River Crossing at Arnaville
The story of the 10th and 11th Infantry Regiments, 5th Infantry Division, and Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division, in crossings of the Moselle River at Dornot and Arnaville, France.
by CHARLES B. MACDONALD
The Gasoline Drought and the Dornot Crossing
To the American soldier in Europe in 1944 the historic Lorraine city of Metz was to become known, after the complex series of forts and other prepared positions on its outskirts, as "Fortress Metz." The first test in the long combat lesson which was to give the city its name came in early September with crossings of the Moselle River south of Metz.1
By 1 September the main force of the Third United States Army's XX Corps, after a spectacular August drive across France, had run out of gasoline at Verdun. Reconnaissance units were sent as far east as the Moselle River, last major water barrier before Metz.2 The optimistic reports they brought back of a panic-stricken enemy only deepened the frustration of the paralyzed units waiting for gasoline. Actually, during these early days of September such optimism was unfounded; even on 1 September, the Germans had units going into position to defend Metz,3 and by 4 September enemy resistance against American reconnaissance units perceptibly stiffened.
Able to do little during this period but commit ambitious future plans to paper and make a sterile record of the optimistic messages radioed in by the cavalry reconnaissance units, the XX Corps waited and hoped that gasoline soon would arrive. By the afternoon of 3 September enough gasoline was on hand to promise an easing of the situation, and late in the evening of 5 September the XX Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Walton H. Walker, returned from Third Army headquarters with the long-awaited word to resume the offensive.
Early the next morning, General Walker ordered that Field Order 10,4 the most ambitious and far-reaching of various plans considered during the waiting period, be put into effect that afternoon, 6 September, at 1400.5 It directed seizure of crossings on the Sarre River, some thirty miles east of the Moselle, and,
Situation, Noon, 6 September 1944
upon army order, continuation of the advance to Mainz on the Rhine. (Map I) The 7th Armored Division, under command of Maj. Gen. Lindsay McD. Silvester, was ordered to cross the Moselle in advance of the infantry, apparently in the hope that the armor might still find a bridge intact. If Metz itself did not fall "like a ripe plum," the armor was to bypass it and strike straight for the Sarre River and its bridges. The two cities that formed the anchor positions for the German line of resistance in front of XX Corps--Metz and its northern neighbor, Thionville--were labeled intermediate objectives and assigned to the 5th and 90th Infantry Divisions, respectively.
Detailed orders for both the armor and the infantry awaited seizure of a Moselle bridgehead and more intelligence on the enemy and the terrain. XX Corps knew that the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division "Goetz von Berlichingen"6 had troops in the zone of advance and believed that elements of two panzer divisions might also be encountered. The corps G-2 also believed that two other panzer grenadier divisions, the 3d and 15th, might possibly be committed. The Metz fortifications themselves provided a big question mark. Since Roman times, when Metz became a hub for roads in that sector, the city had been heavily fortified. The present system was built by the Germans between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I and was known to have undergone some changes by French engineers in 1939. What changes the Germans had made since capturing the forts in 1940 was not known. In general, the XX Corps staff believed the fortified system outmoded, and both the Third Army and XX Corps tended to assume that the Germans would at most fight a delaying action at the Moselle and that the main enemy stand would be made east of the Sarre River behind the Siegfried Line. Apparently on this assumption, virtually no information on the Metz fortifications was transmitted to lower units, not even to regiments.7
Actually, Hitler and his military advisers had no intention of permitting a withdrawal from the Metz-Thionville area; not even so much as retreat behind the Moselle was contemplated, because the Metz fortifications extended west as well as east of the river. On 4 September, OB WEST, the German supreme command in the west, estimated that troops available for defense of the sector were equivalent to four and one-half divisions.8 The defense of Metz itself was charged to a miscellany of Officer Candidate School and Noncommissioned Officer School troops from the city's military schools, fortress troops, and physically unfit, all brigaded together under Division Number 462. Although this "division" was an organizational makeshift commanded by the faculty and administrative personnel of the Metz military schools, most of the student troops had been picked for further training as officers and noncommissioned officers after having demonstrated superior abilities in the
field and were among the elite of the German Army. Most of these officers and men had used the Metz vicinity for school maneuvers and knew the terrain thoroughly.
West of the river, units of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division had been acting as a covering force. Although on 2 September the 17th SS had begun to move to reserve south of Metz for refitting and the 462d had taken over the western security mission, many 17th SS troops were still in the line when the XX Corps attack was launched. The two armored divisions which American intelligence had predicted might be encountered were actually no longer in the Metz sector.9
The American estimate that the Metz forts were outmoded was basically correct, even though the inherent strength of individual fortifications might be obscured by such a generality. While the French had concentrated primarily on the Maginot Line, farther to the east, the Germans after 1940 had given priority to fortifying the Channel coast. Many of the forts even lacked usable guns, ammunition, and fire control apparatus, although those forts subsequently encountered by the southern units of XX Corps were in most cases manned and adequately armed. Over-all consideration might label the fortified system as of World War I vintage, but it would be difficult to convince the individual American soldier who faced the forts in subsequent days that "Fortress Metz" could have conceivably been made more formidable than it actually was.
The Moselle River itself was a difficult military obstacle. In the area just south of Metz the river averaged approximately a hundred yards in width and six to eight feet in depth with a rate of flow considerably greater than that of other rivers in this part of France. The banks of the river south of Metz were flat and often marshy. Before emerging nearer to Metz into a broad flood plain sometimes reaching a width of four to five miles, the river traversed a deep, relatively narrow valley flanked on east and west by steep, commanding hills. With the advent of the rainy season, the river could be expected to become torrential.
The Advance Begins
As the gasoline drought gradually ended, XX Corps began to assemble its forces east of Verdun. The main effort to reach the Moselle and thence the Sarre was to begin at 1400 on 6 September with two parallel columns of the 7th Armored Division pushing eastward to take advantage of any Moselle crossing site that might be found. First a strong combat reconnaissance force from the 7th Armored, under Lt. Col. Vincent L. Boylan, set out at 0300 on the morning of the 6th to reinforce the cavalry units in advance of the main armored columns. Encountering little resistance initially, the force met stiffening opposition as the morning
Reaching the Moselle South of Metz
6-7 September 1944
wore on. About noon it struck a strong outpost line along the Fléville-Abbéville-Mars-la-Tour road. Meanwhile, the cavalry units had reached points along the river both south and north of Metz and, although beaten back, had determined definitely that no bridges remained.
Starting out at 1400, the 7th Armored Division moved on an axis along the main Verdun-Metz highway, deploying Combat Command A in two parallel columns on the left, Combat Command B in the same manner on the right, and Combat Command R in the rear of CCB. At first resistance was negligible; as the advance continued CCA became embroiled in a stiff fight near Ste. Marie-aux-Chênes which continued through the night and prevented CCA from reaching the Moselle until the next morning.
Meanwhile, to the south, CCB, under the command of Brig. Gen. John B. Thompson, had also been advancing in a two-column formation. On the north was Force I, led by Lt. Col. James G. Dubuisson.10 Originally the main component of this force was to have been the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion (less Company B) and was to have been under the command of Lt. Col. Leslie Allison, the armored infantry commander; but shortage of gasoline had necessitated that the armored infantry and Company B (less one platoon), 33d Armored Engineer Battalion, remain behind, to catch up with the column whenever gasoline became available. The force under Colonel Dubuisson ran into its first serious opposition between Rezonville and Gravelotte in late afternoon and was here overtaken by its infantry and engineers. The CCB commander, General Thompson, was with this northern column and set up his command post just south of Rezonville.
On the south was Force II, led by Lt. Col. Robert C. Erlenbusch.11 It passed through elements of the combat reconnaissance force at Buxières, east of Chambley, and in late afternoon approached the village of Gorze, which blocked entrance to a narrow defile leading to the Moselle at Novéant. (Map II) Here Force II was stopped by mines and antitank fire; but Company B, 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, was directed to bypass the town in an effort to reach the river and make a crossing before daylight. Although the company did succeed in reaching a canal which closely paralleled the river, as day broke on 7 September the Germans at Novéant and Arnaville, just south of Novéant, discovered the Americans in between them and saturated the area with fire, causing heavy casualties. The infantry finally were withdrawn under cover of fire from tanks and mortars.
Nevertheless, elements of CCB did succeed in reaching the Moselle during the night. In the left column (Force I), where the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion (-) had joined the fire fight west of Gravelotte, the newly arrived unit was ordered to push alone to the river. Utilizing a road through the Bois des Ognons and the Bois des Chevaux in order to
avoid the narrow Gravelotte-Ars-sur-Moselle defile, which was covered by enemy defenses, the battalion fought its way under the protection of darkness to reach at 0400 the little village of Dornot, some 300 yards from the river. At daylight the Germans on both sides of the river opened up with small arms and mortar fire, and the guns of Fort Driant, on the heights southwest of Ars-sur-Moselle, west of the river, poured in deadly shellfire. To ease its situation, the battalion cleared a little cluster of houses known as le Chêne, on the river just north of Dornot, from which the fire was particularly heavy. This success was exploited by sending in Company B, 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, from Force II and the remainder of Force I, including Company A, 31st Tank Battalion (Medium), to assist the armored infantry battalion. And none too soon, for the enemy began to launch numerous counterattacks, the most severe of which originated at Ars-sur-Moselle.
What the American armor had done was to break through, at a weakly held point and in darkness, the defense line of a German "bridgehead" enclosing those Metz forts situated west of the Moselle, a line that the Germans were determined to hold. The German line in this area ran generally from Novéant to Gorze and north to Rezonville. The American success in breaking through these defenses had been surprisingly swift, necessitating formation of a second line running generally from Ancy-sur-Moselle, north of le Chêne, to Gravelotte. The violent German reaction was apparently based in part, at least, on fear that this second line would be turned before it could be adequately manned.12
While holding against these enemy counterattacks, the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion utilized its three available assault boats in the afternoon of 7 September in an attempt to put a patrol across the Moselle. Direct machine gun fire from the east bank destroyed two of the boats and killed most of the men, driving the patrol back.
In the meantime, to the north, CCA had succeeded during the morning of 7 September in reaching the Moselle north of Metz and was taking up positions in the vicinity of Talange in anticipation of a later crossing of the river. Here CCA remained, under constant enemy shelling, until 15 September, when relieved by elements of the 90th Infantry Division.
At Dornot, in order to ease pressure on CCB and eliminate General Thompson's concern about his north flank, CCR was committed to clear the heights north of the Gravelotte-Ars-sur-Moselle defile, open the defile, and take Ars-sur-Moselle, the source of the counterattacks against Dornot. The reserve command had scarcely gained enemy contact when it was halted; corps had decided that CCR remain in corps reserve and be passed through by the 5th Infantry Division.13
Commitment of the 5th Division
On 6 September the 5th Infantry Division had been ordered to "pin onto"
the tail of the 7th Armored Division and be prepared to fight for a bridgehead across the Moselle in the event that the armored attack should fail. Attached to the division were the 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self-Propelled), the 735th Tank Battalion (Medium), the 449th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion, Troop C of the 3d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, and the 84th Chemical (Smoke Generator) Company. (The chemical company did not arrive in the area until several days later.) In support was the 1103d Engineer Combat Group. On the left flank of the 5th Division was the 90th Infantry Division driving northeast toward Thionville; on the right, also driving toward the Moselle River, was the 80th Infantry Division of XII Corps.
The 5th Infantry Division had received its battlefield indoctrination in the Normandy hedgerows beginning in July 1944, and after the St. Lô breakout had participated in the spectacular Third Army drive across France. By the time of its arrival in the Metz vicinity, the 5th had already established a reputation for river crossings: the Maine, Essonne, Loing, Seine, Yonne, Marne, and Meuse. The 7th Armored, its companion in the impending Moselle crossing, had also received its battle indoctrination in the closing days of the Normandy battles and had also participated in XX Corps' drive across France.
In conformance with the orders to follow the 7th Armored Division, the 5th Division commander, Maj. Gen. S. LeRoy Irwin, directed that the 2d Infantry follow CCA on the north, the 11th Infantry follow CCB on the south, and the 10th Infantry remain in division reserve. General Irwin was concerned as to whether his division was to establish its own bridgehead on the corps' right or to pass through the elements of the 7th Armored already engaged, but his two leading combat teams had already jumped off and made enemy contact on 7 September before he was able to get a definite decision from XX Corps.
Accompanied by its combat team elements, the 2d Infantry was to attack Metz directly from the west while the 11th Infantry was to secure high ground west of the Moselle south of Metz and be prepared to establish a bridgehead. At 0830 on 7 September the 2d Infantry launched its frontal attack and three hours later came up against a well-organized German defense line between Amanvillers and Verneville. Losses were heavy, and here the 2d Infantry was checked in the first of a series of fruitless assaults against the western outworks of the Metz position, assaults which continued until 15 September when the regiment was relieved by elements of the 90th Division.
In the south column the 11th Regimental Combat Team consisted of its normal combat team elements: the 11th Infantry; the 19th Field Artillery Battalion (105-mm. Howitzer); Company C, 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion; Company C, 735th Tank Battalion; Collecting Company C, 5th Medical Battalion; and Company C, 7th Engineer Combat Battalion. A reconnaissance platoon was attached from the 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion. Serving as the nucleus of the advance guard was the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry. The combat team, under Col. Charles W. Yuill, 11th Infantry commander, was to move by trucks at 0800, 7 September, to the vicinity of Buxières and to proceed from there on foot.
After detrucking, advance elements of the 11th Combat Team were meeting slight resistance from German infantry who had not been cleared in the armored advance when word finally reached General Irwin about noon on 7 September that the 5th Division was to pass through the armor and establish a bridgehead. By this time the 11th Infantry was deployed and advancing with two battalions forward in widely separated columns, fighting to reach the Moselle. The regimental commander, Colonel Yuill, had directed his 3d Battalion on the left to reach the river in the vicinity of Dornot, north of Novéant, and his 1st Battalion to capture Arnaville, south of Novéant. His intention was to cross the Moselle with his 2d Battalion either at Novéant or just north of Arnaville in order to avoid suspected enemy fortifications north of Dornot. As night approached, the 11th Infantry toiled slowly toward the high ground overlooking the river.
During the afternoon of 7 September, the attempt by the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion to put a patrol across the river at Dornot had given rise to a belief that the armored battalion had already gained a toehold across the Moselle. About 1800, XX Corps told General Irwin to cross the Moselle on the following morning and use the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion to augment his own infantry. The crossing was to be made at Dornot.
By midnight, 7 September, the 1st and 3d Battalions, 11th Infantry, had reached their objectives on the high ground between Arnaville and Dornot. Although the order to cross at Dornot had been protested by Colonel Yuill, the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, had been preparing for the assault since nightfall. The 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, under Maj. Homer C. Ledbetter, was being virtually ignored by the enemy at Arnaville, an indication that the latter offered a more likely crossing spot than did Dornot, where enemy reaction continued to be violent. This was apparently overruled by higher headquarters in view of the concentration of infantry and armor in the vicinity of Dornot. But on the ground there was little co-ordination between this infantry and armor. The 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, first 5th Division unit to reach the Moselle, was as surprised upon its arrival at Dornot to find CCB as CCB was to see 5th Division troops. Neither had any idea of the other's presence or impending arrival.
Nevertheless, the order to cross at Dornot was sustained, and Colonel Yuill told his 2d Battalion to make the crossing before daylight, 8 September. Not long before, the 2d Battalion had detrucked at Buxières; during late afternoon its Company E had been committed to clean out enemy road blocks in Gorze. Now the battalion was moving slowly on foot toward Dornot. Its troops, if they attacked before daylight, would have to do so without daylight reconnaissance and with maps of no larger scale than 1:100,000.14
DORNOT BRIDGEHEAD SITE ON THE MOSELLE. Road in foreground parallel to railroad track leads to Ars-sur-Moselle on left and to Novéant on right. Assault forces of the 5th Infantry Division crossed the Moselle River from top point of lagoon in center foreground.
The Terrain and the Forts
Dornot, the village that was to be the base for the projected assault crossing of the Moselle, was picturesquely situated on the sharply sloping sides of steep west-bank hills. Its main road led into the town from the west and down a narrow main street to a junction with a north-south highway running generally parallel to the river. Beyond the crest of the west-bank hills, the Dornot road and all of the town itself were under direct observation from dominant east-bank hills which began to rise a few hundred yards beyond the river. Atop two of the peaks of the first range of east-bank hills opposite Dornot perched Fort St. Blaise and Fort Sommy, known as the Verdun Group, embedded and camouflaged so as to be nearly invisible from the west bank. Although the forts were shown on the small-scale maps with which the assault troops were forced to work, hardly anything was known of their size or complexity.
In this section of the Moselle Valley a broad flood plain that stretched south from Metz began to narrow, but east of the river there was still a stretch of approximately 400 yards of flatland almost devoid of cover before the ascent to the hills began. Along it ran the broad Metz-Pont-à-Mousson highway, passing through Jouy-aux-Arches, a village one mile to the north whose name derived from ancient Roman aqueducts still in existence, and Corny, a village one mile to the south of the projected crossing site. The flat stretch of flood land on the west bank was smaller, only about 200 yards wide between the west-bank highway and the river. Here some cover was provided by a railroad embankment which ran generally parallel to the highway and the river. Slightly to the northeast of Dornot, between the railroad and the river, were a small lagoon and across from it on the east bank a small irregular-shaped patch of woods on flat ground between the river and the Metz highway. On the west bank, approximately one-half mile north of Dornot stood the cluster of houses known as le Chêne, which had been cleared the day before by the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion. Just north of le Chêne lay the village of Ancy-sur-Moselle. Approximately one and one-half miles south of Dornot on the west bank and southwest of Corny was the larger village of Novéant.
Besides the two forts of St. Blaise and Sommy, the elaborate west-bank fortification, Fort Driant, with a connecting southern reinforcement, the Moselle Battery, provided the strongest opposition to a crossing of the Moselle in this sector. Built by the Germans between the wars of 1870 and 1914, Fort Driant had been designed primarily to defend the southwestern approaches to Metz, but it was sited so that its batteries dominated the Moselle Valley as well. Emplaced on the highest west-bank terrain feature in the vicinity, Fort Driant had already illustrated the effect of its batteries to the attacking American troops. Just north of Fort Driant across the Ars-sur-Moselle-Gravelotte defile stood another fortification,
Fort Marival, whose guns could fire on the Dornot area. Farther to the north and almost due east of Gravelotte was the formidable Fort Jeanne d'Arc, from which fire might also reach the Dornot vicinity.
Accordingly, the urgency of exploiting German disorganization and reaching the Sarre River in effect impelled the Americans to attempt a crossing of the Moselle against great odds. Colonel Yuill and his men were aware that Forts St. Blaise and Sommy existed, but knew little of their capabilities. They were completely in the dark about the very existence of Forts Driant, Marival, and Jeanne d'Arc, for these German defenses did not even appear on the small-scale maps in the hands of the 11th Infantry. The regiment assumed that the fire that had actually come from the batteries of Fort Driant was the work of roving German guns. In addition, any crossing of the Moselle in the Dornot area at this particular time might possibly be subjected to enemy ground action on the near bank, for on the night of 7 September the situation around Novéant to the south and Ancy-sur-Moselle to the north was still fluid.15
Crossing at Dornot
As morning approached on 8 September, troops of the 5th Infantry and 7th Armored Divisions were deployed as follows: To the north, outside the Dornot sector, CCA was digging in alongside the Moselle near Talange, northwest of Metz, and the 2d Infantry was facing a strong defense between Amanvillers and Verneville, abreast and west of Metz. The 10th Infantry was in 5th Division reserve and CCR in corps reserve. To the south, Force II (less Company B, 23d Armored Infantry Battalion) of CCB was in an assembly area north of Onville, and two companies of the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, were astride the high ground north and south of Arnaville. In the vicinity of le Chêne and Dornot was Force I of CCB: the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion (including Company B); Company A, 31st Tank Battalion; and Company B, 33d Armored Engineer Battalion. (Force I's 2d Platoon, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion, had previously been committed and virtually annihilated east of Rezonville, and the 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, while supporting Force I, was in firing positions just northwest of Rezonville.) Astride the high ground west and south of Dornot, ready to assist the crossing by fire, was the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, and in Dornot itself, the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry. In the rear of Dornot was the remainder of the 11th Combat Team: the 11th Infantry (less its three rifle battalions); the 19th Field Artillery Battalion; Company C, 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion; Company C, 735th Tank Battalion; Company C, 5th Medical Battalion; Company C, 7th Engineer Combat Battalion; and an attached reconnaissance platoon of the 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
The mixture of CCB and 11th Infantry units had produced a maze of perplexity in the command picture. Both CCB and the 11th Infantry had orders to cross the Moselle at Dornot. General Irwin,
5th Division commander, had been given verbal orders by XX Corps placing him in command of all troops in the Dornot area; but this information had not reached General Thompson, CCB commander, and he thought he was in command.
The commander of the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, Lt. Col. Kelley B. Lemmon, Jr., whose unit was to make the 5th Division assault crossing, had understood that CCB, 7th Armored Division, would cross the river approximately 1,000 yards north of Dornot. He had been ordered to make a crossing during darkness and was in Dornot preparing to execute this mission when he found the units of the 7th Armored in the area. Talking with Colonel Allison, commander of the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, he discovered that the armored infantry was to force a crossing at daylight, also at Dornot.
The men of Colonel Lemmon's 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, were already having difficulty getting into Dornot, for vehicles of CCB had clogged the narrow road into the town. Further complicating the situation, rain began to fall, making the road even more treacherous in the darkness. Fire from Germans still on the west bank harassed traffic from the flanks, and when attempts were made to pull the armored vehicles out of the area the two-way movement only resulted in traffic jams at Gorze and Dornot. It was still dark when rumor spread that a staff officer from XX Corps had appeared and ordered the armored infantry to cross in advance of the 2d Battalion. Although this staff officer was never identified and his intervention denied by XX Corps, the idea, at least, was prevalent and added to the confusion.16
Faced with the confusion on the ground and the probability that his men could not be ready for a crossing during darkness, Colonel Lemmon finally established communications with his regimental commander, Colonel Yuill. Shortly after daylight, 8 September, Colonel Yuill told his 2d Battalion commander that he should proceed with his crossing plans and that the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion was attached for the crossing. The basis for such a statement was probably the verbal order given General Irwin earlier by XX Corps, that the 5th Division was to force a crossing and use the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion to augment its own infantry. But a short while later General Thompson, CCB commander, used the communications of the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry,17 to telephone Colonel Yuill. Informing him of his mission to cross the Moselle, General Thompson requested permission to use a battalion of the 11th Infantry to assist his own 23d Armored Infantry, because his battalion had been seriously depleted in the battles to hold at Dornot and le Chêne. Since the general's mission was the same, since co-ordination was apparently the only solution to a confused situation, and since General Thompson
CONGESTION IN DORNOT before first crossing of Moselle. The entire town was under observation from dominating east-bank hills visible in top background.
was the senior officer on the ground, Colonel Yuill approved and designated Colonel Lemmon's 2d Battalion. This was a major step toward co-ordination, but there was nothing to indicate that General Irwin was aware of the negotiations, and there was no real co-ordination among supporting elements of the two divisions. Colonel Yuill, although having granted General Thompson's request, did not consider that his 2d Battalion was in any sense attached to CCB, only that General Thompson was in over-all command.18
After his telephone conversation with Colonel Yuill, General Thompson made contact with the 7th Armored Division artillery officer. Since he had received no response to urgent messages of the day before to division headquarters requesting assault boats, General Thompson told his artillery officer to avoid both division and corps headquarters but to secure as much artillery as possible for support of the crossing. He wanted a preparatory barrage of smoke and high explosive on the east-bank hills beyond Dornot for forty-five minutes prior to the assault. The 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, meanwhile was making its own preparations for artillery support from its own division.19
Although it would seem that two divergent efforts to cross the Moselle were being made at the same spot, real coordination finally came on battalion level and all preparations eventually worked toward one end. According to Colonel Lemmon, both he and the 23d Armored Infantry commander, Colonel Allison, recognized that the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, was the major unit and was giving the orders. The 2d Battalion's original plans had been made with the idea that elements of CCB would cross one thousand yards north of Dornot and take Jouy-aux-Arches, the latter town to be on the north flank of the 11th Infantry bridgehead. Now the two infantry battalion commanders decided that both units would cross near the small lagoon on the west bank, across from the irregular-shaped patch of woods on the east bank. The 23d Armored Infantry was to swing north, capture Luzerailles Farm, approximately halfway between Fort St. Blaise and Jouy-aux-Arches, and establish a defense in the southern edge of Jouy-aux-Arches, both positions to protect the north flank of the bridgehead. The 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, was to advance immediately on Fort St. Blaise. The 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, which would cross later, was to capture Fort Sommy and protect the south flank of the bridgehead.20
Because supporting artillery was not completely in firing position, General Thompson and Colonel Yuill, apparently at about the same time and with approval of the 5th Division commander, decided to postpone the attack. Another factor in delay was the lack of assault boats. Only those few brought to Dornot by the 11th Infantry's attached platoon of Company C, 7th Engineer Combat Battalion, were present until about 0800 when some twenty additional boats arrived. The arrival of these boats was the result of a lengthy trip during the night through rear areas by General Thompson himself, after his repeated
requests for boats the day before had brought no results.21
Plans for the crossing proceeded, some apparently made by General Thompson, others by the two battalion commanders, and some by Colonel Yuill, 11th Infantry commander. The main fact was that the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, would furnish the bulk of the troops, for in the battles at le Chêne and Dornot the 23d Armored Infantry had been reduced to about half its normal strength and was depleted even further when Company A was ordered to hold the left flank of the near bank at le Chêne. The 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, from its positions atop the high ground south of Dornot, was to assist the crossing with machine gun and mortar fire, while its Company L sent a platoon to investigate Novéant and place outposts in the town as south-flank protection for the crossing. This Company L platoon subsequently found Novéant unoccupied but withdrew in the afternoon when plans were made for a 3d Battalion crossing. Two companies of the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, were still in position astride the high ground around Arnaville, with elements of Company B assigned to clear the enemy from a pocket at Ste. Catherine's Farm, between Gorze and Dornot.
With the confusion of men and vehicles still existing in the Dornot vicinity, at 0930 General Thompson ordered the vehicles of his combat command, including the 31st Tank Battalion, which was close behind Dornot, to move from the area. Remaining were CCB's armored infantry, engineers, and medics. Apparently not all vehicles succeeded in clearing the area, for the infantry complained that a number of armored cars with their bright cerise air-identification panels were left parked in the open along the road leading from Dornot to the river, drawing enemy artillery fire.22 The confusion between 7th Armored and 5th Division troops was finally dissipated on 9 September when CCB was officially attached to the 5th Division in exchange for attachment of the 2d Infantry Regimental Combat Team to the 7th Armored Division.
The Assault Begins
Ready to support the crossing on the morning of 8 September were the 19th, 21st, 46th, and attached 284th Field Artillery Battalions of the 5th Division and the 434th Armored and attached 558th Field Artillery Battalions of the 7th Armored Division. The new hour of assault was set for 1045. Under cover of heavy blanket concentrations by the artillery (few point targets could be discerned) and a smoke screen on Forts St. Blaise and Sommy, the infantry, assisted by the platoon of Company C, 7th Engineers, and elements of Company B, 33d Armored Engineers, moved the assault craft to the water's edge. Using an underpass beneath the railroad track, they moved northeast to a spot between the lagoon and the river across from the small irregular-shaped patch of woods on the east bank. (To the troops in the action, this woods became known, apparently because of a horseshoe-shaped defense later set up there, as the "horseshoe woods.") Enemy shelling and machine gun fire began to harass the infantrymen
APPROACHING THE MOSELLE UNDER ENEMY FIRE for first river crossing near Dornot on 8 September 1944.
RIVER CROSSING NEAR DORNOT. Assault boat under way (above) as machine gun (below) covers the crossing. Note casualty in left foreground.
from the moment they moved through the railroad underpass. At least one infantry squad carrying an assault boat received a direct hit. It became necessary to call for more supporting artillery fire and to send a patrol from the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion to the north to eliminate enemy small arms fire. This patrol finally knocked out the west-bank opposition and captured some twenty prisoners.
Not until about 1115 did Company F, led by its company commander, 1st Lt. Nathan F. Drake, in the lead boat, launch the assault in five assault craft. The crossing was contested by rifle and machine gun fire from the east bank and mortar and artillery fire that wounded several Company F and engineer troops. Before loading in assault boats, each wave of infantry would take cover in a shallow ditch about twenty yards from the river, then make a dash through the enemy fire to reach the boats. Next to cross, despite continued enemy fire which killed one man and wounded five, was Company G. By 1320 all of Companies F and G, plus a platoon of heavy machine guns and 81-mm. mortars from Company H, were across the river, and Company E had begun its crossing. Once beyond the river, the men fanned out in the woods for local security and began to reorganize. The elements of Companies B and C, 23d Armored Infantry, whose combined strength now totaled only forty-eight men, including Colonel Allison, the battalion commander, and his forward command group, went across intermingled with the two lead companies of the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry.23
Valuable fire support in the Dornot crossing was furnished by the machine guns, mortars, and 57-mm. antitank guns of the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, from positions on the bluffs south of Dornot. Forward observers attached to the 3d Battalion from the 19th Field Artillery Battalion made good use of the commanding observation to adjust fires in support of the 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry. Artillery liaison officers from both 5th Infantry and 7th Armored Division artillery were with Colonel Lemmon, 2d Battalion commander. The howitzers of Cannon Company, 11th Infantry, were in direct-fire positions on the heights just south of Dornot.24
The engineer plan for the crossing had called for the 537th Light Ponton Company (1103d Engineer Combat Group), assisted by one platoon of Company C, 160th Engineer Combat Battalion, to construct and operate infantry support rafts. Company C, 150th Engineer Combat Battalion, Company B, 160th Engineers, and elements of the 989th Treadway Bridge Company were to construct a treadway bridge in the vicinity of Dornot. But continued enemy machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire forced abandonment of this plan on the first day. The corps engineers were held back by Colonel Yuill, 11th Infantry commander, who realized that bridge-building under the circumstances was impossible. Except for two platoons the corps engineers either remained in
their assembly areas or did mine clearance on rear-area roads. One of these platoons, the 1st Platoon, Company C, 150th Engineers, moved to the crossing site in early afternoon on reconnaissance but met intense enemy fire. Instead of preparing for bridge construction, the platoon was pressed into service assisting the ferrying of troops and supplies and evacuating wounded. When this platoon was relieved after dark by the company's 2d Platoon, the platoon of 7th Engineers and elements of Company B, 33d Armored Engineers, were also relieved. Ferrying operations thus passed to control of the 2d Platoon, Company C, 150th Engineers. During the afternoon one squad of the armored engineers had cut the railroad tracks in preparation for building a road over the tracks to the river.25
According to the original plan for the assault crossing the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, was to await the initial success of the 2d Battalion's effort and then cross the river farther to the south. Reconnaissance by the battalion S-3 and an attached engineer officer revealed a likely site in the northern outskirts of Novéant. Although the battalion commander issued tentative orders for the attack, it was delayed to await the outcome of the 2d Battalion's attempts to expand the bridgehead opposite Dornot. Subsequent action at the 2d Battalion site caused cancellation of plans for a second crossing, and at 1705 Company K was ordered to cross at Dornot, to be followed as soon as possible by the remainder of the 3d Battalion. Approximately one and one-half platoons of Company K had reached the east bank by 1745, despite being held up by heavy enemy mortar fire and confusion with the rear elements of Company E, which was receiving machine gun fire from its left front and still blocked the crossing site. The remainder of Company K managed to cross at intervals during early evening, but the confined situation in the bridgehead forced cancellation, for the moment at least, of plans to send over the rest of the 3d Battalion.26
Not all the second company had crossed when shortly after noon General Thompson, CCB commander, received a message to report to 7th Armored Division headquarters. Here he was relieved of command of CCB and subsequently reduced in rank. One of the reasons given for his relief was that CCB had established a bridgehead across the Moselle on 7 September and then had withdrawn it contrary to the orders of the XX Corps commander. This was not a fact, for no bridgehead had been established on 7 September: this was only the small patrol which had crossed in three boats and had been almost annihilated. General Thompson was later exonerated and restored to the rank of brigadier general.27
The departure of the CCB commander, the only officer above the rank of lieutenant colonel present thus far in the vicinity of the crossing site, placed full
responsibility for the river crossing in the hands of the 11th Infantry. From this time on there was apparently no question but that it was an 11th Infantry bridgehead supported by the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion of CCB.28
The German Reaction
From the German viewpoint the crossing of the Moselle was almost as confused as the original American preparations. Defending the east bank at the time of the assault were the 282d Infantry Battalion ("Battalion Voss"), made up of men with stomach ailments, and the SS Signal School Metz ("Battalion Berg"), both under the command of Division Number 462. Headquarters for Battalion Berg was in Jouy-aux-Arches; for Battalion Voss in Corny. The Americans had crossed the river on the boundary between the two battalions, a line through the middle of the horseshoe woods.
The only other German troops in the vicinity of the crossing site were the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division. This regiment had arrived east of Metz on 6 September after a road march of approximately fifty miles from the vicinity of Saarlautern. On 7 September the regiment's 2d Battalion (battle strength: 620 men) had been ordered to Marly, some three miles east of Jouy-aux-Arches. Attached to the 2d Battalion was a company of armored infantry, seven Flak tanks,29 two assault guns and one 75-mm. self-propelled gun. Having arrived in Marly in midafternoon (7 September), the battalion during the evening passed to control of Division Number 462.
About 1000, 8 September, the date of the American crossing, the bulk of the 2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, moved to Augny, between Marly and Jouy-aux-Arches. At noon one of the company commanders reported that he had talked with a wounded man who said the Americans had crossed the river but were equipped with no weapons heavier than submachine guns. A little more than an hour later, when a message from the German corps headquarters indicated that about one company of Americans had crossed the river at the horseshoe woods, the commander of the 2d Battalion sent a patrol to Jouy-aux-Arches to determine the truth of the report. The patrol returned at 1430 with a written message from the commander of Battalion Berg stating that the enemy had crossed north of Corny, that a large part of Battalion Voss had been routed, and that there had also been some penetration in the sector of Battalion Berg (SS Signal School Metz). Although the enemy could be thrown back if reserves were brought up, the message stated, the SS Signal School had no reserves available, and "the situation is serious, unless reinforcements arrive."
Meanwhile, several reports had been received from Battalion Voss that there was "no change in [the] situation." Because this news contradicted his information from Battalion Berg, the 2d Battalion commander sent a noncommissioned officer to Corny to find out what actually was taking place. He returned with a message from the commander of Battalion Voss stating, somewhat inexplicably, that a company of the latter battalion "took off." Perhaps this news explained the
earlier report that a large part of Battalion Voss had been routed, but it failed to indicate that there had been an American crossing. In the face of these contradictory messages, the 2d Battalion commander planned originally to commit only two reinforced platoons, one moving south from Jouy-aux-Arches and one moving north from Corny, with the mission of throwing back the enemy--if found. When continuing reports from Battalion Berg in Jouy-aux-Arches indicated that a bridgehead had been established and that reinforcements were crossing the river, he changed his plans. He ordered his 7th Company to move to Corny and attack north and his 5th Company to Jouy-aux-Arches and attack south. The 8th Company, a heavy weapons company, was to support the attacks with infantry howitzer and mortar fire. The companies moved out for the attack at 1515.30
Advance to Fort St. Blaise
At the horseshoe woods, while the early effort of the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, to reinforce the bridgehead had been taking place, Companies F and G had, in late afternoon of 8 September, moved out of the woods in an advance across the Metz highway and up the slopes leading to Fort St. Blaise, more than 2,000 yards beyond the river. (Map 1) Company E, still reorganizing in the woods, was to follow when reorganization was complete and mop up bypassed resistance. Company K, when other elements of the 3d Battalion were able to cross, was to capture Fort Sommy. Although the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion had been ordered to take Luzerailles Farm and the southern edge of Jouy-aux-Arches, the small number of armored infantry to cross apparently negated this original plan, for no attempt was made to execute it.
Accompanied by Capt. Ferris Church, the 2d Battalion S-3, the two lead companies moved out, Company F forward and Company G echeloned to the left rear. Climbing the steep slope past occasional patches of trees and through vineyards and irregularly spaced fruit trees, the men met virtually no enemy opposition and only a strange silence from the fortification at the top of the hill. There were no casualties in the advance until Company F had reached the outer defenses of Fort St. Blaise. There the company commander, Lieutenant Drake, leaned over a wounded German to ask him a question. As the lieutenant straightened and raised his head, one of three German riflemen hidden scarcely ten yards away shot him through the forehead. He died instantly as the men about him turned their weapons on the three Germans. Command of the company fell to 1st Lt. Robert L. Robertson.31
Continuing its advance, Company F slowly and methodically cut its way through five separate double-apron barbed wire obstacles, only to come up
8 September 1944
against an iron portcullis studded with curved iron hooks that prevented scaling. On the other side of the portcullis a dry moat about thirty feet wide and fifteen feet deep surrounded the fort. The fort itself was a huge domed structure of three large casemates constructed of concrete and covered by grassy earth which provided excellent camouflage and additional protection. Although the men of the 2d Battalion did not know it, Fort St. Blaise was manned at this time by only a weak security detachment of a replacement battalion which withdrew as the Americans approached.32
Not knowing that the fort was undefended, Captain Church, after radio consultation with his battalion headquarters, ordered his two companies to pull back about 400 yards to permit the artillery to plaster the fort before the final assault. The companies did pull back but, when the supporting artillery fired, three rounds fell short,33 wounding several of the Americans and killing three. The American artillery fire seemed a cue for a heavy concentration of German mortar and artillery fire, and at the same time (about 1730) German infantry began counterattacking on both flanks and infiltrating in the unprotected rear of the two companies. Over his radio Captain Church ordered Company E to move up quickly to close the gap between it and the advance elements. But it was too late. Intense machine gun cross fire swept in from both flanks, and the broad Metz highway and the flatland on either side of it had become a deathtrap.
The enemy threatened at any moment to split the battalion. Captain Church's forward companies were stretched out so precariously on the open slope of the hill that he ordered a withdrawal back to the woods. So effective was the enemy infiltration in the battalion rear by this time that the withdrawal was planned as an attack downhill in a skirmish line. But vineyards and patches of woods and enemy fire prevented control of the skirmish formation, and the two companies separated, each coming down the hill in a ragged single column. An old German trick of firing one machine gun high with tracer bullets and another lower to the ground with regular ammunition took its toll. The retreat moved slowly and casualties were heavy. As darkness approached and visibility decreased, unit commanders told their men to make a last dash for the woods; if a man was hit, he was to be left alone to crawl the rest of the way as best he could. The bulk of the companies were three hours in returning to the horseshoe woods, and some men were still straggling in at daylight the next morning. The dead and wounded marked the path of withdrawal. Although medics went out during the night and the next day to care for the wounded, they were often shot down at their tasks.
Earlier in the afternoon of 8 September, after the German commander of the 2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, located at Augny, had ordered a counterattack by two of his companies, the 5th Company had reached Jouy-aux-Arches at 1700 and the 7th Company had reached Corny at 1715. Although the 5th Company soon launched its attack to the south, the 7th Company in Corny was immediately pinned down by strong American artillery and machine gun fire from west of the Moselle and suffered heavy losses. Because of another message from Battalion Berg in Jouy-aux-Arches at 1620, indicating that the town could not be held unless reinforcements arrived (the 5th Company had not yet reached Jouy), the commander of the 2d
Battalion decided to commit his 6th Company to attack "objective: Jouy-aux-Arches." By 1800 the 6th Company had reached the town, no doubt finding it still in German hands. The 5th Company reported one minute later that it had reached the horseshoe woods and had taken twenty-five prisoners. The 7th Company was still pinned down at Corny.
But now the 2d Battalion commander received a message indicating that the Americans had occupied Fort St. Blaise. At approximately the same time, the commander of Division Number 462 reached the 2d Battalion's command post in Augny and stressed the importance of retaking the fort. Accordingly, the 6th Company in Jouy-aux-Arches was committed to "retake" Fort St. Blaise. Under "heaviest [American] artillery fire," the 6th Company attacked and occupied the fort at approximately 2200 without making contact with the Americans or suffering any casualties. The Germans believed that the Americans had had to evacuate the fort because of their own artillery fire.
Meanwhile, in Augny, two companies of the 208th Replacement and Training Battalion had arrived and were sent to Jouy-aux-Arches to reinforce Battalion Berg. About 2100, German reserves had been further increased when a Luftwaffe signal battalion and the 1st Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, had arrived in Augny.34
Upon withdrawal of the two American assault companies, the men of the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion and Companies E and K, 11th Infantry, began to dig in along the perimeter of the horseshoe woods. As troops of Companies F and G straggled into the original bridgehead area, 2d Lt. John A. Diersing, commanding Company E after its original commander had been wounded, his 1st sergeant, Claud W. Hembree, and other officers and noncommissioned officers directed the survivors into defensive positions. All that the day's efforts and high casualties had gained was a minuscule bridgehead 200 yards deep and 200 yards wide, encompassing no more than the horseshoe woods. Only heavy concentrations from the supporting artillery battalions prevented the Germans from retaking even this small gain and protected the Americans as they dug in. The men were still digging in when the first "counterattack" against the bridgehead itself began: three enemy tanks drove along the highway from the north, spraying the woods line with bullets and shell fragments. Although protected by "bazooka pants," the tanks would not close with the defenders, their crews contenting themselves with trying to draw fire to determine the exact location of the American positions. The defenders' line was hard hit, particularly the positions of Company E at the point of the horseshoe, but the men held their fire. A group of enemy infantry, estimated at company size, heavily armed with automatic weapons, and shouting loudly, "Yanks kaput!" followed soon after the tanks. This time Company E opened fire, but the enemy infantry did not close, continuing to follow their tanks until out of sight to the right.
Almost hourly for the remainder of the night (8-9 September) the Germans counterattacked, mainly with rifles and burp guns. As the enemy formed across the highway, the defenders could hear shouted orders, followed by almost fanatical
charges with the enemy bunched and yelling. The American automatic rifles had a field day, and turned back every attack with high casualties for the Germans; but the defenders were only partially dug in, if at all, and casualties among the Americans were also numerous. The woods were filled with cries for medics. Sergeant Hembree, Company E, realizing that such calls would disclose positions, as well as indicate the number of casualties, and that all available aid men were working near the river in an improvised aid station, sent around an order that no one was to cry out. The exhibition of self-discipline that followed was one of the heartening feats of courage during the hectic days in the bridgehead.
During the first-night counterattacks, two men of Company K, Pfc. George T. Dickey and Pfc. Frank Lalopa, who had volunteered to man an outpost beyond the main line of resistance, stuck to their post despite a warning order to withdraw. Armed only with M-1 rifles, the two men held off the enemy until finally they were surrounded and killed. The next morning when other men of Company K crawled out to the position, they found the bodies of twenty-two Germans, some within three yards of the bodies of Dickey and Lalopa.
Soon after the defense was organized, Captain Church returned to the battalion command post on the west bank to report the situation.35 Left in command of the bridgehead forces was the Company G commander, Capt. Jack S. Gerrie. While the battalion commander, Colonel Lemmon, had realized that the situation east of the river was serious, he was further impressed by Captain Church's report and requested permission to evacuate his battalion. Colonel Yuill in turn asked permission of division. Although General Irwin was aware that the situation in the bridgehead was far from satisfactory, XX Corps refused to permit withdrawal until another bridgehead was secured. A crossing by elements of the 80th Division of XII Corps to the south had been beaten back, and the precarious foothold opposite Dornot was thus the only remaining bridgehead across the Moselle. If the Dornot crossing could be held while the 10th Infantry made another crossing farther south, General Irwin reasoned, there would be a chance to expand the Dornot bridgehead to link up with the 10th Infantry. He therefore denied Colonel Lemmon's request. The Dornot bridgehead was to be held "at all costs."36
Support of the Dornot Bridgehead
After its heavy preassault bombardment and until daylight of 9 September, supporting artillery, particularly the direct-support 19th Field Artillery Battalion under command of Lt. Col. Charles J. Payne, fired heavily in support of the 2d Battalion bridgehead. During the twenty-four-hour period the 19th Field Artillery Battalion fired 1,483 rounds.
Most concentrations were on call by SCR-300 from the infantry in the bridgehead, giving support which the infantry deemed "excellent and plentiful." The work of the 19th Field Artillery Battalion's liaison officer, Capt. Eldon B. Colegrove, drew particular praise. He remained on duty on the west bank relaying requests for fire the entire time the 2d Battalion held on the east bank. Observers for the 5th Division artillery units were either in Dornot or on the bluffs overlooking the river and thus had good over-all observation on the bridgehead area. One observer from the 7th Armored Division was in the bridgehead itself.
During the afternoon of 8 September, further forward displacement of supporting artillery was accomplished. While the attached 284th Field Artillery Battalion maintained direct support, the 19th Field Artillery Battalion advanced to the vicinity of Ste. Catherine's Farm. One gun of Battery B, 46th Field Artillery Battalion, displaced to a position east of Gorze but, when subjected to what was believed to be observed enemy artillery fire, retired to new positions just west of Gorze. Here it was joined by the remainder of the battalion for a displacement in effective range of approximately 3,000 yards.
While armor had been available in the Dornot vicinity in early stages of the operation, it had been pulled out because of unsuitable terrain and lack of cover, and crossing armor into the tiny bridgehead was still impossible. Company C, 735th Tank Battalion, a part of the 11th Combat Team, remained uncommitted, but one platoon of Company C, 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion, took position during the day on the high ground southwest of Dornot and engaged targets east of the river.37
Although repeated requests for air support had filtered back through higher echelons all day, none was forthcoming. Priority assignment of air to the fight for the Brittany port of Brest and to "riding herd" on the Third Army's open southern flank prevented its employment.38
The commander of the 1103d Engineer Combat Group, Lt. Col. George H. Walker, still planned to build a bridge across the river opposite Dornot the night of 8-9 September, but again enemy fire proved too intense. Additional assault boats were brought up to increase the means of supply and evacuation of wounded and to replace boats that had been knocked out or sunk. The 2d Platoon, Company C, 150th Engineers, continued to operate the assault boats until 1400, 9 September, when relieved by a platoon of Company C, 204th Engineer Combat Battalion. Orders had been received late on 8 September detaching the 150th Engineers and assigning the battalion to duty with the XII Corps to the south.39
When crossing the Moselle on 8 September, each man of the 2d Battalion and Company K, 11th Infantry, had taken with him all the ammunition he could carry and the usual canteen of water, but no rations. Beginning at 2200 that night, ten men of the 2d Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon carried all types of
infantry ammunition, three units of K ration per man within the bridgehead, and 250 gallons of water to the crossing site. The engineers subsequently loaded the supplies and pulled the boats across the river with ropes. Two crossings per boat were made without mishap until the last boat on its second trip was hit near the far shore by an enemy shell and five men were killed.
The 2d Battalion medical aid station, set up in Dornot early on 8 September, merged during the afternoon with that of the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, which had moved into two cellars across the street. Although litter squads were attached initially to the rifle companies, only one squad managed to get across the Moselle, and the others worked on the near shore. Litter bearers first transported patients to the railroad underpass; from there a jeep ran the gantlet of shellfire into Dornot. The exposed nature of the road across the western hills from Dornot still necessitated a jeep carry from the aid station to an ambulance loading point behind the hills. Later in the afternoon enemy small arms fire raking the open ground between the railroad and the river prevented movement even of litter teams until after dark. During this period 2d Lt. T. H. Pritchett, medical administrative officer of the 3d Battalion, and T/5 Charles R. Gearhart, liaison agent from Collecting Company C, 5th Medical Battalion, crawled into this fireswept area, gave first aid to three wounded men, and crawled out again, pulling the patients behind them. After dark, when sleet began to fall, further adding to the discomforts of the wounded, 2d Lt. Edwin R. Pyle, 2d Battalion medical administrative officer, crossed into the bridgehead and supervised removal of wounded by boat to the west bank, where the litter jeep relay used earlier transported the patients to Dornot. After Lieutenant Pyle returned to the west bank about 0430, 9 September, evacuation was accomplished solely by infantrymen and aid men within the bridgehead who somehow managed to find boats or expedient floats and moved their wounded comrades to the west bank.40
At 2200 the night of 8 September the 10th Infantry received orders to cross the Moselle on 10 September in the vicinity of Arnaville, south of Novéant.41 A second bridgehead was to be attempted, this time allowing a reasonable period for planning and co-ordination. In the meantime, the battle to hold opposite Dornot went on.
Holding the Dornot Site, 9-10 September
By the morning of 9 September expectation evidently still existed above regimental level that the 11th Infantry's bridgehead could be expanded and pushed to the south.42 Within the bridgehead itself there was no such optimism. The men inside the little perimeter knew that, if the German pressure continued as it had during the night, the foothold could not even be held for long. The regimental commander, Colonel Yuill, understood the situation and thus made no attempt to reinforce the bridgehead. Any such attempt, he knew, would be suicidal.43
Before daylight on 9 September a report from a German prisoner that there
were about one thousand Germans in one of the forts of the Verdun Group set off frantic requests for air support to hit the forts at daylight. Colonel Yuill, telephoning a number of times to 5th Division headquarters, said that "the bridgehead is desperate" and "it is vitally important that we get an air mission." The request was approved soon after daylight and planes were expected momentarily, but they did not arrive. At 0920 (9 September), General Irwin telephoned the XX Corps commander, General Walker, to protest the fact that the planes had been promised but had not appeared. While the 11th Infantry continued to cry frantically for planes, division promised that, if nothing else, "they would send cubs" (artillery observation planes). But at 1045 the regiment received the word it had apparently been fearing. The planes had been taken for missions against the primary target of Brest.44
Enemy pressure against the little bridgehead continued. Counterattack followed counterattack: during the entire time the battalion remained on the east bank an estimated thirty-six separate enemy assaults were hurled against it.45 Throughout the day of 9 September, and except for occasional lulls on 10 September, the rain of enemy shells continued, not only on the horseshoe woods and the crossing site but on Dornot, le Chêne, the high ground on either side of Dornot, and the road to the west from Dornot. The Germans made the most of their commanding observation from Forts St. Blaise and Sommy, both of which proved impervious to American artillery fire; and the positions of the enemy's heavy guns and mortars could not be detected, not even from artillery observation planes. Shelling forced abandonment of all efforts to resupply the bridgehead in daylight, daytime activity resolving into hazardous efforts to evacuate the wounded. One of the wounded was Colonel Allison, the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion commander, the only field grade officer to cross into the bridgehead. Although evacuated, he died of wounds six days later.
Despite a tendency toward bunching and almost banzai-like attacks, the enemy facing the horseshoe defense was wily and, it seemed to the defenders, often fanatical. Sometimes his attacks were supported by tanks which would give close-in artillery and machine gun support while the accompanying infantry closed with persistence and courage.
After the first day's attack by elements of the 2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the next major German attempt to eliminate the bridgehead was launched at 2245 the night of 9 September by two companies of the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, supported by fire from a third company of the same regiment. The attack marked the first mention in this action of this regiment's 4th Battalion. (The 1st Battalion had previously taken over defense of Forts Sommy and St. Blaise.) The attack proceeded satisfactorily until shortly after midnight when it bogged down under heavy American
small arms fire. The Germans intimated that they had failed because the Americans were continually bringing new troops into the bridgehead. In addition to three battalions of the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the German units which figured in the Dornot bridgehead fighting were primarily the 282d Infantry Battalion (Battalion Voss), which had been holding the line extending south from the center of the horseshoe woods, the SS Signal School Metz (Battalion Berg), and the 208th Replacement and Training Battalion, all under the control of Division Number 462. (The 3d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was apparently in reserve and was not actively committed in this operation.)46
The Americans in the bridgehead could take few prisoners. Representative of enemy refusal to surrender was an event in late afternoon of 9 September when approximately a platoon of Germans attacked Company F. Some twenty were killed with automatic rifle and rifle fire close to the defenders' foxholes; about five others dropped behind the bodies of their comrades. Feigning wounds, although still holding on to their weapons, the five would not respond when men of Company F called out for their surrender. Fearing what might happen after dark if the Germans were left so close to the forward foxholes, Company F had no alternative but to shoot them where they lay.
A number of times the Germans tried another ruse: while a German officer shouted in English to "cease firing," a group of the enemy would form for a local assault to be launched during the expected lull in American fire. The trick worked only once, and then only partially and to the enemy's disadvantage, when the 1st Platoon, Company E, obeyed the command, only to realize when it was repeated that it was given with a foreign accent. Opening fire again, the platoon wiped out a group of fifteen to twenty Germans who had started an assault.
On the west bank an enemy machine gunner, superbly camouflaged in a log-covered, well-sodded emplacement at the north end of the lagoon between the railroad and the river, remained undetected from the day of crossing until 10 September, providing continual harassment to troops at the crossing site. With the muzzle of his machine gun remaining within his emplacement while he fired through a nine-inch aperture, the German could not be located. Although at night he impudently sang German songs, the American troops still could not find him. His position was not neutralized until 10 September when it was placed under area fire by 60-mm. mortars, automatic rifles, and rifles of Company I, 11th Infantry.47
In midmorning of 9 September the Company K commander, 1st Lt. Stephen T. Lowry, was killed in the bridgehead. The one company officer who had not yet been killed or wounded, 1st Lt. Johnny R. Hillyard, assumed command. Just after daylight the next morning, Lieutenant Hillyard too was killed. The
1st sergeant, Thomas E. Hogan, took command of the company.
Incidents of individual heroism continued to be almost commonplace. In Company G Pvt. Dale B. Rex took over a machine gun on the left flank when its gunner was killed early on 9 September and manned it through the remainder of the battle. Near-by riflemen estimated that Private Rex killed "wave after wave" of Germans; "hundreds," said the grateful riflemen. In Company K, T/5 William G. Rea, a medical aid man, rendered continuous first aid to the wounded despite machine gun and rifle fire. Once he crawled under fire 300 yards to reach a wounded man, returning unaided with the patient and walking erect through the small arms fire. Almost all officers in the bridgehead were soon either killed or wounded because they moved from their foxholes to encourage their men and direct improvements on the positions. Some men reported that their officers apologized to them for being wounded.
The first night in the bridgehead the men dug slit trenches as fighting positions and later improved them, developing what some dubbed "mole holes," a foxhole dug at one end of a slit trench. Because their weapons' fire blasts revealed the defensive perimeter, crews of Company H's 81-mm. mortars abandoned their weapons and took up rifles from the dead and wounded to continue the fight. Even the rifle companies' 60-mm. mortars had to be shifted constantly to avoid revealing positions by fire blast.
Communications proved to be a bright spot. Although radio became the sole means of communication, the SCR-300's worked almost perfectly, aided by the proximity of the bridgehead to the battalion command post in Dornot. When Company F's radio was battered by fire and Company G's lost and believed captured, Company F joined in the use of Company K's radio and Company G shared Company E's. One SCR-300, which had been taken across with the men of the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, had been almost immediately destroyed; but the forty-eight armored infantrymen, reduced to an even smaller number by continuing casualties, were soon virtually integrated into the rifle companies. Adequate replacement batteries for the SCR-300's were supplied satisfactorily at night. Even if the batteries had given out, communications personnel were prepared to switch the battalion SCR-284 to the same frequency as the company SCR-536's. No attempt was made to lay telephone wire across the river, but an adequate net existed on the west bank. A double trunk line from the 2d Battalion to the 11th Infantry command post was shot up so badly that repair was impossible and another line had to be laid. The 2d Battalion also had telephone connections with the 3d Battalion, its own aid station and observation post, and the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion. Although a line was laid the first night from the 2d Battalion CP to the crossing site, it was shelled out so quickly that replacement was not immediately attempted.
The 11th Infantry regimental observation post during the action was in a former German bunker atop the hill mass just northwest of Dornot. A forward regimental command post was in another bunker a few hundred yards behind the observation post on the reverse slope of the hill.48
INFANTRYMAN AT FOOTBRIDGE OVER RAILROAD near Dornot. Soldier is carrying both a .30-caliber machine gun and a submachine gun M-3 (grease gun).
The supply performance of the first night was repeated the night of 9 September by men of both the 2d and 3d Battalion Ammunition and Pioneer Platoons, even to manning the assault boats. Supply was under the direction of 2d Lt. Tyrus L. Mizer, 2d Battalion S-4.49
The combined 2d and 3d Battalion aid station, under Capt. John M. Hoffman,
2d Battalion surgeon, Capt. Emanuel Feldman, assistant regimental surgeon, and Capt. Panfilo C. Di Loreto, 3d Battalion surgeon, continued to operate in the cellars of Dornot. To assist evacuation, a casualty relay point was established, shifting from the railroad underpass to the first house in the eastern edge of Dornot according to the vagaries of enemy shelling. Enemy fire was usually so heavy at the crossing site in daylight that litter bearers could not remain in the vicinity. Although medics made occasional trips to the site, many wounded had to make their way back alone as far as the railroad underpass. At approximately 2300 the night of 9 September, four men of Collecting Company C, 5th Medical Battalion,50 crossed by boat to the east bank, collected casualties from the bridgehead, and returned. As they were preparing to enter the boat for a second trip, a round from an enemy tank blew the craft from the water. Although infantrymen and aid men continued to get their wounded comrades across, theirs was the last actual evacuation from the bridgehead by west-bank medics.
Enemy casualties were no doubt higher than American, but there was a steady attrition among the defenders, and no reinforcements were coming in to help. Although it was obvious to anyone who knew the local situation that the little perimeter could not hold out much longer, the defenders had the temerity on the morning of 10 September to call for German surrender. If the Germans did not capitulate, noted the War Diary of the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the Americans promised to deliver such a concentration of fire as their enemies had never seen before.
Not long after this demand for surrender, the commander of the 2d Battalion, 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, was killed by American mortar fire, and the commander of his 6th Company was wounded. Possibly because of these and other casualties, the German units on the north and northeast of the horseshoe woods made an unauthorized withdrawal to Jouy-aux-Arches but were ordered to return to their positions. Later the 2d and 4th Battalions of the regiment were formed into Kampfgruppe Ulrich and ordered to defend Jouy-aux-Arches, apparently a continuation of a strange German preoccupation about the defense of the northern village. While the Americans throughout the action had been most concerned with the forts of the Verdun Group, the Germans on the ground had shown more concern about Jouy-aux-Arches.51
1st and 3d Battalions, 11th Infantry
Since the original Dornot crossing on 8 September, the 3d Battalion, 11th Infantry, had continued to support the bridgehead from defensive positions astride the high ground south and west of Dornot. On 8 September its Company K had crossed into the bridgehead. The 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, which had originally been along the Moselle to the south near Arnaville, was relieved late on 8 September by elements of the
10th Infantry and ordered to move to high ground northwest of Dornot in order to protect the left flank of the regiment. Despite casualties from heavy enemy shelling, the 1st Battalion by early morning of 9 September had taken up positions extending generally from Dornot to the vicinity of Hill 366 to the northwest.
The 11th Infantry still knew virtually nothing about what was opposing it on the north--the enemy position that turned out to be Fort Driant. Although Colonel Lemmon, 2d Battalion commander, had sent a small patrol in that direction early on 9 September, the patrol had not emerged from the woods and had not discovered Fort Driant. Late on 9 September the 1st Battalion was ordered to send a patrol to investigate the area. A combat patrol from Company B went out that night, returning the next morning with the 11th Infantry's first concrete information that a German fortification of some type existed on the regiment's north flank.52
Withdrawal at Dornot, 10-11 September
With other elements of the 5th Infantry Division crossing the Moselle south of Dornot in the vicinity of Arnaville, General Irwin decided early on 10 September that the Dornot bridgehead could be withdrawn without undue hazard to the new crossing. Because radio silence was imposed on such a message, two volunteers from Company I, 11th Infantry, Sgts. Arch H. Crayton and Frank Noren, swam the river in late afternoon to take the withdrawal order to Captain Gerrie, the bridgehead commander. Both sergeants carried copies of the order in the event one did not get through, but both made the trip safely and plans for evacuation were readied to go into effect at 2115, 10 September. That same evening at 2000, the Germans, unaware of the Americans' impending withdrawal, issued an attack order for an all-out assault against the little bridgehead. Using all elements of the 37th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment (except the 3d Battalion), plus supporting tanks and artillery, the attack was to jump off an hour and three quarters after the Americans were scheduled to begin their withdrawal.
Supporting the American withdrawal, the engineers planned to use the few remaining leaky assault boats and a few rubber reconnaissance boats for removing the wounded, while ropes strung across the river were to aid the able-bodied. The reconnaissance boats were to be inflated and carried during daylight from the bivouac area of Company C, 204th Engineers, to the edge of the woods atop the Dornot hills. After darkness they were to be carried by hand to the crossing site. A floating line, consisting of six rubber reinforcing inserts ("sausages") connected end to end with rope, was to be constructed as an added means of assisting the able-bodied. One platoon of Company C, 204th Engineers, was to continue its work at the crossing site while the remainder of the company readied equipment and brought it to the river. Also assisting at the crossing site was to be one platoon of Company C, 7th Engineers.
In preparation for the withdrawal, the 3d Platoon, Company I, 11th Infantry, moved at midday to a position between Ancy-sur-Moselle and the crossing site, facing generally northeast. Its mission was to decrease the cross fire from the
bridgehead's left. The 2d Platoon was directed to take positions during the afternoon along the right of the lagoon to cover the bridgehead's right flank, while the 1st Platoon was directed to move soon after dark to positions along the riverbank near the northern edge of the lagoon. In the course of these movements during the afternoon, the Company I commander was seriously wounded and 1st Lt. Raymond W. Bitney assumed command.
The few officers and noncommissioned officers remaining in the bridgehead were to organize the operations on the east bank, withdrawal to be by swimming, boats, and expedient floats. All weapons and equipment were to be thrown into the water. Guides were to be posted in the rear of Dornot to direct the men to an assembly area where hot food, coffee, and clothes would be available. Not only was the bridgehead to be evacuated but also the entire area around the crossing site and Dornot, because Colonel Lemmon felt that once the Germans became aware of American withdrawal they would plaster the west bank with shellfire. American artillery, which would continue to fire its usual defensive fires around the bridgehead perimeter, was to increase in intensity upon a green flare signal to be fired by 1st Lt. Richard A. Marshall, Company I, as soon as the evacuation was complete. Upon the signal, the artillery was to concentrate on the horseshoe woods and the area between the woods and the enemy forts in the hope of catching enemy troops that would almost certainly move in as soon as the evacuation was discovered.
The 2d and 3d Platoons, Company I, effectively neutralized enemy small arms fire on the crossing site during the afternoon, but at the cost of a number of killed and wounded by the enemy's artillery reaction. About 2100 the 1st Platoon, Company I, with Lieutenant Marshall, the two platoons of engineers, and a few men from the 2d Battalion Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon, who brought with them nine litters, reached the river at the crossing site. There was miraculously no shelling at the site itself. Along the road between the railroad and Dornot, however, the engineers of Company C, 204th, who were transporting the reconnaissance boats, ropes, and reinforcing inserts, were subjected to heavy shelling and thus delayed in reaching the river until approximately 2200. But already the withdrawal had begun with three bullet-riddled assault boats and one rope.
Men on the east bank assembled in the darkness at the crossing site, where loading of wounded was supervised by Captain Gerrie. The able-bodied shed their equipment and clothes and began to make their way individually across the river, by swimming, by holding to the one available rope, or by utilizing buoyant devices such as empty water cans or ammunition tins. Although the river was only about ninety yards wide and six to seven feet deep, the water was intensely cold and the current swift, and many men were drowned. Others were saved from drowning by the strength and courage of their companions. Some men, like Private Rex of Company G and T/5 Rea of Company K, made a number of trips to assist other swimmers. An F Company officer, 1st Lt. James E. Wright, was seen to make one crossing and go back to assist others, but he was not heard from again. Many men arrived in the rear assembly area completely naked.
Since the reconnaissance boats had not
yet arrived, transporting the wounded was a slow process. One of the three assault boats was swamped at the east bank on its first trip when too many men crowded into it. In the other two, the profusion of bullet holes made constant bailing necessary. Discipline in loading was generally excellent, but at one point, when Captain Gerrie left to search the woods for others, a group of men became panic stricken. They were forced back into loading formation by 1st Lt. Ross W. Stanley, Company G, assisted by Sergeant Hembree, Company E, and T. Sgt. George A. Gritzmacher, Company K. Only when the 204th Engineers arrived and put the rubber reconnaissance boats and floating reinforcing inserts into operation about 2230 did the evacuation of wounded speed up appreciably.
As the last boatloads of wounded were leaving the far bank, Lieutenant Marshall and his communications sergeant, armed with the important green flare for calling down the prearranged fires of the supporting artillery, crossed to the east bank to determine that no men had been left behind. (Many men were so exhausted that they went to sleep while waiting their turn in the boats.) Already Lieutenant Stanley, Company G, who was in the last boat, had made a last-minute check, but Lieutenant Marshall could not be satisfied until he himself had investigated. Lieutenant Stanley's boat pushed out into the stream, leaving Lieutenant Marshall and his communications sergeant alone on the east bank. One or two German tanks came down to the river's edge, firing point-blank across the river at the withdrawal activity. While Lieutenant Marshall and the sergeant hugged the ground to avoid detection, one enemy shell hit a boat carrying men of Company H, just in front of that of Lieutenant Stanley, ripping away the front of the boat. A number of Company H's missing personnel were presumed to have been in that boat.
With Lieutenant Marshall and his communications sergeant still on the east bank and the last boatloads of evacuees and crews leaving the water on the west bank, an enemy signal flare went up. By coincidence, the enemy flare was green. Knowing that no matter who had fired the green flare, the American artillery would soon respond, Lieutenant Marshall and his communications sergeant hurriedly pushed out into the river in their rubber reconnaissance boat. The artillery did respond quickly, but only two shells fell short in the river. The little rubber boat and its occupants went unharmed.
This green flare had not only called down American artillery fire but possibly German fire as well, for in the enemy attack order issued earlier use of a green flare was to mean "shift fire forward." The presence of German tanks, use of the green flare, and re-establishment of contact between Jouy-aux-Arches and Corny before daylight the next day indicated that the Germans had launched their all-out attack as planned, only to find that the little American bridgehead had been withdrawn, unwittingly, with only minutes to spare.
Despite precautions to see that no men were left in the bridgehead, at least one man, Pvt. Joseph I. Lewakowski, Company G, had either fallen asleep or lost consciousness in his foxhole about fifty yards from the river. He awoke the next morning just as day was breaking. Climbing from his covered foxhole to find himself alone, he "walked across
dead Germans from his foxhole to the river bank." (These German dead may have been casualties from American artillery fire called down by the German signal flare.) Pulling himself across the river by the ropes, which had been left in position on the chance that someone might have been left behind, Private Lewakowski made his way to the rear and rejoined his company.53
In the assembly area after the withdrawal, the first estimate of bridgehead losses could be made. Company K, which had reinforced the 2d Battalion in the horseshoe perimeter, emerged from the three-day battle with no officers and only fifty men. The three rifle companies of the 2d Battalion had only two officers among them, and their total casualties numbered over 300. The 23d Armored Infantry Battalion, which had fought on both sides of the river, likewise suffered severely and sustained 200 casualties in its four days of action. In the five days following the withdrawal, evacuation of combat exhaustion cases soared in all units.54
The Dornot bridgehead fight had been primarily an infantry-artillery battle with armored commitment limited to the Germans. Company C, 818th Tank Destroyer Battalion, with two platoons in firing positions near Dornot, did little firing except for ten rounds on 9 September at two enemy tanks near the east-bank town of Corny; one tank was believed hit. Company B, 735th Tank Battalion, waiting for a bridge to be built before joining the fight, did no firing. Air support, although requested many times during the battle, was not furnished until the last day, 10 September, when P-47's of the 23d Squadron, 36th Fighter Bomber Group, XIX Tactical Air Command, made four raids on Forts St. Blaise and Sommy, dropping twelve 250-pound bombs and twenty-three 500-pound bombs. Later investigation showed that the bombs caused no structural damage on the heavy forts.55
On 11 September the 2d Battalion and Company K moved to division reserve in an assembly area near Gorze where they began to absorb replacements in men and equipment. The 23d Armored Infantry Battalion reverted to its parent organization, CCB, 7th Armored Division, for rest and reorganization to the vicinity of les Baraques, just west of Gorze.56
It had been a costly fight at Dornot against a determined enemy. Without reinforcements the men had been unable to consolidate or expand their bridgehead. They had nevertheless held against almost staggering odds until ordered to withdraw. Just how much their holding had affected the try for another bridgehead south of Dornot at Arnaville is apparent in a study of that later crossing.
1. For the story of the Metz battle, events preceding and following, and a higher-level account of this operation, see Hugh M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign (Washington, 1950). This volume, a part of the series, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, has been used extensively in the preparation of this study.
2. Contrary to a belief prevalent among troops of XX Corps, no American reconnaissance units were able at this time to penetrate any portion of Metz east of the Moselle.
3. MS # B-042 (Krause). Generalleumant Walther Krause commanded Division Number 462, charged specifically with the defense of Metz. This division, an organizational makeshift, had assumed tactical control over all units in the area.
4. XX Corps G-3 Jnl and File, Sep 44.
5. All clock time given is that officially designated by the Allies; British Double Summer Time was used prior to 17 September.
6. Hereafter referred to as 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division.
7. XX Corps G-2 Jnl and File, Sep 44; TUSA G-2 Periodic Rpt, 3 and 8 Sep 44; Interv with Brig Gen John B. Thompson (Ret) (formerly comdr, CCB, 7th Armd Div), 6 Apr 50; Interv with Maj W. W. Morse (formerly S-2, 11th Inf), 19 Apr 50. Unless otherwise indicated, all interviews were conducted by the author in Washington, D. C.
8. Sit Rpt, 4 Sep 44, found in Heeresgruppe B, Ia, Lagebeurteilungen (Army Group B, G-3, Estimates of the Situation), 1944.
9. MSS # B-042 (Krause) and # B-732 (Major Kurt Hold, formerly Asst G-3, First Army). Division Number 462 consisted of two infantry training and replacement battalions, one machine gun training and replacement company, one artillery training and replacement battalion, one engineer training and replacement battalion, and the units subordinated to the division for the defense of Metz: the Metz Officer Candidate School, formed into a regiment; the NCO school of Wehrkreis XII, formed into a regiment; the SS Signal School Metz, formed into a battalion of four companies; Security Regiment 1010; one artillery replacement battery; several light Flak batteries and one heavy Flak battalion of the Metz antiaircraft defense; and a Luftwaffe signal battalion. MSS # B-042 (Krause) and # B-222 (General der Panzertruppen Otto von Knobelsdorff, formerly CG, First Army).
10. Force I consisted of the following: Co A, 31st Tk Bn (M); 434th Armd FA Bn (less Btry C); 2d Plat, Co B, 814th TD Bn (SP); CCB Hq, atchd trps, and tns. Force I was later joined by the 23d Armd Inf Bn (less Co B) and Co B (less one plat), 33d Armd Engr Bn. See CCB, 7th Armd Div, AAR, Sep 44.
11. Force II consisted of the following: 31st Tk Bn (M) (less Cos A and D); Co B, 23d Armd Inf Bn; 1st Plat, Co B, 33d Armd Engr Bn; Btry C, 434th Armd FA Bn; 3d Plat, Co B, 814th TD Bn. See CCB, 7th Armd Div, AAR, Sep 44.
12. MS # B-042 (Krause) and accompanying sketch.
13. As found in 7th Armored Division and CCB records, this period of 7th Armored Division operations is confusing. More valuable are letters from survivors to the Historical Division and interviews by the author. See XX Corps, and CCB, CCA, CCR, 7th Armd Div, AAR's and Unit Jnls, Sep 44; Interv with Thompson. See also Ltrs to Hist Div from the following: Gen Walker, 8 Oct 47; Gen Thompson, 17 Feb 47, and 1, 6, 7, and 22 Mar 50; Lt Col C. E. Leydecker (formerly CofS, 7th Armd Div), 29 Jul 47; and Col Erlenbusch, 9 Apr 48.
14. The 5th Div story has been reconstructed from the following: 2d Lt F. M. Ludden, Combat Interv 38, Sep 44, including a valuable preliminary narrative, Moselle River Crossing at Arnaville, 8 Sep 44-24 Sep 44 (hereafter cited as Moselle River Crossing). (All combat interviews on the Moselle crossings are by the 3d Information and Historical Service and were conducted in September 44.) See XX Corps, 5th Inf Div, 1103d Engr (C) Gp, 10th Inf and 11th Inf, AAR's and Unit Jnls, Sep 44; Pass in Review--the Fifth Infantry Division in ETO (Atlanta, 1946) (hereafter cited as Fifth Infantry Division); History of the Eleventh United States Infantry Regiment (Baton Rouge, 1947) (hereafter cited as Eleventh Infantry); History of Tenth Infantry Regiment United States Army (Harrisburg, 1946) (hereafter cited as Tenth Infantry); Third United States Army After Action Report--1 Aug 44-9 May 45 (hereafter cited as TUSA AAR). See also Intervs with the following: Irwin, 28 Mar and 10 Apr 50; Yuill, 17 Apr 50; Maj Cornelius W. Coghill, Jr. (formerly S-3, 11th Inf), 19 Apr 50; Lt Col Kelley B. Lemmon, Jr., 12 Jul 50; Lemmon and Yuill, 13 Jul 50; Thompson; Morse. Ltr, Lt Col William H. Birdsong (formerly CO, 3d Bn, 11th Inf) to Hist Div, 27 Mar 50.
15. This terrain study is based on the following: Moselle River Crossing; Fifth Infantry Division; Tenth Infantry; Eleventh Infantry; Intervs with Coghill, Morse, Yuill, and Thompson; author's visit to area, Jun 49. For other discussion of terrain, see Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, pp. 25-29, 126-29.
16. Moselle River Crossing; Ltrs, Gen Thompson to Hist Div; Intervs, Thompson, Morse, Coghill, Yuill, Lemmon, and Lemmon-Yuill; Ltr, Gen Walker to Hist Div, 6 Jan 49. Colonel Lemmon says that this staff officer definitely appeared at his command post in Dornot and gave such an order to him and to Colonel Allison, 23d Armored Infantry Battalion. In General Walker's letter, he says that he ordered an investigation later to determine the identity of this officer, but the investigation proved inconclusive.
17. General Thompson says 3d Battalion, but Colonel Lemmon and Colonel Yuill, recalling the incident in detail, say 2d Battalion.
18. Intervs with Thompson, Lemmon, Yuill, Lemmon-Yuill; Ltr, Col Birdsong to Hist Div.
19. Intervs with Thompson and Lemmon.
20. Intervs with Lemmon and Lemmon-Yuill.
21. Intervs with Lemmon, Lemmon-Yuill, Yuill, Thompson, Morse, Coghill; Ltrs, Gen Thompson to Hist Div.
22. Eleventh Infantry; Intervs with Thompson, Morse, Lemmon-Yuill.
23. Moselle River Crossing; Eleventh Infantry; Fifth Infantry Division; 11th Inf S-3 Jnl, 8 Sep 44; Ltr, Capt Morris M. Hochberg (commander of the armored engineers) to Hist Div, 21 Apr 50; Intervs with Thompson, Lemmon, Lemmon-Yuill; Ltrs, Gen Thompson to Hist Div. The 2d Battalion, 11th Infantry, Unit journal, is of little value since entries for this period were later destroyed by enemy artillery fire. See also AAR's of 23d Armd Inf Bn and CCB, 7th Armd Div, and arty units, Sep 44.
24. Ltr, Col Birdsong to Hist Div; Intervs with Yuill and Lemmon.
25. 1103d Engr (C) Gp and 150th Engr (C) Bn AAR's, Sep 44; Interv with Yuill; Ltr, 1st Lt Kingsley E. Owen (formerly Ex Off, Co B, 33d Armd Engr Bn) to Hist Div, 21 Apr 50.
26. 3d Bn, 11th Inf, Unit Jnl, 8 Sep 44; Eleventh Infantry.
27. Interv with Thompson. See also in the OCMH files a copy of the letter sent to the Chief of Staff by General Thompson, 6 October 1944, explaining the points raised in the letter which initiated his relief. General Thompson was advanced to brigadier general by Special Orders 210, 20 October 1948, under provisions of Section 203 (a) of the Act of Congress, approved 29 June 1948 (PL 810 80th Cong).
28. Intervs with Yuill and Lemmon-Yuill.
29. The Flak tank (Flakpanzer) is a hybrid armored vehicle consisting of a light or medium antiaircraft gun mounted on a tank chassis.
30. For a detailed report of this action from the German side, see pages from the war diary of the 2d Bn, 37th SS Pz Gren Regt, found in a file of miscellaneous papers, labeled Allg., 1, 2, 3, 4/SS Pz. Gren. Rgt. 37 (Feldgericht) (hereafter cited as 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File). This file contains an odd collection of documents, most of them records of disciplinary actions taken by the 1st Bn of the regiment. The 282d Inf Bn has been identified through 5th Div G-2 sources only.
31. Unless otherwise noted, this section is based on the following: Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 with Sgt Hugh B. Sikes and Cpl Otto Halverson, 3d Plat, Co G, 11th Inf (hereafter cited as Combat Interv 38 with Sikes, Halverson); Eleventh Infantry; Fifth Infantry Division; Intervs with Lemmon and Lemmon-Yuill.
32. MS # B-042 (Krause). Colonel Lemmon says, "Undefended or not, our people got fire from the fort and heard Germans inside." See Interv with Lemmon-Yuill.
33. Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 with Sikes, Halverson. Because no mention of short rounds is made in artillery journals, it seems possible that these "short rounds" were from German artillery at Fort Driant or from one of the other west-bank forts. According to an interview with Colonel Lemmon there were more than three rounds. From his observation post in Dornot, he could see a battalion volley land among his troops. Checks through his 5th Division and 7th Armored Division artillery liaison officers revealed, he says, that the fire was from a 7th Armored Division artillery unit and had been called for by the 7th Armored Division artillery liaison officer in his headquarters. The artillery liaison officer had the fire lifted immediately.
34. 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File.
35. Colonel Lemmon intended going into the bridgehead the first day, but when his advance command group went forward in midafternoon to establish a command post the men met intense enemy fire. From this time on, Colonel Lemmon felt that he could exercise better command and co-ordination from the west bank. His CP was in Dornot throughout the battle, although it had to be moved often because of enemy shelling. Interv with Lemmon.
36. Gen Irwin, Personal Diary, loaned to Hist Div by Gen Irwin (hereafter cited as Irwin Diary), entry of 8 Sep 44; Interv with Yuill. (Quotation from Irwin Diary.)
37. Moselle River Crossing; 19th FA Bn, 46th FA Bn, 735th Tk Bn, 818th TD Bn AAR's, Sep 44; Interv with Lemmon.
38. Irwin Diary; 5th Div G-3 Jnl, 8 Sep 44; Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, Ch. III, p. 143, citing Ninth AF Opns Jnl, 9 Sep 44; XIX Tactical Air Command, Operations File, 1 Sep-15 Sep 44, inclusive (hereafter cited as XIX TAC Opns File).
39. 1103d Engr (C) Gp, 150th Engr (C) Bn, 204th Engr (C) Bn AAR's Sep 44.
40. Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 with Sikes, Halverson; Eleventh Infantry.
41. 10th Inf Unit Jnl, 8 Sep 44.
42. Irwin Diary; 5th Div G-3 Jnl, 9 Sep 44.
43. Interv with Yuill.
44. 5th Div G-3 Jnl, 9 Sep 44.
45. Although interviews and unit histories say "36 separate counterattacks," the morning reports of the units involved, particularly the valuable reports of Company K, 11th Infantry, would seem to indicate no such large number. While the enemy launched several determined counterattacks against the bridgehead, others were no doubt local assaults. What matters is that the enemy kept up continuous pressure. See Daily Rpts, 8-11 Sep 44, found in Heeresgruppe "G" Kriegstagebuch 2 (Army Group G War Diary 2), Anlagen (Annexes) 1.IX.-30.IX.44 (hereafter cited as Army Group G KTB 2, Anlagen 1.IX.-30.IX.44); 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File.
46. 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File; MS # B-042 (Krause); MS # B-222 (Knobelsdorff).
47. Colonel Lemmon had no troops to send to clear out west-bank opposition. In answer to a request for such aid, regiment sent either a company or a platoon (probably Company C, 11th Infantry) on this mission, but Colonel Lemmon noted no decrease in enemy fire. Interv with Lemmon; Statement, Capt Stanley R. Connor to OCMH, Jun 50, filed in OCMH.
48. Interv with Morse.
49. Moselle River Crossing. With the 2d Battalion and Company K in the initial assault went the following ammunition: 5,000 rounds with each light machine gun; 9,000 rounds with each heavy machine gun; and 100 rounds with each 60- and 81-mm. mortar. Transported later were: 1,000 rounds of 60- and 81-mm. mortar ammunition; 60,000 rounds of .30-caliber in machine gun belts; 13,000 rounds of .30-caliber in 8-round clips and 6,000 in 5-round clips for BAR's; 200 antitank "bazooka" rockets; 200 rifle grenades; and 200 hand grenades.
50. T/5 Gearhart, T/4 George C. Berner, Sgt Leo W. Phelps, and Pvt Ernest A. Angell.
51. 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File. Unless otherwise noted, this section is based on the following sources: Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 with Sikes, Halverson; Eleventh Infantry; Fifth Infantry Division; 11th Inf AAR, Sep 44; Co K, 11th Inf, Morning Rpts, 9-10 Sep 44; Interv with Lt Col S. E. Otto (formerly actg S-3, 5th Div Arty), 5 May 50.
52. Statement, Capt Connor to Hist Div; Interv with Lemmon.
53. This section based on the following sources: Moselle River Crossing; Combat Interv 38 with Sikes, Halverson; Combat Interv 38 with Engineer Officers on Bridgehead Operations (hereafter cited as Combat Interv 38 with unidentified engr offs); Eleventh Infantry; Ffth Infantry Division; 23d Armd Inf Bn, CCB, 11th Inf, 19th FA Bn AAR's and Unit Jnls, Sep 44; 23d Armd Inf Bn, 2d Bn, 11th Inf, Cos I and K, 11th Inf, Morning Rpts, Sep 44; Intervs with Lemmon and Lemmon-Yuill; Attack order, 37th SS Pz Gren Regt, 10 Sep 44, found in 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File. Regimental records of the 37th SS Pz Gren Regt cannot be found. Although the 37th SS Pz Gren Regt Miscellaneous File makes no mention of the German attack, the diary concerns itself only with the 2d Battalion, whose role in this attack was passive and which would thus conceivably not mention the details of the attack.
54. Morning Rpts, which did not list a casualty until it was unquestionably determined, sometimes as late as a month after it occurred, show the following figures for the period 7-15 September 44. It is the opinion of the historian that most of the casualties occurring during the Dornot fight were recorded during this period, that the large number of nonbattle casualties was a direct result of the bridgehead battle, and that the units concerned suffered few, if any, casualties between 10 and 15 September.
* Exclusive of artillery forward observer parties.
KIA MIA WIA Non-battle TOTAL 23d Armd Inf Bn 1 55 159 25 240 2d Bn, 11th Inf 40 28 172 219 459 Cos I & K, 11th Inf 11 5 74 69 159 three engr cos 3 2 62 20 87 Total* 55 90 467 333 945
55. 818th TD Bn, 735th Tk Bn, AAR's, Sep 44; XIX TAC Opns File, 8-10 Sep 44. For an exceptionally detailed study of bomb damage on Fort St. Blaise, see report of The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Fort St. Blaise, Verdun Group, Metz, France, copy filed in OCMH. "Bombs less than 2,000 lbs. caused no material damage and 2,000 lb. bombs only caused damage when penetration into the concrete was gained or a very near miss occurred. Near misses produced some spalling from the concrete walls." Page 1.
56. 11th Inf, 23d Armd Inf Bn, AAR's, Sep 44.