While the German Seventh Army was being pummeled in the FALAISE-ARGENTAN
area, the armor of the American Third Army was running almost
at will over western France, and, by long hops, had reached the
SEINE south of PARIS.
The 3rd Armored Division completed its part in the mopping up
of the RANES-FROMENTEL area on 19 August and spent 20 and 21
August in maintenance and refitting in assembly areas south of
FROMENTEL. Then on 22 August a long and uneventful march brought
the Division to new assembly areas in the vicinity of COURVILLE
and CHATEAUNEUF between DREUX and CHARTRES. On the 24th another
march brought the Division to CORBEIL and MELUN, where they prepared
to cross the SEINE River.
The 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions closed into assembly areas
near the 3rd Armored and prepared to follow the advance of the
3rd across the SEINE. These three divisions of VII Corps were
soon to be referred to by many as the "First Team of the
First Army". This team led the First Army's pursuit of the
defeated German forces from the Seine through MONS and to the
SIEGFRIED LINE in eighteen days.
Spearheading this historic drive, the Third Armored Division
crossed the SEINE River at TILLY just south of CORBEIL. Crossing
started on the night of 25 August over an existing bridge. Division
Engineers in the meantime constructed a second crossing which
was ready by daylight. Spreading into multiple columns on 26
August, the Division cracked through the shell that the enemy
was holding stubbornly around the 4th Infantry and 7th Armored
Division's bridgehead east of the SEINE, and moved swiftly to
the east and northeast. The enemy was withdrawing too rapidly
to offer strong resistance, but was found on all routes holding
roadblocks at all favorable points. He opened fire on the armored
columns from concealed positions only to find himself quickly
overrun or bypassed, contained and left to be dealt with by closely
following infantry. Parts of the 48th German Infantry Division,
the 9th Panzer Division and an extensive assortment of other
enemy troops were encountered. Several enemy columns were overtaken
moving in the direction of the Third Armored's advance. These
columns were engaged and as a result never reached the predesignated
assembly areas of their battered units.
Initially, elements of the 4th Cavalry Group combed a broad front
with a reconnaissance screen out in the lead, the 1st and 9th
Infantry Divisions followed the Third Armored to liquidate pockets
of bypassed enemy resistance and to consolidate the gains. Soon,
the Task Force columns of the Third Armored, each consisting
of a reinforced tank battalion, overtook the Reconnaissance elements
and it became apparent that the enemy could not and had no intention
of trying to hold a consolidated defensive line. Whereupon, the
Cavalry elements sideslipped to the north and south and continued
to screen the flanks of the Corps' advance. The armored columns
moved on at maximum speed, and the 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions
followed the "Spearhead" generally abreast of each
other, the 1st Division on the left.
MORE RIVERS TO CONQUER
On 27 August, the 3rd Armored reached the MARNE River at LA
FERTE SOUS JOUARRE where both Combat Commands crossed on existing
bridges which were repaired and strengthened by Division Engineer
troops. There had been brief fighting for MEAUX and COULOMMIERS.
Upon completion of the crossing, Combat Command "A"
and Combat Command "B" started moving again in Task
Force columns toward their respective objectives of FONT D'ARCY
and SOISSONS to seize and secure the crossings of the AISNE River
at those locations.
Driving at such speed soon brought the 3rd into the heart of
the enemy's communications zone, where the remnants of enemy
combat troops fought in isolated and disorganized groups while
other troops attempted to extricate valuable dumps and depots.
Near SOISSONS and BRAISNE, elements of the Division destroyed
three railway trains which were evacuating personnel and equipment
to move east. Tankers of the 32nd Armored Regiment and artillerymen
of the 54th Armored Field Artillery Battalion engaged and destroyed
four enemy tanks which were located on flat cars and manned by
their crews. The attached 486th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion
stopped one of these trains, and raked the troop cars with their
multiple fifty caliber machine guns. The countryside was littered
with all types of equipment, cosmetics, clothing and wine bottles
abandoned by the loot-laden German soldiers in their panic. Passage
through the towns and villages so quickly evacuated by the Wehrmacht
was slowed markedly by milling crowds who swarmed on and about
the vehicles in delirious exhibitions of their happiness.
On 28 August, the AISNE River Crossings at both SOISSONS and
FONT D'ARCY were seized intact.
It was here that General Rose, usually with the leading elements
of the Division, crossed one of the bridges suspected of being
damaged to check its condition. This was one of the acts for
which he was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (The
main highway bridge was destroyed by the enemy, but others to
the east were intact.) A few mines had to be lifted from the
approaches and the existing spans strengthened. There was increased
enemy resistance along the AISNE. In addition to his small arms
and mortars, the German used a few self-propelled and other anti-tank
guns as artillery. In general, the indirect fire of these weapons
The AISNE bridgehead was expanded and secured on 29-30 August
by first seizing the high ground north of the river and then
pushing out to the northeast to the line shown on sketch number
In the left of the division sector on the high ground just
across the river from SOISSONS, there were extensive reinforced
concrete fortifications. A considerable amount of detailed information
concerning these fortifications was furnished by the FFI (Free
French of Interior); troops in the area, however, anticipated
trouble that did not develop. The enemy was not given time to
occupy and defend them.
Troops of the "Spearhead" Division securing SOISSONS
and the river crossings were relieved of these duties early in
the morning of 30 August by infantry elements that had come up
during the night, but, even with this increase in available fighting
strength, the 3rd Armored had a rather broad front to cover in
securing the proposed bridgehead line. Accordingly, the Division
Reserve was committed between Combat Command "A" and
Combat Command "B". The bridgehead line was seized
on 30 August and firmly held. The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance
Battalion patrolled the principal road nets within the zone to
keep the small isolated enemy groups from disrupting communications.
Without waiting to be relieved on the bridgehead line by the
infantry divisions who were following, the 3rd Armored Division
was assembled in preparation for another push to its new objective,
SEDAN and CHARLEVILLE. Five routes (see sketch) were assigned
for this advance, which began on the morning of 31 August 1944.
The composition of the columns that started for CHARLEVILLE and
SEDAN on 31 August were:
C COM'D "A"
32nd Armd. Regt.
1st Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
Co. A, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
Co. A, 703rd TD Bn.
Co. A, 45th Armd. Med. Bn.
Det. Co. B, Maint. Bn., 3rd Armd. Div.
67th Armd. FA Bn.
54th Armd. FA Bn.
C COM'D "B"
33rd Armd. Regt. (- 3rd Bn.)
2nd Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
Co. D, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
Co.B, 703rd TD Bn.
Det. Co. C, Maint. Bn., 3rd Armd. Div.
391st Armd. FA Bn.
87th FA Bn.
C COM'D "R"
36th Armd. Inf. Regt. (- 1st & 2nd Bn.'s)
3rd Bn., 33rd Armd. Regt.
703rd TD Bn. (- A & B Co.'s)
23rd Armd. Engr. Bn. (-A & D Co.'s)
Co. C, 45th Armd. Med. Bn.
Det. Co. A, Maint. Bn., 3rd Armd. Div.
991st Armd. FA Bn. (155 Gun)
183rd FA Bn. (155 Howitzer)
Combat Commands "A" & "B" each moved
in two columns. Division Reserve moved on the center route in
a single column.
ADVANCE EAST, THEN NORTH
As on previous occasions, the enemy used the hours of darkness
while the Third Armored was halted to build up a thin screen
of resistance with the mission of delaying the advance of the
American armor. When the attack started on the morning of 31
August, this initial resistance was quickly overcome and a rapid
advance was made throughout the morning.
The Reconnaissance Battalion advanced in front of the division,
covering the entire zone and utilizing the road net to the maximum
extent possible. They encountered slight resistance all along
the front, much of which they reported and bypassed; even so,
the prisoners they took constituted a problem.
Combat Command "A" crossed their line of departure
at 0930 and moved rapidly.
Combat Command "B" was delayed in starting their attack
because of having to assemble troops from positions held on the
bridgehead line. (This circumstance later proved to be fortunate.)
Their attack started at 1224 and moved initially against light
By 1300 hours the five columns had encountered resistance, and
leading elements of the four columns of Combat Commands "A"
and "B" were engaged with the enemy. At 1315 a staff
officer from VII Corps arrived at the Command Post of the 3rd
Armored Division near LAON. He bad flown from Corps Headquarters
located at LA RUE with instructions to change the direction of
attack from east to north. The objective assigned the Third Armored
was to secure MONS. New routes of advance were through HIRSON
A message was sent by radio from the Division Command Post directing
the advancing columns to halt, coil off the roads and await further
orders. Also, information concerning the change in attack plans
was relayed by voice radio to the Division Commander, who was
with leading elements of the Division near SERAINCOURT. A staff
officer went forward to join the Division Commander immediately
with detailed information concerning the change in plans. Combat
Commanders were also given orders by voice radio to join the
Division Commander at SERAINCOURT.
A meeting of the above column commanders and staff officers was
accomplished, and oral orders were given by the Division Commander
at 1430 hours directing a change in routes of advance for the
columns, with a change in mission for the Division.
When orders directing a change in mission and the route of advance
were received by Task Force "X" of Combat Command "A",
this force was heavily engaged by the enemy in the vicinity of
NOVION PORCIEN. A successful disengagement from the enemy was
accomplished by this force, a column reformed and their route
retraced to HAUTEVILLE, where a change in direction to the north
Task Force "Y" of Combat Command "A" was
fighting German rearguard forces just west of the village of
RETHEL, when orders were received directing the change in route
of advance. The column turned northwest on the RETHEL-ROZOY road
with little or no resistance from the enemy, a complete disengagement
with the enemy being accomplished by the change in the route
of advance. By dark the forces of Combat Command "A"
had advanced to locations approximately three miles north and
northeast of ROZOY, where they bivouacked for the night.
Combat Command "B" columns, due to a late start on
the morning of 31 August, had reached the towns of PIERREPONT
and NOTRE DAME de LIESSE. Their mission had been to protect the
left flank of the Division while advancing toward CHARLEVILLE
and secure the town of VERVINS as an intermediate objective for
the day. Consequently when the order changing the mission for
the Division was received, no change in direction of the routes
of Combat Command "B" had to be made. By dark, the
columns of Combat Command "B" had reached MARLE and
HARY, where they bivouacked for the night.
The Division Reserve, moving in a single column and between Combat
Commands "A" and "B", received orders to
halt their advance to the east, coil forward with the rear of
their column and wait orders. This halt was made in a wooded
area just west of HERBIGNY. After receipt of orders directing
their route of advance be turned north, they proceeded along
a secondary road toward CHAUMONT and WADIMONT with an assigned
mission of securing HIRSON. A well defended roadblock stopped
the advance of the column just north of WADIMONT. This block
was not reduced prior to dark, so the Division Reserve bivouacked
for the night at this location.
When night came the Combat Commands and Division Reserve were
again in contact with even stronger enemy forces than those met
during the morning, but had made good progress toward the new
The Division's Reconnaissance Battalion, moving north from the
farthest points of advance toward SEDAN and VERDUN, provided
a screen on the right flank of the Division. They moved in multiple
columns on the secondary road net.
On 1 September, six columns started toward MONS. They were, from
left to right, Combat Command "B", Combat Command "A"
and Division Reserve or Combat Command "R", each in
two columns. The advance was steady against moderate resistance
all day. About five hundred prisoners were taken. They represented
elements of many divisions previously met, making their way to
designated assembly areas to the east in small groups. Security
regiments from Paris, flak battalions and the staff of the 58th
Panzer Corps were also represented.
A number of enemy columns were spotted by or called to the attention
of supporting aircraft who worked them over well. Combat Command
"A" reached AVESNES. Combat Command "B" worked
north through VERVINS, passed LA CAPELLE and reached a position
west of AVESNES by night. Combat Command "R" reached
and held HIRSON.
During the night, Combat Command "B" was cut off from
its service elements and did not receive its fuel and lubricants
until the morning of 2 September.
Supplies had to be "fought" forward. This circumstance
caused a delay in Combat Command "B's" resuming the
attack on 2 September, but the other two Combat Commands started
early. Moderate opposition of all arms was encountered. Elements
of the Division crossed the Belgian border at 1610. The objective
west of MONS was reached at 1700. At about 1700 Combat Command
"A" reached its objective at MONS and Combat Command
"R" reached its to the east of MONS. Combat Command
"R" was then disengaged and moved west into zone of
Combat Command "A". Roadblocks were set up all around
and covered well with fire. The prisoners were beginning to come
in, first in trickles, then in droves, and it got worse.
BATTLE OF MONS
Thousands of words have been written and will continue to
be written about the Battle of MONS. One salient fact seems to
stand out; neither the American First Army nor the Wehrmacht
expected it to happen exactly as it did. Nevertheless, MONS developed
into the decisive battle of the West. As a result of this battle,
troops that should have manned the Westwall never got there.
On the morning of 3 September, the 3rd Armored Division and other
elements of VII Corps were disposed as shown on sketch titled
"Battle of Mons". Roads north and west of MONS were
blocked and defended.
For two days remnants of several German divisions and an assortment
of Corps, Army and GHQ troops bad been marching north parallel
to VII Corps advance, and just to the west of the First Army
forces. On the morning of 3 September they turned east and headed
straight thru MONS to the relative safety of the SIEGFRIED LINE.
Supporting aircraft picked up the close-packed columns early
and destroyed vehicles by the hundreds, but still they came.
Double and triple columns jammed the roads. All roadblocks held
firmly, and soon the confused German columns began to filter
both north and south of MONS. To the south they were passing
between the 3rd Armored and the 1st Infantry Division which was
advancing north, and struck the retreating columns full in their
long, soft flanks.
One German officer, a prisoner of war, is reported to have said,
"You Americans don't want to fight; you just want to slaughter
Within the 3rd Armored Division's perimeter at MONS there was
no front and rear. The enemy was on all sides. At PANES-FROMENTEL
it had been a matter of days; here it was a matter of hours.
The Division's total bag of prisoners at MONS was 8,000, including
three General officers. This number of prisoners constituted
a difficult problem for the Division Military Police Officer
and his sixteen enlisted men. (An additional 27 infantrymen were
attached from the 1st Division.) In the vicinity of the Prisoner
of War cage in an old sugar refinery, these MP's and attached
infantrymen captured three hundred prisoners in a pitched battle
and guarded their prisoners at the same time.
The Division Command Post was not in MONS, but was set up about
five miles south of the city. A tank company and an infantry
company were employed as command post protection. This force
was deployed in a complete defense perimeter around the command
post. Even such a system did not prevent the enemy from infiltrating
in considerable numbers to the vicinity of the command post proper.
The Chief of Staff, charged with the responsibility for the defense
of the Division Headquarters, supervised the organization of
all elements of the Headquarters that could be spared from their
normal operational duties into combat groups. This force, colloquially
referred to as "Combat Command Smith", captured over
six hundred prisoners.
In addition to the divisions represented on the accompanying
sketch, considerable elements of the 48th, 245th, and 272nd German
Infantry Divisions and 17th GAF Division were identified. Part
of eleven other divisions and eleven Corps, Army or GHQ units
were represented among the prisoners at the 3rd Armored's Prisoners
cage on 3 September.
Many thousands of prisoners were still to be had for the talcing
when the 3rd Armored was relieved by the 1st Division on 4 September.
The dead could be counted in thousands.
CHARLEROI TO LIEGE
At 1400 on 4 September, the 3rd Armored moved out to the east
in four columns. Combat Command "B" on the right, moved
in two task force columns and Combat Command "A" on
the left in a similar formation. The advance was rapid except
through the towns and villages where the citizens crowded the
streets, cheering and giving food and wine to the soldiers. Everyone
seemed to know where "A large group" of Germans was
hiding, and some of this information was followed up. However,
such reports were so numerous and so frequently in error that
our troops paid little attention to them in general.
The objective was NAMUR. One task force of Combat Command "B"
reached NAMUR that day and found the bridges blown. They went
by way of JEMEPPES. The remainder of the Combat Command, following
a route south of this task force, found the bridges across the
SAMBRE River out in the vicinity of LOBBES, so they turned north
and followed the main CHARLEROI-NAMUR highway. Further to the
north, Combat Command "A" reached positions east of
CHARLEROI and coiled for the night. Combat Command "A"
reached positions just northwest of Namur on 5 September.
Combat Command "B" secured a bridge site across the
MEUSE at NAMUR, and the engineers completed the bridging operation
across the river during the night of 5th and 6th September.
On the 6th, Task Force "King" from Combat Command "B"
was crossed over the MEUSE and attached to the 9th Infantry Division
to assist that Division in the vicinity of Dinant. This force
was released to control of 3rd Armored on the same day. The remainder
of Combat Command "B" crossed the river and advanced
toward HUY with the mission of securing that town and the river
crossings there The Division Commander ordered that Combat Command
"B" send one column at maximum speed to secure a bridge
which members of the White Belgian Army reported to be intact
in HUY. This column moved at nearly thirty-five miles per hour
and secured the bridge. Combat Command "A" was given
additional infantry support from Division Reserve to assist in
the passage through NAMUR. About ten miles east of NAMUR they
encountered stubborn resistance. The advance was slowed, but
the Combat Command pushed on to the vicinity of ANTHEIT.
Combat Command "B" secured HUY with the bridges intact.
Task Force "Hogan", which had been attached to 1st
Division in the vicinity of MONS, reverted to Division control
and met considerable resistance from by-passed units as they
moved up to join Combat Command "B". These by-passed
enemy elements did not offer any serious organized resistance,
but they harassed our columns with sniper fire and hasty roadblocks
which yielded quickly under pressure.
The direct route from NAMUR to LIEGE, the Division's next objective,
was down the MEUSE valley. Down this corridor, the Germans were
preparing to defend stubbornly.
The Division Commander continued to take maximum advantage of
the enemy's lack of complete organization by pushing rapidly.
He sent Combat Command "A" straight down the valley
in a frontal attack and ordered Combat Command "B"
to follow secondary roads on the high ground south of the river,
approaching LIEGE from the southeast. Combat Command "A"
met enemy roadblocks and strong points all the way in increasing
strength. As they neared LIEGE they came under fire of anti-aircraft
artillery batteries that protected the city. General Hickey and
his artillery commander were in a position to observe these guns,
whose position was a permanent installation including barracks.
A withering concentration of time fire silenced them. Combat
Command "A" worked patrols into the city.
Meanwhile Combat Command "B", moving rapidly along
the high ground south of the river, had taken the enemy completely
by surprise. His gun positions in many cases were not set up
to meet General Boudinot's forces, and the bridge south of the
town had not been destroyed. General Rose accompanied the maneuver
force. He watched their approach to the river crossing from a
nearby observation point. As the leading elements began to cross
the river, the General crossed with them to maintain better control.
The German positions in the city were rendered untenable with
elements of the 3rd Armored on both sides of the river. Accordingly
they began to withdraw, finding themselves hard put to discover
suitable escape routes.
On 8 September Combat Command "A" mopped up the north
side of LIEGE. General Hickey described the flak installations
destroyed by his artillery as "a sight to see".
Meanwhile Combat Command "B" cleared the south of the
city. Two more German General Officers were accounted for at
LIEGE, one killed and one captured.
The Division Engineers constructed a 510 foot treadway bridge
across the MEUSE.
Much enemy equipment was destroyed trying to force roadblocks
that day and night. The personnel of one roadblock in Combat
Command "B" zone accounted for 35 enemy vehicles, killing
a Lieutenant General as he tried to run the block in a high powered
staff car; and another, manned by Division Reserve, got seven
MK IV tanks.
At 1700, the Reconnaissance Battalion moved across the river
with the mission of reconnoitering in the vicinity of VERVIERS
and securing crossing of the LA VESDRE River.
At 1000 on 9 September elements of the 1st and 9th Divisions
relieved the 3rd Armored at LIEGE and the advance on VERVIERS
LIEGE TO SIEGFRIED LINE
Combat Command "A" advanced against light resistance
and secured the high ground north and northwest of VERVIERS by
Combat Command "B" met stronger resistance from the
time it crossed the line of departure. Anti-tank guns, artillery,
and tanks opposed its advance. After crossing a stream at THEUX
a minefield was encountered, and the Combat Command did not reach
its assigned objective south of VERVIERS. It coiled for the night
between PEPINSTER and THEUX.
At the end of the period, (midnight on 9 September) the 83rd
Reconnaissance was outposting the high ground east of VERVIERS
and pushing patrols forward in an attempt to secure the dam southeast
of LIMBOURG. This objective was not reached because of heavy
enemy resistance. Division reserve was still crossing the MEUSE
and moving to the east.
The next day VERVIERS was secured, and strong patrols worked
On 11 September, EUPEN fell to Combat Command "B",
and Combat Command "A" seized its objective just northwest
thereof. Resistance was stronger now. Coordinated defense positions
were encountered. Numerous roadblocks and blown bridges impeded
the advance. Elements of the German divisions decimated at MONS
were forming into battle groups, and new units were appearing.
BREACHING THE SIEGFRIED LINE
The Division had now come close to the first barrier of the
SIEGFRIED LINE. The Division Commander ordered both Combat Commands
to initiate vigorous patrols beginning at 0800 on 12 September
to probe the line and find a weak spot, if possible.
Both Combat Commands sent patrols as instructed. Combat Command
"A" patrols reached the first tank barriers of the
SIEGFRIED LINE at about 1630. Combat Command "B"'s
first patrol (reinforced company) was stopped by bad terrain.
Another similar patrol was sent out immediately from Task Force
Lovelady, and at 1451 on 12 September, this patrol crossed the
German border and a few minutes later was in the town of ROTGEN,
Germany. The remainder of Task Force Lovelady, following the
advance patrol, found the resistance within the town was negligible.
The town was outposted while the bulk of the Task Force moved
on through and bivouacked just north of the outskirts of the
town. Rotgen was the first German town to fall to the Allies
in World War II. Combat Command "B" was but a short
distance from the tank barriers. Now both Combat Commands were
face to face with the SIEGFRIED LINE and plans were made to breach
the first defenses on the following day. The action which followed
is really two separate stories, and will be so treated here.
Brigadier General Hickey, commanding Combat Command "A",
elected to make a penetration of the first line of defenses with
Task Force "X", composed of a battalion of tanks from
the 32nd Armored Regiment, a battalion of infantry from the 36th
Armored Infantry Regiment, a tank destroyer platoon from the
703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion and a company of engineers from
the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion. This force was commanded
by Colonel (then Lt. Colonel) Leander L. Doan. The point selected
for the penetration was about one kilometer south of OBER FORSTBACH
and just to the east or the EUPEN-EYNATTEN road.
In the OBER FORSTBACH vicinity, the outer defenses of the SIEGFRIED
LINE ran in a northwest to southeast direction, one thousand
yards or less behind the border. The defenses were faced all
along the line with "dragon's teeth," and large pillboxes
every one hundred yards or so to the rear on favorable terrain,
and further supported by some hasty trenching and numerous large
caliber guns and mortars in depth. These defenses were placed
in fairly open, moderately rolling terrain. The high ground at
OBEB FORSTBACH commanded observation of the area. Across the
possible north-south lines of fire, however, ran a gentle east-west
ridge. Both ridge and draw were on the German side of the barrier
and immediately covered by pillboxes. However, these terrain
features provided some concealment from observation to the north,
and offered a route for flanking movement to the east.
During the night of 12-13 September, Task Force "X"
assembled in the concealment of the AACHEN-EYNATTEN woods with
the Command Post near LANGFELD. Night patrols were sent out,
and contact was made with the enemy at the line of obstacles.
The plan for breaching the line was simple. The infantry, supported
by direct tank and tank destroyer fire, would move through the
dragon's teeth and secure the first high ground beyond. Next,
the engineers of the 23rd would breach the obstacle line with
demolitions and the tanks would follow through.
The exact point selected for penetration was covered by one pillbox
to the immediate front about one hundred and fifty yards beyond
the dragon's teeth. While waiting for the tanks to move into
supporting position, the infantry commander fired about fifty
rounds of tank destroyer fire into the pillbox. It was penetrated
in several places and did not return the fire. The infantry moved
through the barrier and as they came to the crest of the first
ridge, about two hundred yards beyond, they were raked by machine
gun fire from another pillbox to the right front and forced to
withdraw to the dragons teeth for cover. An attempt was made
to approach this second pillbox from the west in a flanking maneuver,
but fire started coming from the first pillbox believed to have
been knocked out. (There were 12 Germans in this pillbox and
when called on to surrender they answered, "Go to hell,
we will fight it out.") This attack and a third failed,
and heavy mortar fire began to cover the area. For the next two
hours the situation did not improve. During this period, the
engineers were working at placing demolition charges in spite
of the heavy mortar fire.
At about 1500, Colonel Doan conferred with the Division Commander
and Combat Command "A" Commander. It was decided to
use a previously discovered crossing over the barrier about three
hundred yards to the right of the intended point of penetration.
This crossing was a roadway made by filling in between the teeth
with stone and earth and was apparently constructed by local
civilians for their own convenience. The passage was under heavy
mortar fire and was reported to be mined, so a flail tank was
sent over first. It stuck in the loose earth and threatened to
tip over and block the passage. Two tanks were used to tow the
flail tank off the roadway, and immediately the twenty tanks
of Task Force "X" started to cross the barrier. All
were across by 1550 and had started to cruise the pillbox area
and the draw south of VERSCHEID. Six pillboxes and several 88's
were destroyed. Some of the guns were unmanned.
Meanwhile, the infantry battalion had suffered sixty casualties.
Captain Plummer, Battalion Commander, was seriously wounded,
and the opposition continued to be stubborn. Lt. Colonel William
R. Orr was then placed in command of the Infantry Battalion and
ordered to turn east toward NUTHEIM. The tanks were to also move
As the tanks cleaned out the nearest pillboxes and moved over
the crest to the north, German artillery and anti-tank fire became
extremely heavy, especially from the vicinity of OBER FORSTBACH.
To control his tanks, the Task Force Commander had to dismount
and confer with individual tank commanders on several occasions,
because command tanks had been knocked out. The attack continued
toward NUTHEIM and soon drew anti-tank fire from the vicinity
of that town. A halt was made to reorganize between 1700 and
1800. Ten tanks remained in action. Col. Doan radioed General
Hickey that he would have to have more stuff to get through.
He was told that the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment (1st
Division), which was attached to Combat Command "A",
was on his left rear and had been ordered to attack at 1830 to
approach NUTHEIM from the west. Also that two tank platoons of
Task Force "Y" were being sent to reenforce Task Force
The first platoon of reinforcing tanks arrived at about 1900,
just at dusk, and the second about an hour later. The Armored
Infantry Battalion joined the tanks, and with Combat Command
Artillery firing support on the road leading into the village,
the attack proceeded with the tanks leading. Small arms fire
from the vicinity of NUTHEIM continued to be heavy, and enemy
anti-tank guns knocked out two more of the tanks. At about 2300,
Task Force "X" had reached a position just west of
NUTHEIM and closed into a close leaguer for the night. The Armored
Infantry Battalion was disposed with one company along the road
to the east and other elements at the north and southwest ends
of the leaguer area. The Battalion of the 26th, previously referred
to, was in position to the west of Task Force "X" and'
contact was established with them. The Task Force Commander talked
with the Infantry Battalion Commander, and it was determined
that the Infantry Battalion would clean put NUTHEIM on the following
day, allowing the armored force to continue as ordered to EILENDORF.
The remainder of the Combat Command coiled for the night at positions
shown on sketch, "Operation 12 September". The depleted
2nd Battalion of the 32nd Armored Regiment was relieved by the
3rd Battalion, 32nd, and on the morning of 14 September, Task
Force "X" was ordered to attack north to the vicinity
of EILENDORF. The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry was released to
Division control in place. The Task Force left NUTHEIM about
noon, and, except for a skirmish at BRAND, there was no considerable
fighting during the day. The southern outskirts of EILENDORF
were reached at about 1930. Some anti-tank fire was encountered.
Elements of Combat Command "A" leaguered for the night
at positions shown on the sketch, "Operation 14 September".
On the morning of the 15th, Task Force "Y" of Combat
Command "A" started moving at 0850 to come abreast
of and to the south of Task Force "X". This advance
was directed at MUNSTER-BUSCH.
During the day, elements of the 16th Infantry Regiment were contacted
on the left.
ROAD TO STOLBERG
Not long afterwards, elements of Task Force "X"
were against the second row of dragons teeth about 2 kilometers
east of EILENDORF in the vicinity of a place called England.
This barrier extended northwest and southeast across the low
ground on the southern approaches to STOLBERG. Here a platoon
of the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment was pinned down
by heavy fire from pillboxes on the other side. The platoon of
infantry withdrew slightly under the cover of tank fire. The
tanks soon found a passage through the obstacles blocked only
by a few old farm wagons, and the tanks that had supported the
infantry pushed these aside and went through. Observing this
action, the Combat Command Commander ordered the entire Task
Force to move to the east through the gap.
At about 1500, as the first tanks advanced to a road junction
at AM GEISBERG they received anti-tank fire from the direction
of WURSELENER WOODS. Additional tank and anti-tank fire came
from the northeast along the road to STOLBERG. Six tanks were
lost in quick succession. The Armored Infantry Battalion of Task
Force "X" now started to come through and deepen the
bridgehead. General Hickey told the Division Commander; "I
am pushing infantry out to locate and clear out A. T. Guns. Perimeter
is considered large for one battalion. Operation will be slow
and probably no more than some support for infantry in the bridgehead
can be crossed tonight."
Quick advantage of an opening had been seized. A breach in the
main defenses of the SIEGFRIED LINE existed, but the towns of
MUNSTERBUSCH, STOLBERG, and the WURSELENER WOODS area still needed
attention. The Corps Commander ordered the 1st Infantry Division
on the left of the 3rd Armored to cooperate in this mop-up process,
and the 3rd Armored to assist them in getting on their objective
to the northwest. This cooperation was effected with complete
success. Combat Command "B", commanded by Brigadier
General (then Colonel) Boudinot, operated in the right half of
the 3rd Armored Division zone. A study of their operations for
the period covered above will complete the picture of the breaching
of the SIEGFRIED LINE in the zone of the 3rd Armored.
On 12 September, the Combat elements of Combat Command "B"
were split into two task forces as follows:
LT. COLONEL WILLIAM B. LOVELADY
2nd Bn., 33rd Armd. Regt.
2nd Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt. (- Co. F)
1 Btry., 391st Armd. FA. Bn.
Rcn. Co., 33rd Armd. Regt. (-3rd Plat.)
1st Plat. Co. B, 703rd TD Bn.
1st Plat. Co. B, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
Detachment, 45th Med. Bn.
LT. COLONEL R. H. KING
1st Bn., 33rd Armd. Regt.
F Co., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
2nd Plat, B Co., 23rd Engr. Bn.
2nd Plat., B Co., 703rd TD Bn.
54th FA Bn.
Detachment, 45th Med. Bn.
Positions of Combat Command "B" units on the night
of 12 September are shown on sketch. "Operations 12 Sept."
It was planned to move the two task forces north in parallel
columns with Task Force 1 on the right. The initial route followed
by Task Force 1 was a good road from ROTGEN TO ROTT. About halfway
between these two towns this road turns sharply to the west and
runs east-west for about two kilometers. Part of this section
is along steep cliffs, and here the enemy had blocked the road
with a deep crater defended by small arms fire. The work of filling
this crater started on the morning of 13 September.
Task Force 2's route was a good, straight road leading from ROTGEN
to KORNELIMUNSTER. The first block on this road consisted of
cables stretched across the roadway, a steel gate, and mines
on the roadway and on the shoulders. This block was defended
by small arms fire from pillboxes, and dug in positions to the
north. The Task Force attacked this position with infantry and
the enemy speedily withdrew. The Armored Infantry Company then
moved onto the high ground about five hundred yards to the north,
and the engineers removed the mines and destroyed the cables
and gate with prepared charges. This job was finished by 1100
hours, and the main body of the Task Force started to move north
from KITTENIS. The dragon's teeth with tank ditches defended
by pillboxes were visible ahead (east and southeast of SCHMIDTHOF),
and Colonel King decided that his depleted infantry company was
insufficient for the job. Accordingly, he asked for reiniorcements
and went forward to study the situation more closely.
On the right, Task Force 1 had filled the first crater, and had
moved north to within one and one-half kilometers of ROTT where
further demolition again halted the column. Patrols discovered
that the bridge across VICHT CREEK, one and one half kilometers
south of VENWEGEN on LAMMERSDORF-KORNELIMUNSTER road had been
destroyed by the enemy. The Task Force Commander planned to put
in this bridge during the night, and move on the following morning,
14 September. The Task Force was coiled as shown on the operations
sketch and the engineers got underway with the night bridging
At 1800 Task Force 2 received as reinforcements H and I Companies
of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment from Division Reserve.
In the meantime Colonel King had decided to attack SCHMIDTHOF
with his depleted F Company of the 36th, supported by tanks and
artillery. These sixty men jumped off after a ten minute artillery
preparation at 1730. They were stopped short after initial advances
and ordered to hold what they had taken. Two tanks were knocked
out by enemy anti-tank fire.
Five hundred yards to the south, the engineers were preparing
passage over the obstacles. During the night extremely heavy
mortar and artillery fire forced F Company to retire to its jump-off
position but the breaching operation went on to completion at
2245. While the bridging operation already referred to was in
progress, Task Force 1 proceeded to mop up and secure the town
During the day the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion occupied
ROTGEN. This Battalion secured the town of ROTGEN until relieved
by elements of the 9th Division on 14 September.
At 0800 on 14 September, both Task Forces of Combat Command "B"
resumed the attack. By 1100 Task Force 1 had advanced to the
road junction at the southwest edge of BREINIG. They had met
light resistance all the way and had fought their way through
several minor roadblocks of a hasty nature. Task Force 2, on
the left, had met much stiffer resistance. They advanced about
three hundred yards and met resistance from several pillboxes
and other prepared positions. Artillery fire on these pillboxes
caused the occupants to leave the shelter but did not destroy
the structures. Because of the slow difficult progress on the
left, a company of tanks from Task Force 1 was sent to assist
Task Force 2. This force advanced to the town of HAHN. The remainder
of Task Force 2 was still occupied with taking SCHMIDTHOF and
removing barriers. (I beams were fixed in the roadway. These
had to be cut with explosives.)
On the left flank, a dangerous gap had developed between elements
of Combat Command A and elements of the 1st Division. To cover
this gap and protect the Division left flank, the Division Commander
sent a Task Force from Division Reserve composed of the 1st Battalion,
33rd Armored Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment
(1st Division). This force was commanded by Lt. Colonel Hogan,
the tank battalion commander.
Having sent the force to assist Task Force 2, Task Force 1 coiled
just south of BREINIGERHEIDE. Both task forces were able to renew
the advance at 1515 and reached the positions shown on the operations
sketch for the day. Lt. Colonel King had been evacuated because
of wounds, and Major Mills assumed command of Task Force 2 southeast
By 1000 on the 15th of September, Task Force 2 had fought its
way to a nose just east of BUSBACH. Several pillboxes and fortifications
were fired on in passing.
Task Force 1 was again held up by a blown bridge. This bridge
was over GIESCH CREEK on the road from BREINIG to MAUSBACH. Another
bridging operation was undertaken, and by 1100 the force started
to cross to the northeast. Soon it was stopped by fire from enemy
tanks and anti-tank weapons from the area at the southeast edge
of MAUSBACH. This was the second line of the SIEGFRIED defenses
and seemed to be rather strongly manned, with some supporting
tanks, mortars, and artillery in position to the rear. Task Force
1 launched a coordinated attack with tanks and infantry and by
1400 had entered MAUSBACH, breaching the second line of SIEGFRIED
Task Force 2, meanwhile, was held up by another blown bridge
in the south end of STOLBERG. It was determined that considerable
time would be required to prepare a crossing here, and the Combat
Command Commander decided to withdraw Mills' Task Force and have
him follow through the breach made by Lovelady's force.
On the following day the Division Reserve started mopping up
remaining pillboxes and pockets of resistance in the BUSBACH
The breaching was widened and deepened during succeeding days
and several counterattacks ranging in strength from reinforced
company to battalion size were defeated.
Mopping up in the STOLBERG-MAUSBACH area continued until 23 September.
At that time, the Division front was narrowed when the 1st Division
took over the part of Combat Command "A"'s sector west
of the VICHT river.
The eighteen day trek from the SEINE to the SIEGFRIED LINE had
sapped the strength of the 3rd Armored. The mopping up and consolidation
around STOLBERG was extensive too. The men were tired and the
machines needed maintenance in the worst way. On 18 September
there were 153 medium and 148 light tanks operative in the whole
division. Of the mediums, about 30 would run only in low gear.
A total of about one hundred tanks were in satisfactory operating
Sixty-six officers and 887 enlisted men had been received as
reinforcements between 15 and 23 September, but the strength
report showed that the Division was up to only 90.4% of full
strength in officers and 90.9% of full strength in enlisted personnel.
SIEGE OF AACHEN
At the time VII Corps first made successful attacks on the
vaunted Westwall defenses, the First Army plan anticipated bypassing
and surrounding the city of AACHEN, allowing it to fall when
it would after the main attack had passed. This decision was
later changed. AACHEN would have to be taken. The plan for securing
the city was to cut off its easterly escape and supply routes,
draw a tight cordon about the town and then demand capitulation
of the German garrison. The 30th Infantry Division of XIX Corps,
north of the city, and the 1st Infantry Division of VII Corps,
to the south, made an effective closure of the gap east of AACHEN
on 10 October and the surrender ultimatum was carried into the
city by an officer representative from the 1st Division.
When the ultimatum terms expired shortly before noon on 11 October,
there had been no answer from the German Commander. Accordingly,
the attack on the city begun. The IX Tactical Air Force dropped
tons of bombs on targets within AACHEN, and supporting artillery
of VII Corps fired 169 tons of ammunition into the city. Elements
of the 26th Infantry Regiment started advancing into the city
from the northeast, while other elements of the 1st Division
beat off determined enemy attacks east of AACHEN.
Within AACHEN proper, the mopping-up operations proceeded slowly
and systematically. American losses were at a minimum. An expert
job was being done.
The 3rd Armored Division was represented at AACHEN, too. On 18
October Task Force "HOGAN" (3rd Bn., 33rd Armd. Regt.
and 2nd Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.) was attached to the 1st Division.
This Task Force operated in the western part of town. They seized
the strategic LOUSBERG HILL on 19 October. During the course
of the operation Task Force "HOGAN" maintained contact
with elements of the 30th Division, (XIX Corps) on the north,
and together with the 26th Infantry Regiment, took over 700 prisoners.
Colonel Wilke, Commander of the AACHEN garrison, surrendered
on 21 October.
While this operation at AACHEN was going on, the 3rd Armored
and the 9th Infantry Divisions continued to improve and hold
defensive positions in their zones.
The first Army was proceeding with regrouping and resupply activities
preparatory to continuing the offensive into Germany. Twenty-four
hours a day the roads in rear areas were crowded with convoys
bringing tons of supplies and thousands of fresh troops to the
front. The unprecedented rapidity of the drive across France
and Belgium had strained communication lines almost to the elastic
limit. But now the Allied Armies at the Western Gates of Germany
were daily gaining new strength at a rapidly accelerating pace.
During this build-up period, the 3rd Armored held a rather narrow
zone, (STOLBERG to MAUSBACH), except for the period 25 October
to 10 November when the 47th Regimental Combat Team of the 9th
Division and the 294th Engineer Combat Battalion were attached.
The zone then extended south through the HURTGEN forest to the
V Corps boundary just east of ZWEIFALL. The 9th Division (less
the 47th Regimental Combat Team) was released from assignment
to VII Corps about this time. Troops holding the line were rotated
within the division in order to give all units the maximum time
to rest and refit. New replacements to the ranks could be brought
up to a state of training impossible in a moving situation. Abandoned
houses provided shelter for many of the troops and served as
protected kitchens, mess-halls and command posts.
Maintenance troops worked long hours to get the hundreds of tanks
and vehicles in the best possible condition. Now they had the
advantage of good places to work. Houses were occupied, and the
hard-standings at railway sidings and stations became workshops.
Hospital facilities were made available to the Division Medical
personnel near KORNELIMUNSTER.
Rear Echelon elements set up house-keeping in and around RAEREN
where there were many billets available for troops, and large
buildings of all kinds became offices and storerooms.
Combat Command "A" established its headquarters in
a section of BREINIG where most of the houses had been evacuated,
and operated a comfortable indoor command post.
Combat Command "B" found good buildings to occupy between
BREINIG and KORNELIMUNSTER.
Division Headquarters was ensconced in the plush luxury of the
Prym Mansion, just south and east of STOLBERG.
The rainy winter weather soon turned the entire Division area
into a sea of mud. All operations, even in a relatively quiet
defensive zone, were made more difficult because of the almost
continual rain. The quiet was only relative too. On the front
there were daily skirmishes and firefights, and at night patrols
probed for information. Artillery action was continuous. A few
exchanges developed into actual artillery duels.
The Division Engineers were busy people too. To their routine
water and map supply jobs which still occupied part of their
time, road maintenance and sign posting in the Division area
were added. To keep roads open, they built six bridges, averaging
sixty feet in length, and operated two quarries from which they
removed over seven thousand cubic yards of road material.
They conducted extensive experiments in methods of destroying
pillboxes and other obstacles. The section of SIEGFRIED LINE
defenses in American hands was used for these experiments. In
addition to these jobs, they restored the city water supply in
the occupied parts of STOLBERG, flushing all the pipes and repairing
generators and engines.
With the entry into Germany proper, the Division Civil Affairs
Section became in name and in fact, the Military Government Section.
The 3rd Armored Division was the first unit of the Allied Armies
to establish Military Government in Germany in World War II.
On 14 September, Civil Administration was established in ROTGEN
and a temporary Burgermeister appointed. In quick succession,
the towns of KORNELIMUNSTER, BRAND, BREINIG, BUSBACH, WALHEIM
and STOLBERG were added to the list. During the build-up period,
ZWEIFALL, VICHT and MAUSBACH were also administered by the Military
Government teams of the 3rd Armored. Town officials who were
NAZI party members had to be weeded out. The police had fled
with the NAZI, and new and inexperienced personnel had to be
recruited. Minor infractions occurred; the Commanding General
appointed the first Summary Military Government Court on 29 September
to try four women for entering a prohibited area without proper
pass - but there were no known overt acts against the Military
by civilians in the Division area.
By 11 November the regrouping of forces had been completed in
the VII Corps. The 104th Infantry Division had been attached
on 6 November and had taken over the zone of the 1st Division.
The 4th Infantry Division was attached on 8 November and Combat
Command "B" of the 5th Armored Division and the 4th
Cavalry Group followed. VII Corps was ready to resume the offensive.
To meet the expected allied offensive, the German Army utilized
the time and forces available to them to the best advantage possible.
Between Allied lines and the RHINE River there was much strong
defensive terrain. On this terrain, they strengthened the natural
barriers with strong field fortifications. The first such natural
barrier to VII Corps front was the ROER River. Between the front
lines and this river, the enemy was well dug-in. The villages
and towns were organized as strong points. Minefields were laid
all along the front and well covered with defensive fires. The
actual identified enemy units in contact are shown on Sketch
On the 15th November, the G-2, 3rd Armored Division learned through
prisoners-of-war sources that the 47th German Infantry Division
was preparing to relieve the 12th German Infantry Division on
the immediate front of the 3rd Armored. For the coming offensive,
the objective of the 3rd Armored was the ridge just northeast
of the road connecting HAMICH and HASTENRATH. The mission was
to attack and seize this ground and secure it until relieved
by elements of the 1st Division, mopping up all resistance in
the sector. The part of the line just east of STOLBERG was to
be held until passed through by elements of the 104th Division.
When the Division objective was secured, the 3rd Armored was
to be prepared to exploit any breakthrough in the sector of either
the 1st or 4th Divisions by attacking east toward COLOGNE.
Combat Command "A" was given the missions of holding
the STOLBERG line and supporting the attack of the 104th Division.
Combat Command "B" was to seize the Division objective.
The units of Combat "B" fought as reinforced battalions.
COMPOSITION OF COMBAT COMMAND "B":
1st BN. 33rd ARMD. (REINF.) LT. COL. MILLS, COMMANDING:
1st Bn. 33rd Armd. Regt. (- 3rd Plat. Co. A)
3rd Plat. Rcn. Co., 33rd Armd. Regt.
Co. F, 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
2nd Plat. Co. C, 703rd TD Bn.
2nd Plat. Co. D, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
2nd BN. 33rd ARMD. REGT. LT. COL. LOVELADY, COMMANDING:
2nd Bn. 33rd Armd. Regt. (- 3rd Plat. Co. B)
2nd Plat. Rcn. Co. 33rd Armd. Regt.
Co. E 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
1st Plat. Co. C, 703rd TD Bn.
1st Plat. Co. D, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
C COMD. RESERVE. MAJOR TOUSEY, COMMANDING:
Rcn. Co. 33rd Armd. Regt. (- 1, 2, 3rd Plats.)
2nd Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt. (- E & F Co's)
Co. C, 703rd TD Bn. (-1 & 2 Plats.)
Co. D, 23rd. Armd. Engr. Bn. (- 1 & 2 Plats.)
391st ARTILLERY GROUP. LT. COL. GARTON, COMMANDING:
391st Armd. FA Battalion
58th Armd. FA Battalion
Two tank platoons accompanied Combat Command Headquarters.
The zone of the 1st Battalion, 33rd Armored Regiment, was on
the left. Their objectives were HASTENRATH and SCHERPENSEEL.
The 2nd Battalion was to advance in the right of the Division
zone up to the little village of KOTTENICH just north and west
of HAMICH. Leaving a holding force here, they were to move from
the northeast on to the objective west of HAMICH.
On 16 November, there was a break in the weather. The preparation
for the offensive began at 1115 hours. On the VII Corps front
thirteen hundred heavy bombers, escorted by more than six hundred
fighters of the Eighth Air Force hit targets in the ESCHWEILER-LANGERWEHE
area. About seven hundred medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force
and one thousand heavies struck targets further to the east during
the afternoon. Fighter bombers of the IX Tactical Air Force hit
prearranged targets close to the front of the 1st and 4th Infantry
Divisions. Bad weather hampered close support missions on call,
but some were flown.
The attack was launched at 1300. The 2nd Battalion, 33rd, advanced
rapidly on the right. Part of the force went directly into WERTH,
while another part proceeded further north, took KOTTENICH, and
then advanced on WERTH from the northeast. A small infantry force
was left to secure KOTTENICH.
The 1st Battalion advanced in two columns toward HASTENRATH and
SCHERPENSEEL. Soon after crossing the line of departure, the
left column was stopped by a minefield. Several tanks were lost
to mines while trying to find a route around the field. The minefield
was protected by anti-tank, mortar, artillery, and small arms
fire. It was liberally sprinkled with anti-personnel mines. That
night part of Mills' force was just south of HASTENRATH. The
column, held up by the minefield, was moved through Lovelady's
zone and up into position to continue the attack on HASTENRATH.
On the left, the line remained virtually the same in the vicinity
of STOLBERG. On the right, the 47th Infantry Regiment (attached
to the 1st Division) had fought its way into the southeast corner
The attack had fallen while the 47th German Infantry Division
was in the process of relieving the 12th German Infantry Division.
Both of these units remained in the line and suffered heavily.
On 17 November the 1st Battalion reached its objective at 1012
hours. The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion worked at mopping-up
in the Division zone. That night the 1st Battalion beat off a
minor counter-attack in SCHERPENSEEL. By noon the next day, mopping
up was completed except for the HASTENRATH area. The Division
commander considered the situation: "Well buttoned up",
and moved the 83rd Reconnaissance to WERTH as a reserve.
On the left, elements of the 104th Division reached positions
in their zone due west of WERTH. Elements of the 1st Division,
on the right, had taken HAMICH only to be driven out that night,
when the enemy counter-attacked with a battalion of infantry
supported by a company of tanks.
Cleaning up HASTENRATH was a slow job. The town was subjected
to almost continual fire from enemy artillery and mortars. Lt.
Colonel Mills was killed on 18 November and Colonel Welborn,
Commander of the 33rd Armored Regiment, took command of the forces
in that zone.
By 21 November, the 104th Division and the 1st Division advances
pinched out the 3rd Armored Division sector. Combat Command "A"
was regrouping in the vicinity of BUSBACH. Combat Command "B"
had moved its command post to MAUSBACH. Its units were regrouped
in the area they had taken.
Resistance had been stubborn. The Germans were selling every
foot of ground at a good price.
Elements of the 1st Division reported some of the hardest fighting
they had experienced in any of the operations to date.
On 24 November (See Sketch No. 14), the Division Commander
gave verbal instructions to the Commanding General Combat Command
"A" to organize a task force to attack from positions
east of ESCHWEILER and secure the high ground between LANGERWEHE
and FRENZ. The enemy holding this ground had slowed the advance
of a long section of the Corps front. The task force organized
to do this job consisted of:
3rd Bn., 32nd Armd. Regt. (Lt. Col. Richardson, Comdg.)
2nd Bn., 47th Inf. Regt. (Attached to 3rd Armd. Div.)
2nd Plat., Co. A 703rd TD Bn.
2nd Plat., Co. A 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
67th Armd. FA Bn. in direct support.
Attacking northeast between two railroads (see sketch No.
14) this force met with very strong opposition. By night they
had seized and secured HUCHELN and prepared to continue to advance
the next morning.
At 0830 Richardson's reinforced battalion resumed the attack.
Soon twelve of the thirteen tanks in the attack were bogged down
in mud. The main burden of the assault then fell on the attached
infantry. The attack moved slowly and cautiously. On 26 November,
the Task Force was in a position to launch a coordinated attack
on the objective. The tanks had been stopped by mud in the left
of the sector and by heavy anti-tank fire from the vicinity of
LANGERWEHE on the right. The infantry made the assault supported
by direct fire from tanks and close support aircraft. The objective
was taken. The infantry organized the position, and the remainder
of the Task Force rejoined Combat Command "A" in the
vicinity of BUSBACH on 27 November.
During the period 16-27 November, the 3rd Armored Division captured
six-hundred and twenty-six prisoners.
From 27 November to 9 December the 3rd Armored was not in contact.
The VII Corps attack moved slowly toward the ROER River, reaching
the general line shown on Sketch No. 16, on 9 December.
In an effort to loosen the stubborn enemy defense in the VII
Corps zone where the situation seemed to be developing into a
stalemate, the Corps launched a coordinated attack on 10 December.
Combat Command "R" of the 3rd Armored Division was
committed to this attack in the zone of the 9th Infantry Division
with the mission of attacking from the vicinity of LANGERWEHE
through OBERGEICH and GEICH, and moving rapidly forward to seize
and secure ECHTZ.
COMPOSITION OF COMBAT COMMAND "R":
(Col. Howze Commanding)
3rd Bn., 33rd Armd. Regt.
3rd Bn., 36th Armd. Inf. Regt. (- Co. A)
1st Plat Co. C, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
1st Plat. Co..B, 703rd TD Bn.
1st Sect., Co. A, 738th Tank Bn., SP (ME)
54th Armd. FA Bn. (Direct Support)
1st Bn. 32nd Armd. Regt. (- Co. A Light Tanks)
Co. A, 36th Armd. Inf. Regt.
1st Plat. Co. C, 23rd Armd. Engr. Bn.
1st Plat. Co..B, 703rd TD Bn.
1st Sect., Co. A, 738th Tank Bn., SP (ME)
58th Armd. FA Bn. (Direct Support)
COMBAT COMMAND RESERVE
Company A, 32nd Armd. Regt.
Company B, 83rd Armd. Rcn. Bn.
Company C, 23rd Armd. Engr.. Bn. (- 2 Plats.)
Company B, 703rd Tank Destroyer Bn. (- 2 Plats.)
Company A, 738th Tank Bn. SP (ME) (-3 Plats.)
4th Plat., Co. C, 83rd Rcn. Bn. (4.2 Chemical Mortars).
Hogan's Task Force made the attack while Kane supported the
assault by fire from the high ground in the vicinity of STUTGERHOF.
The whole of Division Artillery was employed in support of this
action. While Hogan's tanks struggled over the extremely muddy
terrain the enemy brought artillery and anti-tank fire to bear.
A minefield at the western edge of OBERGEICH stopped the tanks.
Then, while the town was smothered with tank, artillery and mortar
fire from the northwest and south, the two infantry companies
of the Task Force advanced. Artillerymen consider this action
one of their finest operations. In spite of heavy losses in forward
observer personnel, the use of time fire and screening smoke
was superior. By 1700, OBERGEICH was secured. When the attack
continued toward GEICH, equally strong resistance was again met.
Elements reached the edge of GEICH, but, at dark, the advance
stopped and the entire task force took up positions between GEICH
Task Force Kane displaced from their supporting position at 1400
and advanced across the muddy terrain toward ECHTZ. They met
little resistance until they approached ECHTZ, where enemy mortar,
and small arms fire opposed them. By 2100, this resistance was
overcome and the town was secured.
The next morning Task Force "Hogan" continued the attack
on GEICH, and, after heavy fighting, secured the town by 1000.
Sufficient force was left in GEICH to hold roadblocks, and the
Task Force moved out to join Task Force Kane, which bad been
ordered to continue the attack to the east toward HOVEN. Kane
had started this attack on HOVEN at first light and had made
good progress initially. However, there were about six well-positioned
anti-tank guns covering his route of advance. These guns in conjunction
with mortar and artillery fire (the enemy had concentrated artillery
in this sector until it about equalled our own) stopped his attack.
When Kane and Hogan launched a coordinated attack in the afternoon
the same enemy guns plus three enemy tanks, operating in a well
concealed position in HOVEN, again stopped the attack cold, and
enemy artillery caused heavy casualties to the infantry. That
night the 1st Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment (9th Division)
was attached to Combat Command "R" to be used in continuing
the attack on HOVEN.
Kane's Task Force was reconstituted to include 1st Battalion,
32nd Armored Regiment; 1st Battalion, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment;
1st Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment; Company G, 33rd Armored
Regiment; and a platoon of tank destroyers from the 703rd. The
attack on HOVEN was continued at 0800. The same heavy opposition
continued, but, by 1630, the town was secured. A system of protective
roadblocks was established around the town. At midnight the 1st
Battalion, 60th Infantry, assumed responsibility for the security
of HOVEN, and Combat Command "R" moved on 13 December
to assembly areas near MAUSBACH.
So ended a phase. By 16 December, the VII Corps front ran generally
along the ROER RIVER. The enemy made the next move.
Next Chapter: The Ardennes