleling the river. Who gave the order for the final charge probably never will be known. Perhaps it was Colonel Burnette, who had been standing erect in the open urging his lead company on and who received a mortal wound as he neared the bridge. Craig and a few men rushed the bridge, crossing the 100-foot span "faster than they knew how" amidst a hail of shell fragments and tracer bullets. Fourteen men from A Company and four of the armored infantry reached the enemy bank and took cover among the houses close to the bridge; there they were joined shortly by three of the tanks. Captain Craig disposed his little force as best he could and through the afternoon held the approach to the bridge against German tanks and riflemen.
In the meantime the American artillery engaged the German guns, now reinforced by heavier calibers farther to the east. The enemy gunners did not succeed in smashing the bridge structure, but their constant fire blanketed the bridge and its approaches. About 1715 Colonel Hines, who had been wounded, led a handful of men through the shellfire and across the bridge. Hines then returned a second time, leading Companies B (Sgt. Joseph Wercholuk) and C (Lt. Lacy B. Wheeler) of the 317th Infantry. No additional tanks had been committed, beyond the three already with Craig, because of the danger to the wounded lying on the narrow bridge. At dusk, however, the bridge was
cleared and tank reinforcements crossed to the east bank, followed by some two hundred armored infantry.52 The crossing site now was held securely, and at 2130 Colonel Lewis sent the 2d and 3d Battalions of his 317th Infantry over the river to drive the Germans off the high ground beyond Han-sur-Nied.
On 11 November Combat Team 68 (Davall), the southern column of CCA, had worked its way in company with the 318th Infantry over the muddy secondary roads which led to the Nied. During the night the armor threw a treadway bridge over the river near Baudrecourt (two miles south of Han-sur-Nied), pushing across with the infantry on the following day. This crossing, however, had less immediate tactical significance than the one at Han-sur-Nied, for south of that village the Rotte Creek branched away from the Nied, leaving one more river barrier for the infantry to negotiate. Although the fight for a crossing in this southern sector had been successful and opposition light, cumulative losses were beginning to tell; the 2d Battalion, 318th Infantry, for example, was so reduced in numbers that on the night of 11 November it had to be reorganized as a rifle company.
The success at Han-sur-Nied on 11 November was enhanced through an equally important coup by CCB. Colonel Read's combat command had struck east in two combat teams with the intention of seizing bridges over the Nied Française at Ancerville and Remilly. At both these points, however, the Germans were more alert than their fellows at Han-sur-Nied and the bridges were blown in the faces of the American advance parties. At Remilly, where Combat Team 50 (Wall) was stymied, corps artillery fired a "serenade" on the town, as the CCB Journal remarks, "to commemorate Armistice Day, and for tactical purposes as well." Colonel Read secured permission from General Grow to swing farther to the north, although this move would take him out of the zone set for the 6th Armored. An engineer reconnaissance party, commanded by Lt. Frederick E. Titterington, 25th Armored Engineer Battalion, led the way north through the enemy lines. This party discovered a causeway and bridge near Sanry-sur-Nied. The structure was under eighteen inches of water but still intact. Lieutenant Titterington took a half-track onto the
bridge, dismounted, and in a fury of small arms fire walked the rest of the distance, cutting the demolition wiring.53 The lead rifle elements of Combat Team 15 (Lagrew) promptly stormed the bridge, wiped out the defenders on the opposite bank, and established a bridgehead. This position, however, was not too advantageous for further exploitation since it lay under the guns of the outer Metz forts on the high ground around Sorbey. The troops in the bridgehead continued to receive artillery and mortar fire through the rest of the day and the night of 11-12 November.
CCA and the 80th Infantry Division rapidly exploited the Han-sur-Nied crossing on 12 November. The previous night the 69th Tank Battalion (Lt. Col. Bedford Forrest) had been attached to CCA in order to give added weight to the drive out of the bridgehead. Forrest's combat team led off on 12 November in an attack along the Faulquemont road. At Herny, about two miles east of Han-sur-Nied, the column encountered a battery of 88-mm. antitank guns, heavily supported by German infantry. Here a five-hour engagement ensued, the enemy clinging stubbornly to his position astride the highway. Finally one of the 69th's headquarters tanks, a new and heavily armored model, made a frontal assault on the German guns, taking seven direct hits without pausing, and enabled the medium tanks and tank destroyers to flank the position and destroy the battery.54 Farther south, in the triangle between the Nied Française River and Rotte Creek, the Germans made a last effort to hold back the advancing infantry of the 318th and 319th, but withdrew when Combat Team 9 (Stablein) intervened from the north with tanks and armored infantry, outflanking the Rotte position. By the night of 12 November three bridges were in place across the Rotte and the infantry were moving across to support the armor in the advance toward Faulquemont. On this date, however, the XII Corps commander put a new plan of operations into effect. In this plan, aimed at the seizure of crossings on the Sarre River, the 35th Infantry Division would be pinched out by an advance on both wings of the corps. Of necessity, therefore, the 6th Armored Division zone was widened to the south and the division objective altered to include only the high ground south of Faulquemont. General Grow was caught somewhat off balance by this change in the corps scheme of maneuver since a part of CCB
TANKS IMPEDED BY MUD slow the advance of the XII Corps left wing.
was across the Nied, well to the north of the original division sector. Fortunately the 2d Battalion of the 2d Infantry had crossed into the Sanry bridgehead during the morning of 12 November. This freed Colonel Read's troops, and Grow ordered him to maneuver CCB to the southeast so as to fall in behind CCA.
The advance on the left wing of the XII Corps was beginning to lose momentum. Rain and mud slowed the forward movement of armor, infantry, and supplies. Casualties sustained in the fighting since 8 November had been heavy. The enemy had reorganized and reinforcements were coming into the German lines west of Faulquemont. Repercussions of the American success at the Nied on 11 November seem to have resounded as far as the headquarters of OB WEST. In any event Rundstedt reluctantly released troops to reinforce Army Group G and ordered the 36th VG Division to move from the Seventh Army to the First. Late on the night of 11 November General Balck issued a field order designed to rectify the situation created on the First Army front by the impact of Patton's Third Army offensive.
Balck was worried particularly by the collapse of the 48th Division and the threat in the XIII SS Corps sector. The XIII SS Corps was in a precarious tactical position, attempting to hold with its right wing on the Moselle River--at Metz--and with its left at the Seille River line. A breach in the Seille position might conceivably crack the entire corps front. In addition the American success in the Han-sur-Nied sector posed a threat to one of the most important German supply roads, the Han-sur-Nied-Faulquemont-St. Avold highway. Balck therefore ordered General Priess, the XIII SS Corps commander, to counterattack at once with the object of restoring the Seille line. Priess had no reserves for such an undertaking, and when, on 12 November, the main body of the motorized regiment from the 361st VG Division came up from the LXXXIX Corps to aid the crippled 48th Division these fresh troops could do no more than retard the American advance.
The XIII SS Corps received more substantial reinforcements on 13 November when advance elements of the 21st Panzer Division (General Feuchtinger) and the 36th VG Division (Generalmajor August Wellm) arrived in the sector. The former had been carried on paper as part of the armored reserve of Army Group G, but because of the shortage of infantry divisions on the Nineteenth Army front it had not been able to move north as planned to meet the American offensive begun on 8 November. When the 21st Panzer Division finally arrived in the First Army, Balck sent it to wipe out the bridgehead east of the Nied which CCB, 6th Armored Division, had won in the Sanry-sur-Nied sector. It will be recalled that the 21st Panzer Division already had engaged the Third Army, fighting as infantry during the September battles. Actually the 21st hardly merited the appellation of a panzer division, though it had been partially reconstituted during the October lull. Such was the paucity of armor on the Western Front that the German high command constantly overvalued this division and demanded that it carry out missions normally expected of a full-strength armored formation. Feuchtinger's division had been caught and roughly handled in the American Seventh Army attack in the Saverne area, while in process of leaving the line. When the XIII SS Corps commander threw the 21st Panzer Division into line against the 6th Armored Division, Feuchtinger had about nineteen tanks, three assault guns, and four armored infantry battalions--the latter having only sixty to seventy riflemen in each.55
CCB, 6th Armored Division, had proceeded slowly after the seizure of the Nied bridge on 11 November. This command not only was responsible for holding the Sanry bridgehead but also had the mission of maintaining the tenuous contact between the XII Corps and the south flank of the XX Corps. Its proximity to a boundary between two corps whose main axes of advance were tangential resulted in confused orders and considerable delay. Lagrew's column widened the Sanry bridgehead on 12 November by attacks in which A and B Companies of the 15th Tank Battalion, A Company of the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion, and a few tank destroyers pushed out to the north, south, and east. Antitank fire, large craters, and mine fields made the advance difficult. On the north flank the B Company tanks were checked by direct fire from German guns sited to cover a mine field which extended between two woods. Capt. C. E. Prenevost, the B Company commander, dismounted and led the accompanying infantry to find a clear path. Prenevost was shot through the chest, but refused help for himself until the infantry detachment and its wounded had been withdrawn. He subsequently was awarded the DSC. During the course of the day the attack to the south and east had extended the bridgehead by some fifteen hundred yards. Elements of the 2d Battalion, 2d Infantry, which had worked hand in glove with CCB during the advance to the Nied, joined to mop up east of the river.
CCB was still straddling the Nied when the advance guard of the 21st Panzer Division, which had assembled in the Forêt de Remilly, struck on 13 November. During the previous night Colonel Lagrew had dispatched a small cavalry detachment, commanded by Capt. James Bridges, to establish a blocking position at the main road junction between Bazoncourt and Berlize. Lagrew intended to expand the Sanry bridgehead by driving south and east with the bulk of his combat team while Bridges' task force gave cover on the north. Bridges' command consisted of D Troop, three platoons of 75-mm. self-propelled guns from E Troop (both troops of the 86th Cavalry Squadron), and a section from the 603d Tank Destroyer Battalion. Moving into position just before midnight on 12 November, the cavalry set up their outposts about six hundred yards south of Berlize. Bridges had been told that this village was held by troops of the 2d Infantry. Early the next morning the Americans saw considerable movement in Berlize, but it had been snowing and visibility was too poor to make out whether the village was occupied by friend or enemy. Suddenly the Germans attacked, leading with tanks and
assault guns. Although the Americans gave a good account of themselves, in thirty minutes they had lost thirteen vehicles and suffered twenty-nine casualties. Requests for artillery support brought no immediate answer, and Bridges withdrew about a thousand yards to a hill which sloped down into Bazoncourt. Enemy shellfire inflicted more casualties, but the Germans could not push the assault home into the bridgehead.
Lagrew's main force had been checked during the day by road blocks and deep craters. Late in the afternoon General Grow ordered CCB to turn the Sanry bridgehead over to the troops of the 2d Infantry and move its left column back to the southeast in anticipation of further exploitation east of Herny. CCA continued the attack toward Faulquemont on 13 November, with the help of the 317th Infantry, driving a salient some two miles in width and about five miles in depth during a day of hard fighting. At Arraincourt, on the north bank of the Rotte, the enemy made a desperate stand to hold the river line so necessary to the protection of his flank. The village fell to the Americans, but Maj. Milford F. Stablein, who had taken command of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion only two days before, was killed while leading the assault.
The 48th Division, reduced to less than regimental strength and almost completely lacking heavy weapons, had fought stubbornly to bar the way to Faulquemont, but the events of 13 November showed that the division was at its last gasp. That evening General Balck gave orders to withdraw it from the line and lump it with the remnants of the 559th VG Division, which had taken very severe losses in the Morhange sector. During the night of 13-14 November the main body of the 36th VG moved in to relieve the 48th. This fresh division was at full strength; its artillery regiment was well trained and equipped with new guns. Most of the infantry were recruited from the younger classes and the officers were veterans of the Eastern Front. During the early fall the 36th VG Division had fought on the Seventh Army front, but had not taken part in any large-scale engagements or suffered heavy losses. The move south from the Trier sector had been accomplished in record time by motor and rail, a feat made possible partly by the bad weather which had grounded the American fighter-bombers.
The weakened condition of the 48th Division indicated that a continuation of the American attack might make an irreparable breach in the German line. Therefore the XIII SS Corps comander hurried the detachments of the
36th VG Division to the front piecemeal as they arrived in the sector. One rifle battalion had been thrown in to reinforce the 48th during the fight on 13 November. By the early morning of 14 November elements of all three regiments of the 36th VG Division were facing the Americans, and the division's complement of antitank guns was in place at Many, astride the Han-sur-Nied-Faulquemont road.
General Wellm, commanding the 36th VG Division, had gained considerable reputation as a tactician. Without prior reconnaissance, however, and without sufficient time to assemble or deploy his division properly, he was forced to abandon a co-ordinated linear defense. Instead he established a series of separate strong points as his companies and battalions moved into the sector. The position of the 36th VG Division on 14 November leaned in the north on the Forêt de Remilly, where Wellm had been forced to take over a part of the front opposite the American XX Corps held by the 719th Division. The German position then angled southeast, through Mainvillers and Chémery, to Landroff on the Rotte Creek. Here the 36th VG Division hastily dug in--there was little time to wire in the position or lay mine fields--and awaited the American attack toward Faulquemont.56
General Eddy issued a new operational directive on 14 November which called for a continuation of the attack by the 6th Armored Division and the 80th Infantry Division. The latter, however, was given the limited mission of seizing the high ground south of Faulquemont from which the road and rail communications through the town could be interdicted. The XX Corps was still engaged in the battle for Metz, and until that operation could be successfully concluded and the XX Corps be brought east of the Nied Française General Eddy would have to limit the advance of the 80th Division so as to provide protection for the north wing of the XII Corps. Since the bulk of the 80th Division had not yet crossed the Rotte Creek the continuation of the attack devolved on the armor. CCB, disposed in echelon on the left, was ordered to drive east from Herny. CCA, already hard against the enemy positions, was given the mission of seizing a favorable line of departure on the right from which the infantry could close on Faulquemont. However, the combat troops of CCB were not all assembled east of the Nied until 1645 on 14 November. As a result Read's command did not join in the first armored attack.
The objective selected for the CCA attack was the Côte de Suisse, a ridge which extended from Landroff northwest to Thicourt. Colonel Hines, the CCA commander, decided to execute a narrow thrust along the road bordering the Rotte and attempt to seize the village of Landroff, the anchor point for the German left flank and a pivot for any flanking movement against the Côte de Suisse. On the morning of 14 November Combat Team Davall (composed of the 68th Tank Battalion (-), a company of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, and some tank destroyers) led off in the attack along the river road. By noon the Americans had taken Brulange and Suisse and were poised for the final assault on Landroff.
German artillery interdicted a two-mile section of the highway west of Landroff, and the advance down the road was made under shellfire that took a high toll and left no officers in the leading tank company (A Company, 68th Tank Battalion). In the late afternoon the town was cleared of the enemy, and a staff officer, Capt. D. E. Smith, was sent in to take command. He had at his disposal the company of medium tanks, two platoons of infantry from the 44th Armored Infantry Battalion, and three tank destroyers. This little force was posted to meet the inevitable German counterattack, with the tanks at the edge of town watching the roads and covered by a few riflemen, while one platoon of infantry and the tank destroyers were located in the center of Landroff as a mobile reserve.
General Priess, the XIII SS Corps commander, feared that the whole Rotte Creek position would collapse with the capture of Landroff and its bridge. So he ordered Wellm to extend the left flank of the 36th VG Division to the south and retake the village at once. Because the approaches to Landroff were flat, devoid of cover, and whitened by snow, Wellm held up his counterattack until dusk. Then he sent the 1st Battalion of the 87th Regiment and four assault guns, covered by the fire of the 268th Artillery Regiment, to attack southward from Eincheville. The first assault, led by two self-propelled guns, succeeded in reaching the middle of the town before the lead gun was crippled and its gun crew cut down by small arms fire. The gun following turned tail. Deprived of their support the infantry fled. A second and stronger assault force attacked at midnight but was stopped at the edge of the village by the defenders' fire and a heavy artillery barrage. An hour later a third attack met the same fate.
In the meantime a company of armored infantry had come in to reinforce the American garrison and other troops had formed a corridor along the
Suisse road, there beating off German attempts to encircle Landroff.57 About 0200 the enemy guns opened up, preparatory to a last assault. The leading wave of this attack was allowed to come within three hundred yards of Landroff, and then a concentration fired by eight battalions of field artillery cut the Germans to pieces. Succeeding waves pushed the attack home, however, and reached the streets of the village. There in the darkness a melee ensued with the combatants fighting hand to hand with rifles, pistols, bazookas, trench shovels, and grenades.58 Slowly the Americans regained control of the southern half of the village. About 0500 a company of the 319th Infantry came in to take a hand, and the surviving Germans in the north part of the village were hunted down and captured or killed. A hundred or more German bodies outside the village gave mute testimony of the efficacy of the American artillery fire and the desperate nature of the German assault.
Lt. Col. Harold C. Davall's combat team was in no condition to continue the advance on 15 November, but with Landroff securely held it was possible to strike directly at the Côte de Suisse. At noon Combat Team 44 (Brown) went over to the attack with tanks leading the assault cross country from Brulange up the slopes of the Côte de Suisse, firing as they went, and followed by armored infantry and a battalion of the 319th Infantry. By dark the Côte de Suisse was taken and held in force. The 2d Battalion of the 87th Regiment was almost completely erased in this action.
The next morning CCA, together with the 318th and 319th Infantry, started a carefully co-ordinated and highly successful infantry-armor thrust in the direction of Faulquemont. Tanks, artillery, and tank destroyers, massed on the Côte de Suisse, provided a base of fire. The infantry, intermixed with the tanks, swept east in a concentric attack which cleared five enemy-held towns and put the 80th Division on the high ground south of Faulquemont.59
The speed and the weight of this envelopment so demoralized the weakened 87th and 118th Regiments that resistance generally was unorganized, wavering, and at points nonexistent. North of Thicourt, Forrest's tanks charged over Hill 337 and onto the enemy foxhole line on the reverse slope. Stunned by the American shelling and the presence of the tanks the Germans froze in their foxholes, in some cases permitting the tankers to dismount and kill them with Tommy guns. Brown's combat team, CCA, took Eincheville, after a TOT and direct tank fire had been laid on, and counted some two hundred and fifty enemy dead. CCA and the 80th took about twelve hundred prisoners during the day and killed a very large number of the enemy, tearing a gaping hole between the 36th VG Division and Kampfgruppe Muehlen.60
The successful attack on 16 November placed the 80th Division in position to interdict enemy movement on the road and rail complex at Faulquemont. The advance by the left wing of the XII Corps was ordered to a halt, and the troops turned gratefully to dry clothes and hot meals. General Eddy and his commanders already had prepared new plans for a resumption of the offensive in which the 26th and 35th Divisions would drive to the Sarre River, and on 16 November a general shift of boundaries within the XII Corps zone signaled the change in the scheme of maneuver.
1. The American records have been discussed in the notes to Chapter V. German documents are adequate for this period, but the XIII SS Corps KTB has been lost or destroyed--as have most Waffen-SS combat records.
2. MS #B-412 (Einem); MS #B-492 (Tippelskirch); MS #B-443 (Emmerich); MS #A-972 (Muehlen).
3. Army Group G KTB and Anlagen for this period.
4. In the autumn of 1918, Foch ordered Pershing and Pétain to lay plans for a great offensive in Lorraine. The Imperial German Army surrendered before the offensive could get under way, but even in its blueprint form this plan is worthy of notice: first because it repeats the categorical connection between terrain and tactics; second, because it gives an interesting comparison between the size of the force required in massed and slow-moving attacks (1918) and the force needed to cover the same ground in an era of greater mobility and fire power (1944). In the 1918 plan the front of the Allied advance was to extend from Metz to Dieuze. Six American divisions from the Second Army were to contain Metz with a drive east of the city. The French Tenth Army was to make the main effort, bypassing the Forêt de Grémecey on the north and driving to the Sarre River along the axis Delme-Faulquemont-St. Avold-Sarreguemines. On the right, the French Eighth Army would hook north from the Juvelize sector, clear the Forêt de Koecking, and take Morhange. The Allied forces allocated for this offensive numbered 28 infantry divisions, 3 cavalry divisions, 614 batteries, and 600 tanks. See Les Armées Françaises dans la Grande Guerre, Tome VII: 2ème vol. (Paris, 1938).
5. Earlier, Foch came to this same conclusion--and for the same reason--in his 1918 plan for a Lorraine offensive.
6. XII Corps AAR, Nov 44.
7. See Army Group G KTB for this period and OKW/WFSt KTB Ausarbeitung, Der Westen.
8. MS #B-078 (Mellenthin).
9. Hist Div Combat Interviews; 26th Inf Div AAR, Nov 44. OKW/WFSt KTB Ausarbeitung, Der Westen gives some of the German reactions to the XII Corps attack on 8 November. The German officers reporting the start of the American offensive noted that deception was excellent: radio silence, lack of air activity, a short artillery preparation, the late movement of infantry to the line of departure, and the concentration of tanks well to the rear--each was singled out as effective.
10. The commanding officer of the 104th Infantry, Col. Dwight T. Colley, was awarded the DSC for personal bravery in leading the attack on 8 November. During the action at Vic-sur-Seille Sgt. Charles J. Yestramski, E Company, 104th Infantry, saved a comrade at the cost of his own life. Sergeant Yestramski, although himself wounded, volunteered to carry a wounded man back across a footbridge which was under fire. A German shell broke the bridge and threw both men into the river. Sergeant Yestramski kept his companion afloat until help arrived, but was then swept away and drowned. The sergeant was awarded the DSC posthumously. In the house-to-house fight inside the town 1st Lt. Max M. Fitzpatrick of C Company distinguished himself by advancing ahead of his platoon and destroying, a German machine gun crew. Fitzpatrick was killed while searching out the enemy in a house from which fire had been directed against his men. He received the DSC posthumously.
11. Hist Div Combat Interviews; 101st Inf Jnl; Ltr, Col Walter T. Scott to Hist Div, 14 Jul 47. These items cover the entire fight for Hill 310. The action at the hill on 8 November, although unsuccessful, was marked by numerous deeds of heroism. Pfc. Roy W. Smith, G Company, 101st Infantry, was acting as an ammunition bearer when he saw a machine gunner fall wounded. He crawled forward under direct fire, took over the gun and manned it, although wounded, until he was killed. Private Smith received the DSC in a posthumous award. Pfc. George R. Meyer, L Company, 101st Infantry, was awarded the DSC for attacking alone with his BAR, killing eight of the enemy, wounding four, and knocking out two machine guns.
12. For his heroism during the fight near Bezange-la-Petite on 8 November Cpl. Alfred L. Wilson, an aid man with the 328th Infantry, received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Despite his own wounds, Corporal Wilson worked his way under fire to dress the wounds of others. When he could no longer move Wilson gave instructions until his wounds made it impossible for him to speak. He died refusing aid for himself. Pfc. Henry F. Howington, D Company, 328th Infantry, received the DSC as a result of the same action. At the edge of the village of Bezange-la-Petite, A Company was halted by fire from a German machine gun. Private Howington charged the gun, destroyed it, and killed three of the crew. At Moncourt Pvt. Melvin A. Cross of G Company was awarded the DSC for standing alone with his BAR and covering the withdrawal of his platoon during an enemy counterattack.
13. MS #B-443 (Emmerich).
14. The 3d Battalion used marching fire and expended two full bandoleers per man.
15. Figures cited by CO, 101st Inf, Col Scott, in ltr to Hist Div.
16. The 4th Armored Division operations during November are unusually well covered in Historical Division Combat Interviews.
17. Interv with Gen Eddy, 6 Aug 47. See Hist Div Combat Interviews with officers of 4th Armd Div staff; see also 37th Tk Bn Jnl, Nov 44.
18. The CCB attack is treated in the section on the 35th Division.
19. Col. B. C. Clarke, who had led CCA during the September tank battles, had been assigned to the 7th Armored Division.
20. Army Group G KTB Anlagen, 10 Nov 44.
21. 4th Armd Div AAR, 11 Nov 44.
22. 4th Armd Div AAR, 12 Nov 44; Hist Div Combat Interviews; 26th Div G-3 Jnl. The 104th regimental journal for this period is missing. Much valuable information has been supplied by Col. Ralph A. Palladino in a letter to the Historical Division, 20 September 1947. See also CCA AAR, 12-13 Nov 44.
23. Historical Division Combat Interviews for this series of actions by the 26th Division are very complete. See also 26th Div AAR, and regimental journals.
24. Lieutenant Sell subsequently received the DSC.
25. See CCA Jnl, for this action. Seventeen members of the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion won the Silver Star for their part in the Guébling fight.
26. 137th Inf AAR, Nov 44. See also Hist Div Combat Interviews and 35th Div AAR, Nov 44.
27. Interv with CO, 2d Bn, 320th Inf (Hist Combat Interviews). The 2d Battalion had to march nearly a mile to reach its line of departure.
28. The account of the fight to gain a footing in the woods has been taken from interviews with the commanding officers of the 1st and 2d Battalions, 320th Infantry (Hist Div Combat Interviews). See also 320th Inf AAR and Jnl.
29. The advance by the 320th Infantry is covered fully by the regimental journal and Historical Division Combat Interviews.
30. Captured German officers later cited the operations around Delme Ridge as an example of fine co-operation between armor and infantry.
31. MS #A-972 (Muehlen).
32. CCB AAR, Nov 44.
33. However, the Germans let an American ambulance pass through Viviers without a shot being fired.
34. Sgt. Vernon L. Allison, F Company, 137th Infantry, was awarded the DSC for destroying two German machine guns, which were firing on his platoon, and for the capture of thirty prisoners.
35. Carrying parties taking rations to the 1st Battalion of the 320th, for example, started forward at ten o'clock in the evening but did not reach the battalion until nine hours later.
36. CCB AAR, 12 Nov 44.
37. The XII Corps commander had ordered all "walking troops" to remove their overshoes at the beginning of the 8 November offensive. The infantry generally preferred to go into action without overshoes since they gave uncertain footing.
38. German intelligence believed that the 4th Armored Division had been withdrawn from the Third Army front because of crippling losses. Army Group G KTB, 17 Nov 44. Although the XX Corps was closing in on Metz at this time, Rundstedt was not particularly concerned about an American break-through in the Metz sector but instead feared an American penetration via Sarreguemines. Army Group G KTB, 15 Nov 44.
39. In the advance near Pévange, south of Morhange, Pfc. Wilbur C. Pyle, C Company, 134th Infantry, made a lone attack in which he killed or captured the occupants of four successive foxholes. For this singlehanded battle he was awarded the DSC. Private Pyle was killed shortly after this action.
40. 35th Div AAR, Nov 44.
41. These dispositions are taken from the XII Corps After Action Report and the OKH Gen. St. d. H. situation maps.
42. A very complete description of the 80th Division fire plan is contained in the Historical Division Combat Interviews.
43. Capt. John B. Kelly, G Company, 318th Infantry, received the DSC for gallantry in this fight. He had received severe abdominal wounds while leading his company, but nonetheless went forward to an exposed position to direct artillery fire. Captain Kelly died shortly after from his wounds.
44. For gallantry in this action Capt. Raymond G. Roy, 318th Infantry, received the DSC. Captain Roy had already distinguished himself as a daring combat leader during the fighting near Ste. Geneviève in mid-September.
45. Sgt. Coleman S. Rogers, a medical aid man attached to the 317th was wounded by artillery fire. Disregarding his own condition he dragged himself through the mud to another wounded man, then tried to carry the soldier out on his back. Rogers collapsed from loss of blood and was found some time later. He was awarded the DSC.
46. 80th Div G-2 Jnl, 9 Nov 44.
47. The 6th Armored Division's Combat Record, one of the best unit histories of World War II, gives a good account of the November operations. It is augmented and in part corrected by the extensive coverage given in the Historical Division Combat Interviews.
48. Historical Division Combat Interviews give the 6th Armored plans for a dash toward the east and tell the story of this initial stalemate. At noon on 8 November Read ordered the cavalry to advance in front of CCB toward the division objective. 86th Cav Unit Jnl, 8 Nov 44. The CCB commander expected the cavalry to seize crossings over the Nied Française which could be used by the main body of the command. CCB AAR, Nov 44. General Grow, however, did not count on the cavalry for this mission. Ltr, Gen Grow to Hist Div, 23 Feb 49.
49. See Army Group G KTB for these days. See also rpt by General Wietersheim, the 11th Panzer Division commander, in MS #B-416.
50. The account of the fight at Han-sur-Nied is based on exhaustive Historical Division Combat Interviews obtained soon after the action. See also Ltr, Col John Hines to Hist Div, 17 Sep 46.
51. Lieutenant Edwards had been standing in the open turret firing a submachine gun. Before he was shot he succeeded in disposing of two German rocket launcher teams. Edwards was awarded the DSC posthumously.
52. Colonel Burnette and Lieutenant Nutter were awarded the DSC posthumously for bravery in this action. Colonel Hines, Captain Craig, and Corporal Cunningham also received the DSC; Captain Craig was promoted to the rank of Major. Company B, 68th Tank Battalion, was given a Distinguished Unit Citation for its part in the fight. Both the armor and infantry sustained heavy losses in the action at the bridge. The 6th Armored Division After Action Report gives its casualties as 21 killed and 239 wounded. The 317th Infantry S-3 Journal reports an effective 1st Battalion strength of 7 officers and 100 men on the night of 11 November.
53. Lieutenant Titterington received the DSC for his part in securing the bridge.
54. This tank was the M4A3E2, a Sherman medium tank to which more armor had been added. Only a few of this model reached the European Theater of Operations before the end of 1944. It was intended as a stopgap until the heavier Pershing tank could be put into production.
55. MS #B-223 (Wellm); MS # A-871 (Feuchtinger); Army Group G KTB and Anlagen.
56. MS #B-223 (Wellm).
57. A message entry in the CCA S-3 Journal, at 0415 on 15 November, is typical of countless messages sent out by armored units during the autumn campaign: "When will Doughs be up? We need them and need them bad."
58. During the fight in Landroff Sgt. Herbert S. Latimer, B Company, 44th Armored Infantry Battalion, took command of a platoon whose officers and NCO's all were casualties. Sergeant Latimer led the platoon with such gallantry as to receive the DSC. Capt. Daniel E. Smith, the American commander in Landroff, also was awarded the DSC for bravery in the hand-to-hand battle for the village. In the course of rescuing two of his wounded men, he himself was wounded and had to be taken to the rear. Company A, 68th Tank Battalion, received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its part in the Landroff action. The company suffered ninety-seven casualties.
59. Near the town of Thonville the infantry were brought under accurate artillery and mortar fire. Cpl. Otis M. Redd, C Company, 305th Medical Battalion, went alone to care for the most seriously wounded. Redd treated some twenty-seven of the wounded, all the while under German fire. He was awarded the DSC.
60. Hist Div Combat Interview; 80th Div AAR, Nov 44. The 36th VG Division commander estimates the German losses as around two thousand, including three battalion commanders. MS #B-223 (Wellm).