Friday, March 27, 2015

27. The Race to the Rhine

12 March - 16 March 1945
As mentioned last post, after their work in late February and early March the 10th Armored Division Tigers took a well-deserved rest. Centered in the ancient and once beautiful city of Trier they had the opportunity to see the ancient Roman remains. That came to an end on the 16th when they were sent to be part of the race to the Rhine. As Nichols reports it, the area between the Saar and Rhine Rivers was the Palatinate, Germany's only remaining sizable holdings west of the Rhine. In that region were the two powerful enemy armies of about 100,000 men. To get to the Rhine, Nichols says,
the tigers were to be called upon to deal with an endless series of enemy pillboxes, barbed wire, anti-tank ditches, dragons' teeth, roadblocks and, toughest of all, well-trained German troops.
16 March 1945
CC A led the attack, followed about half an hour later by CC B. By dark that night they had made about a 20 km spearhead. Their objective was St. Wendel.

17 March - 18 March
Both combat commands struck out in a coordinated attack utilizing searchlights to light up the battleground. It was slow going but by dusk on 18 March they were on the outskirts of the objective.

19 March - 20 March
The Germans were driven out of St. Wendel and two of the Task Forces never even stopped. They raced another 20 miles east. By  the 20th it was fast becoming a rout. Next stop would be Kaiserlautern, a major industrial city of about 100,000. To get there, they raced down part of the famed autobahn. They were racing the 80th Infantry Division. The Tigers were there first, but credit was given to the 80th who had done the "dirty work" of mopping up.

After racing through Kaiserlautern CC A continued east toward the Rhine; CC B headed south some 20 miles to sever enemy escape routes.

21 March - 22 March
CC B moved steadily toward its objectives and captured the town of Landau on the 22nd.

23 March
From Nichols:
Forty-eight hours after the capture of Landau, the giant trap set by the Tenth was closed. Against light resistance they streaked out of Landau to set up radio contact with the Fifth French Armored Division. Contact was then made with the Seventh Army…. All during the Tenth’s lightning drive across the Palatinate, the missions of the Division were constantly being changed and each succeeding objective took the Tigers further south. Within gunshot of the Rhine, we found ourselves completely out of the United States Third Army boundary and in the Seventh Army Area.

It is rumored at the time that General Patch of the Sixth Armored Division had wired Patton: Congratulations on completely surrounding the entire United States Seventh Army.” The Tigers were then assigned to the Seventh Army! They were not to return to the Third Army again until the occupation of Southern Bavaria three months later. They were given a brief four-day respite to wait the call to roll across the Rhine. Later in the month, they would spearhead the Seventh Army’s drive all the way to the Bavarian and Austrian Alps.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

26. More Quick and Efficient Work

Originally, the battle plan for the 10th was limited to the Saar-Moselle Triangle. They were so efficient and quick, however that they went on to capture Trier. But again, thanks to their work at capturing the Romer Bridge the 10th’s combat was extended, driving to Wittlich, about 25 miles north of Trier.

8 March 1945
After crossing the bridge, they were now within six miles of their objective.

10 March 1945
Tiger combat units sealed off the eastern approach to Wittlich and TF Cherry’s tanks fought their way into the city. They then barreled an additional 10 miles to capture a bridge at Bullay, but were thwarted as the Germans had already destroyed the bridge. They did encounter and defeat a 50 vehicle enemy convoy near the Mosel River.

12 March 1945
The mission was ended. TF Cherry rejoined the remainder of the Division at Trier. These swift battle movements are what had previously earned the Tigers the name “Ghost Division.”

In this period the Tigers sealed off a 44-mile pocket on the west bank of the Moselle, now with its name changed to the Mosel.


10 March - 11 March 1945
While TF Cherry was on its way to Wittlich, Combat Command B where my Dad’s medical company was assigned, and the Reserve Command stayed closer to Trier. They drove the Germans across the Kyle River, a Mosel tributary, three miles north of Trier at Ehrang and headed toward Schweich.

When TF Chamberlain entered the city on March 10, all was quiet. The Germans had declared that Schweich was now an “open city.” The German message, according to Nichols, was that the town was “undefended and sheltered 3,000 wounded Germans.” It was a trick. Instead they found a powerful array of artillery, mined streets and just two German casualties.

Shortly after the TF seized the city the Germans “rained a steady stream of shells into the ‘open city’ resulting in heavy Tiger casualties." Then, after two days of fighting, the Germans were circled and neutralized. The TF returned to Trier on March 11.

In eight days, four task forces had spearheaded some forty miles over terrain completely unfavorable to armored operations. By March 12 were all back in Trier, Germany’s oldest city.

12 March – 16 March 1945
The reunited Tenth was given a much-earned four-day rest in Trier. They did sightseeing of the ancient Roman ruins and prepared for what would come next- the Race to the Rhine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

25. Capture of Trier

From HyperWar
26 Feb - 2 Mar 1945: Trier

As described in The Last Offensive, the capture of Trier was quick and effective. (My Dad's company was probably assigned to Combat Command B (CCB) during this period.)
The morning of 1 March General Morris sent the main body of the combat command northwest to the juncture of the Saar and the Moselle to prevent any Germans remaining in West Wall pillboxes along the Saar from falling back on Trier. ... In late afternoon, as both CCA's task force and CCB continued to run into trouble on the fringes of the city from pillboxes and 88-mm. antiaircraft pieces, Colonel Roberts, CCB's commander, ordered the commander of the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, Lt. Col. Jack J. Richardson, to enter Trier along a secondary road between the other two attacking forces. Richardson was to head straight for the city's two Moselle bridges.

The night was clear, the moon full, and visibility excellent as Task Force Richardson in early evening started toward Trier. Entering the city before midnight, the task force encountered a German company with four antitank guns, but the surprised Germans surrendered without firing. One of the prisoners revealed that he had been detailed as a runner to notify a demolition team at one of the bridges when the Americans arrived.

Splitting his force, Richardson sent half toward each of the bridges. The northern team found its bridge blown, but the team moving to the ancient Kaiserbruecke, which had stood since the Roman occupation of Trier in the earliest days of the Christian era, reported its bridge intact. Rushing to the bridge himself in a tank, Colonel Richardson found his men under small arms fire from the far bank. Directing .50-caliber machine gun fire from his tank onto the far end of the bridge, Richardson ordered a platoon of infantry and a platoon of tanks to dash across. As the infantrymen complied, a German major and five men ran toward the bridge from the far side with detonating caps and an exploder.

They were too late.

It mattered not whether the delay in blowing the bridge was attributable to concern for the historic monument or to the fact that the German officer was drunk. What mattered was that the 10th Armored Division had a bridge across the Moselle.

By morning contingents of Combat Commands A and B had swept into all parts of the city, and the prisoner bag increased as sleepy-eyed Germans awoke to find American tanks all about them. Task Force Richardson alone took 800 prisoners. A day later, early on 3 March, troops of the 76th Division arrived to establish contact with the armor on the north bank of the Moselle.

The Orscholz Switch, the Saar-Moselle triangle, Trier, and the heavily fortified section of the West Wall around Trier--all were taken. With the success of the operation, the Third Army had torn a gaping hole in the West Wall from Pruem to a point below Saarburg.

Studying the operations map, General Patton could see two new inviting prospects before him. Either he could turn to the southeast and envelop the Saar industrial area, or he could head through the Eifel and up the valley of the Moselle to the Rhine at Koblenz.

In either case, the Germans appeared powerless to stop him.
Two press notices:
March 1 (INS) by Larry Newman- Rampaging tank and infantry fighters of the U. S. Third Army's 10th Armored Division crashed into the historic German city of Trier from three directions and swept ahead to cut off hundreds of Wehrmacht soldiers northeast of Saarburg.
1 March 1945- Official communique
The Tenth Armored "Tiger" Division entered Trier today at 1250 when task forces fought their way into the southern section of this important communications and supply center, which is the oldest city in Germany. Meanwhile, the Tenth Armored also cut the main highway...a mile northeast of Trier. This the main avenue of escape for the enemy to the north and northeast has been cut off. ...Over 800 prisoners were captured today... Total numbers of towns now taken by the Tenth Armored is 54, and the total of prisoners has swelled to 3900. --Nichols
Trier was historic and contains more important Roman ruins than any other place in Northern Europe. Some date to the bridge over the Mosel that dates to around 28 B.C. Nichols in Impact reports that the 10th's combat performance was "eminently successful." He goes on:
Few of us realized at the time that the Tenth Armored had a leading role in one of the three most important phases of the entire war.
In these few days, the 80th Medical Battalion companies saw over 900 admissions, average of over 180 per day. This high level would continue for another week before things quieted down, at least for the most part, for the rest of the month.

The end of the war in Europe is less than 10 weeks away- a "mere" 66 days. They didn't, of course know that. All they knew was that there was still more war ahead.

Monday, March 2, 2015

24. Ending February

In the chaos of the Battle of the Bulge, no end-of-month After Action Reports were filed for either December 1944 or January 1945. They resumed with February.

After Action Report
80th Medical Battalion
10th Armored Division
1 Feb – 28 Feb 1945

There were 32 officers and 363 enlisted men. During the month none of the battalion was killed and three were wounded. Nineteen reinforcements were assigned.

At all three clearing stations of the battalion in February 1945 there were:

1734 admissions
326 were returned to duty
11 died in the stations
1342 were transferred and
59 remained in station on 28 Feb

It should be noted as we have said in previous posts that most of February was quiet as the 10th Armored was waiting for the attack on the Saar-Moselle Triangle to resume. Of the admissions listed above 1020 of them (59%) were between 23 Feb and 28 Feb after the action resumed. 90% of the admissions were transferred. The deaths all occurred after 20 Feb.

The report stated that the medical evacuation channels functioned effectively during the month of February.

A couple recommendation notes were added:

1) The recommendation is repeated that closer planning between the Operations Section and the medical Department should be effected so that adequate medical support can be given the division during an operation rather than “in the dark" or "on the spot" medical support.

2) That wheel ambulances be either replaced by properly equipped half-track ambulances in medical detachments; or that such armored ambulances be added to all infantry and tank medical detachments. The operation of wheel ambulances is both dangerous and expensive.

Fredrick D. Loomis
Captain, MAC.,
Battalion S-3

Fighting FOR The Tigers
Here, from The Last Offensive, is what also was happening at the end of the month behind the scenes.
While the events were taking place beyond the Saar, General Patton had been fighting a rear guard action against return of the 10th Armored Division to the SHAEF reserve. Eisenhower, seeking to prevent another Bulge-type problem due to lack of coordination had been insisting on more control. On 23 February all Patton could achieve was a 48-hour respite. When that period expired, he pleaded with the 12th Army Group commander, General Bradley, for help. Bradley himself took responsibility for letting Patton use the armor until nightfall of 27 February for the express purpose of taking Trier.

[By nightfall on the 27th] Trier still lay some six miles away and the appointed hour for release of the 10th Armored Division had come, General Patton again had to appeal to General Bradley for continued use of the armor until Trier fell. Having had no word from SHAEF on keeping the division, Bradley told him to keep going until higher authority ordered a halt. And, the 12th Army Group commander added, he would make it a point to stay away from the telephone.
All would continue as they were.