FORCING THE LINE OF THE MOSELLE
25 SEPTEMBER -7 NOVEMBER 1944
The period 25 September - 7 November was marked by little aggressive action. For the greater part of the period the various front-line units out-posted their lines and patrolled aggressively. Designed as a means of supplying vehicles to haul necessary materiel from rear areas to other advancing Armies, and as a period of rest and training for Third US Army units, the plan was carried through to fruition.
XV Corps passed to the control of Seventh US Army on 28 September at which time XII Corps expanded its effort to take over part of the vacated XV Corps zone. The inter-Army boundary was moved north so that Third US Army had a slightly shorter front than when functioning with three Corps abreast.
XII Corps , composed of the 35th and 80th Infantry Divisions, 4th and 6th Armored Divisions acquired the 26th Infantry Division which began movement into the Corps zone on 5 October. The Corps successfully made several limited objective attacks against heavy resistance in the first week of October, while repulsing several strong counterattacks. Then, on 7 October an attack to the northeast was made by the 35th and 80th Infantry Divisions and the 6th Armored Division. FOOSIEUX, MOIVRONS and ARRAYE-ET-HAN were captured in this attack Which enlarged the northern portion of the Corps bridgehead over the MOOEUE River. There were no further changes in the disposition of the Corps until 21 October when the 26th Infantry Division launched an attack in the BEZANGE-LA-GRANDE - COINCOURT area and, against heavy resistance, gained two miles. On 1 November a limited objective attack by the, 80th Infantry Division captured BAUCOURT and LETRICOURT.
For the remainder of the period XII Corps did not make any other attempt to advance, but patrolled aggressively and prepared for resuming the offensive.
XX Corps was somewhat more active during the same period. Its 83d Infantry Division struck to the northeast from the neighborhood of ESCH on 25 September and occupied positions in the vicinity of GREVENMACHER,, northeast of LUXEMBOURG, maintaining contact with VIII Corps (Ninth US Army). Elsewhere, the XX Corps was sending out patrols. On 2 October the 5th Infantry Division launched an attack, preceded by a heavy air attack, on FORT DRIANT, before METZ, while the 90th Infantry Division was holding the high ground west of MAIZIERES-LES-METZ, and 'Was preparing for an attack against that town. FORT DRIANT was entered by elements of the 5th Infantry Division on 3 October, but little penetration was made through the maze of corridors in that strong fortification.
On 5 October Task Force DRIANT, consisting of one regiment of infantry, one company of engineers and one company of tanks was organized by XX Corps to continue the attack against FOOT DRIANT. This Task Force gained control of the northwest and southwest corners of the fort, but could not enlarge upon these positions. On 9 October the composition of the task force was changed, and it assumed the name "Task Force WARNOCK". Then, on 12 the XX Corps was directed to withdraw forces from FORT DRIANT, as the attack within the fort was proving too costly for results obtained.
During this same period the 83d Infantry Division, fighting on the north flank 'of the Corps zone, was moving from its positions near GREVENMACHER in a northerly direction to take the border-town of ECHTERNACH, and also made a drive to take GREVENMACHER. On 6 October WORMELDANGE was occupied, and on 7 October other elements of the Division cleared the enemy from ECHTERNACH and GREVENMACHER, and continued to hold these positions along. the German border until 10 October when it was relieved from assignment to Third US Army.
The 90th Infantry Division was in the vicinity west of MAIZIERES-LES-METZ (due north of METZ) as the month began. The Division sent out aggressive patrols to the east, and prepared for a frontal attack on the town. This attack got under way oan 6 October with elements of the Division reaching the outskirts of the town. Elements of the Division inside MAIZIERES-LES-METZ fought vigorously against an enemy determined to hold the town. The Division did not utilize all of its strength in this attack, having a good part of its forces fighting to the south near METZ. By 15 october MAlZIERES-IES-METZ was still holding out but elements of the 90th Infantry Division had occupied a good part of the town, and were fighting fiercely to complete the occupation.
The 95th Infantry Division was assigned to Third US Army effective 10 October by Twelfth US Army Group, with elements of the Division arriving in XX Corps zone on 11 October, at which time they assembled in an area near NORROY-IE-SEC. The Division completed closing into its assembly area on 14 October, and began relieving elements of the 5th Infantry Division in the vicinity of METZ.
Another unit which was active under XX Corps during the first half of October was Task Force POLK, composed of the 3d Cavalry Group and l35th Engineer Combat Battalion. It relieved some elements of the 90th Infantry Division on 5 October, and continued the fight in the vicinity of MAIZIERES-LES-METZ during the entire period. When the 8Jd Infantry Division went to control of Ninth US Army on 10 October, Task Force POLK (3d Cavalry Group reinforced) assumed protection of the Corps north flank.
XX Corps had elements of the 90th Infantry Division fighting in MAIZIERES-IES-METZ as the second half of October began, while the 95th Infantry division was preparing to relieve the 5th Infantry Division in the vicinity of METZ. As elements of the 5th Infantry Division were relieved, they went to an assembly area in vicinity of AUDUN, west of METZ, completing movement to this area on 23 October. The following day advance elements of the 10th Armored Division began movement into another concentration area, closing in the Corps area on 30 October, preparing at the same time to be employed in action around METZ.
In the north part of Corps zone the 90th Infantry Division had one battalion fighting inside MAIZIERES-LES-METZ, while other units were guarding approaches to the city, and acting as north flank guard. One battalion inside the city fought bitterly until 28 October when the Division opened a major attack on MAIZIERES-LES-METZ. The city capitulated two days later, and at the end of the month the Division was consolidating its positions.
There was no other heavy activity in the XX Corps zone prior to the launching of the coordinated attack on 8 November.
III Corps did not became operational during the period. It was assigned to Third US Army on 10 October, but remained in the vicinity of CARTERET on the COTENTIN Peninsula throughout nearly all of October. Advance units were moving to ETAIN, France at the end of the month, and by 8 November the Corps Headquarters was established in that town, preparing for future operations.
XIX Tactical Air Command functioned during this entire operation with about half the strength it had in August and early September. It utilized NAPAIM in several heavy attacks against the forts surrounding METZ, searched for railway guns which were employed· by the enemy, and bombed troop concentrations and installations across the Army front. Some of the more impressive, results achieved during the period were; 3022 railroad cars damaged or destroyed, 579 locomotives damaged or destroyed, and 561 railroad lines cut. A total of 7141 sorties were flown and 2565 bomb tons were dropped.
The Forces Francaises de l'Interieur were not active during this period in their role of support for Third US Army. This entire organization was formally disbanded on 1 November in PARIS.
Three important orders were issued during the period 25 September - 9 November. The first was issued by Twelfth US Army Group on 2l October, providing for regroupment and preparedness for attack by First, Third and Ninth US Armies. It gave Third US Army the mission of advancing to the RHINE River in the MAINZ - WORMS area, and assigned a target date of 10 November for the attack.
Another, issued by the Army Commander on 3 November provided that Third US Army would envelop the METZ defensive works from north and south, destroy enemy forces attempting to 'withdraw from that area, and then advance to seize the MAINZ - DARMSTADT - FRANKFURT area. It ordered XX Corps to take METZ and then strike northeast, and ordered XII Corps to advance northeast in zone to the RHINE River, and provided that III Corps should prepare to assume operations.
Twelfth US Army Group issued an order on 4 November which provided target dates for the First, Third and Ninth US Armies in the new offensive. The date for Third US Army was 5 November, but this was later verbally changed to 8 November.
By 8 November the XII and XX Corps were prepared to renew major offensive operations from positions which had been improved during the past month and one half. Supplies had been brought up, units refitted and men rested.
Due to the Army policy of assuming an aggressive defensive during this operation, losses were light. While the Army lost 1279 tilled, 6116 wounded and 922 missing, the prisoner of war total amounted to 8,491 and losses of the enemy included an estimated 12,150 killed and 30,100 wounded. Only 125 square miles of territory were taken, practically all of the captured territory being on the Army north flank in LUXEMBOURG.
THE CAPTURE OF METZ AND THE SAAR CAMPAIGN
8 NOVEMBER TO 18 DECEMBER 1944
On 25 September Third US Army, slowed down by the lack of gasoline and other" critical materials, was ordered to adapt itself to an aggressive defense and at the same time abandoning its large scale attacks to the east. This policy was continued all through October, allowing other Allied Armies. to drive up to positions as far forward as those of Third US Army. In early November, the Allied Armies in the west were roughly in a straight north-south line, poised for all-out attack through the SIEGFRIED Line.
A directive issued 3 November for the resumption of the offensive provided that XII Corps, upon a target date yet unannounced, would adVance from the vicinity of PONT-A-MOUSSON to seize rail and road facilities at FALQUEMONT, that it would aid XX Corps in trapping enemy forces withdrawing from METZ, and would continue the advance rapidly to establish a bridgehead east of the RHINE River within zone to seize the MAINZ - FRANKFURT area.
At 0600 9 November, the 26th, 35th, and 80th Infantry Divisions of XII Corps simultaneously launched major attacks to the east. They were arranged for the attack with the 26th Infantry Division on the South, the 35th Infantry Division in the center, and the 80th Infantry Division on the north. The 4th and 6th Armored Division joined in the attack later in the day, furnishing combat commands to work jointly with the various infantry divisions. All throughout the Corps 50 mile front, the advance rolled gradually forward. Resistance was strong, and extremely heavy enemy artillery fire was laid down, while countless pillboxes, mine fields and tank traps were encountered.
CHATEAU SALINS, 25 miles northeast of NANCY was captured by the 26th Infantry Division on 10 November, and MORHANGE, 15 miles farther northeast was taken by the 35th Infantry Division on 15 November. During this advance the front lines were kept relatively straight. Enemy counterattacks were frequent, and although all were made in force, were successfully beaten off.
On 16 November XII Corps stopped for regrouping, at which time the 26th Infantry Division was poised for a final attack on the city of DIEUZE, and the 35th Infantry Division was in the vicinity of HARPRICK. The Corps front lines extended generally in a line running from DIEUZE to the northeast. All of the units of XII Corps resumed their coordinated attack during the morning of 18 November, with the 26th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division concentrating their efforts on the important town of DIEUZE. Meanwhile the 35th Infantry Division and the 6th Armored Division advanced slowly north of DIEUZE. BERTRING and BERHERING were captured on 18 November. DIEUZE fell on 20 November, and as the 80th Infantry Division and the 6th Armored Division made gains in the central part of Corps zone capturing LELING and FALQUEMONT (one of its major objectives) the attack began to speed up.
During the period 21 November to 25 November the attack to the east continued steadily, With many small towns taken. On the latter date the 4th Armored Division reached the SAAR River, the last major obstacle before the SIEGFRIED Line. At the same time, substantial gains were being made through the MAGINOT Line by the 80th Infantry Division. ST AVOLD was entered on 26 November by the 80th Infantry Division, with the other divisions of the XII Corps Maintaining thier northwest to southeast front at this stage of operations..
The 4th Armored Division and the 26th Infantry Division made appreciable advances along the south flank on 26 and 27 November. After taking BERG and THAL the two divisions prepared to attack SAAR-UNION. Farther north the 35th and 80th Infantry Divisions and the 6th Armored Division regrouped their forces, preparing to resume the attack. As the month ended all the divisions of the Corps were resting, preparing for an attack on the key cities of SARREGUEMlNES and SAARBRUCKEN, and- against the SIGFRIED Line.
At the beginning of December the 4th Armored Division and the 26th Infantry Division were in the vicinity of SAAR-UNION, clearing the town by 4 December. These two divisions then continued their joint advance in a zone south of SARREGUEMINES. By 9 December the 26th Infantry Division was southeast of SARREGUEMINES, while the 4th Armored Division was pulled out of the line for refitting. On 11 November the 26th Infantry Division was replaced in zone by the 87th Infantry Division (transfrred from III Corps), after which it proceeded to METZ to regroup, train and conduct an infantry reinforcement school. The 87th Infantry Division, after relieving the 26th Infantry Division, continued fighting on the Corps south flank in the vicinity of OBERGAILBACH east of SARREGUEMTIJES, and reached the German border on 14 December, 8 1/2 miles east of that locality. The 4th Armored Division, having completed its regrouping, renewed its attack on the Corps south flank on 17 December. By 18 December, when the 4th Armored Division started moving to the LUXEMBOURG area in the major Army switch to the north, the 87th Infantry Division was 3 miles inside the German border battling toward SAARBRUCKEN.
Early in December the 35th Infantry Division and the 6th Armored Division were continuing their drive in the center of Corps zone. Heavy opposition was encountered as the two divisions battled toward SARREGUEMINES, encountering many fortified houses, minefields and tank traps in their paths of advance. Four crossings of the SAAR River were made by the 35th Infantry Division on 8 December both above and below SARREGUEMINES, before entering that town on 10 December. The city was cleared two days later. The 6th Arnored Division began regrouping on 10 December, remaining in reserve until 14 December at which time it was transferred to control of the III Corps. From 12 December to 18 December the 35th Infantry Division continued· its advance northeast of SARREGUEMINES.
The 80th Infantry Division, on XII Corps' north flank, was pinched out after the 6th Armored Division contacted elements of XX Corps on 2 December. From 4 to 6 December it renewed its attack, going into reserve on the latter date. The 80th Infantry Division, continued training and rehabilitation during the remainder of the period. On 18 December it received orders to proceed to III Corps zone in the shift of Third US Army to the north.
The directive or 3 November assigned XX Corps the mission o! reducing the t~ defensive works, crossing the MOSELlE River in the vicinity o! KOENIGSMACHER and seizing the rail, and road: facilities at BOULAY, and assuming command of the 83d Infantry Division for use in crossings of the ROER River. Finally, it charged the Corps with continuing the advance to establish a bridgehead east of the ROER River within zone and seizing the MAINZ - FRANKFORT area.
At 090600 November, the 5th Infantry Division launched a major attack to the east, with the other divisions of the XX; Corps opening coordinated attacks later in the morning. On the north flank, simultaneous with the start of the attack, the Corps assumed operational control of the 83d Infantry Division from First US Army, but the Division only remained under Corps control for three days. During that time it remained on the Corps north flank, sending out patrols.
At this time XX Corps was deployed with the 90th Infantry Division on the north, the 95th in the center, and the 5th Infantry Division on the south flank. The 10th Armored Division was in Corps reserve, preparing to move up to join the offensive in the zone of the 90th Infantry Division.
At a time when the rivers were swollen by autumnal rains, the 90th Infantry Division secured bridgeheads over the MOSELLE River north and south of THIONVILIE beginning a drive to the northeast. The advance, like that of XII Corps was not rapid, but was steady. The important rail and road center of KOENIGSMACKER was taken by the 90th Infantry Division on 10 November, while outside of the town FORT KOENIGSMACKER, one of the more important outer fortifications of the bIETZ scheme, was captured on 11 November.
In the southern part of the Corps zone the 5th Infantry Division by 12 November was pushing eastward south of METZ, The 95th Infantry Division was driving south toward METZ on the west bank of the MOSELE River and on the east bank from a bridgehead over the River near UCKANGE. It was the plan to have these two Divisions make contact east of METZ, thus. cut-ting off the escape outlets from that important frontier bastion. Meanwhile to the north the 90th Infantry Division continued its attack to the northeast augmented by armored elements of the 10th Armored Division which were then crossing the MOSELIE River.
While the jaws of the pincers around METZ were gradually closing" the 5th Infantry Division by 15 November had reduced and captured several of the forts both south and west of METZ am the 95th Infantry Division was slowly destroying other forts north of the city. On 18 November, these forces made contact east of the city.
In the north of the Corps zone the 10th Armored Division continued crossing the MOOEUE River near THIONVILIE and MALLING. It pushed rapidly across the River in the 90th Infantry Division bridgehead and struck swiftly to the east, passing through the infantry. The gains of the loth Armored Division during this period were perhaps the most rapid of the entire Third US Army attack during November. Many small towns were taken in this advance which carried through. to the German frontier at the extreme north Corps boundary.
On 20 November the 5th and 95th Infantry Divisions entered METZ in their converging attack. The forts north and south of the city were continually under heavy siege while resistance inside the city was gradually reduced. All resistance in METZ ended at 2214.35. As soon thereafter as the 95th Infantry Division could be spared in the vicinity of METZ, it started movement to join the 90th Infantry Division and the 10th Armored Division. During the morning of 25 November, The 90th and 95th Infantry Divisions launched heavy attacks with the 90th Infantry Division fighting across the German border, the 95th Infantry Division fighting toward the border along the NIED River. The farthest penetration inside Germany was made at this time by the loth Armored Division, which captured TETTINGEN and BETHING on 25 - 26 November.
During the remainder of the month, the 5th Infantry Division continued to reduce those strong METZ forts which were still holding out, however, elements moved on 29 November to assume positions on the Corps south flank.
On 28 November the 95th Infantry Division launched a powerful attack across the German border west of SAARIAUTERN, which led to the capture of RAMMELFANGEN, KERPRICH-HEMMERSDORF, OIISINGEN and DUREN. After this, preparations were made by the Division to make a strong attack against SAARLAUTERN. The 90th Infantry Division, after reaching the SAAR River inside Germany, cleared the enemy west of the River in zone, and prepared to make crossings of' the SAAR. The 10th Armored Division made slight gains against ever-increasing resistance, consolidated its gains and, upon being relieved by Task Force POLK on 28 November, the Division moved into a concentration area. At the end of the month Task Force POLK was patrolling along the Corps north flank.
As December began XX Corps was disposed with the 5th Infantry Division (-) on the south flank, in contact with the 80th Infantry Division (XX Corps) the 95th Infantry Division, and the 90th Infantry Division disposed along the Corps front, and the loth Armored Division on the Corps north flank. Driving southwest, the 95th Infantry Division penetrated the defenses of SAARLAUTERN on 2 December, at which time Task Force FICKETT (6th Cavalry Group reinforced) assumed protection of the Corps south flank. The 5th and 90th Infantry Divisions and the 10th Armored Division had elements within Germany by 4 December. Heavy fighting continued inside SAARIAUTERN where the 95th Infantry Division systematically drove the enemy before it in concerted door-to-door fighting. On 5 December the 90th Infantry Division drove across the SAAR River at 4 places north of SAARIAUTERN, and set up a bridgehead at DILLlNGEN. Another bridgehead was established at ENS DORF , 1 mile south of SAARLAUTERN on 7 December by elements of the 95th Infantry Division.
Far to the rear at METZ, the forts which were holding out at Hie beginning of the month, were being reduced by elements of the 5th Infantry Division. FORT ST QUENTIN was taken on 6 December, FORT FLAPPEVILLE on 7 December, and FORT DRlANT on 8 December. Following the fall of FORT DRIANT on 8 December, at which time only FORT JEANNE D'ARC was still resisting, the 87th Infantry Division (III Corps) relieved the remaining elements of the 5th Infantry Division at METZ.
No pronounced gains were made in XX Corps zone during the remainder of the period. The 95th Infantry Division cleared practically all of SAARIAUTERN, and was fighting inside the suburbs of FRAULAUTERN and SAARIAUTERN-ROIJEN on, I8 December when Third US Army began to shift its units to the north. to combat the heavy enemy ARDENNES counteroffensive. The 90th Infantry Division made local gains in its bridgehead, clearing the town of DIILLINCEN. Elsewhere there was no pronounced activity, other than regular patrolling and rotation of front line units.
III Corps did not take part in any operation during November. It was preparing to move from ETAIN to METZ at the end of the month. On 4 December, however, the Corps was ordered by Army to relieve XX Corps of responsibility in the METZ area. The 87th Infantry Division (the only division under Corps control at this time) began moving to METZ. At the same time the Corps headquarters moved on 6 December from ETAIN to METZ. Then, on 8 December, following the fall of FORT DRIANT, the 87th Infantry Division relieved the remaining elements of the 5th Infantry Division (XX Corps). III Corps at this time became operational.
On 9 December the 26th Infantry Division (XII Corps) began relief of the 87th Infantry Division which moved to XII Corps zone upon relief. Orders were issued on II December which provided that III Corps would assume command of the 6th Armored Division, temporary control of the 6th Cavalry Group and take command of the 42d Infantry Division (this division, although assigned to Third US Army was diverted immediately to Seventh US Army).
On 13 December, FORT JEANNE D'ARC near METZ capitulated to the 26th Infantry Division, and on the same date the 26th Infantry Division completed its relief of the 87th Infantry Division. Then, the III Corps assumed positions on the Army front between XII and XX Corps.
For the last few days of the period the III Corps was deployed with the 6th Cavalry Group on the south flank patrol, the 26th Infantry Division in the center and the 6th Armored Division on the north flank. No pronounced gains were made, all units patrolling aggressively. III Corps was ordered to institute movement to the vicinity of ARION in LUXEMBOORG on 17 December to help stop the enemy breakthrough.
From 9 through 16 November, 707 sorties were flown by XIX Tactical Air Command 132 tons of bombs were drop~d. Bad weather prohibited flying completely on 3 days of the period, and weather conditions were not good at any time Fighters of the Command escorted medium and heavy bombers on several important missions, used napalm with effective results on fox-holes and trenches, and made fighter sweeps behind the enemy lines. Among claims registered were the following: 185 motor vehicles, 80 tanks and armored cars and 73 gun installations damaged or destroyed. XIX Tactical Air Command lost 7 planes during the period.
During the period 17 November to 26 November the XIX Tactical Air Command was able to fly 6 days, and during those days its most impressive claims for the month were made. In escorting medium and heavy bombers over Germany, and in performing fighter sweeps over the enemy lines it flew a total of l7lS sorties. 1389 motor vehicles were damaged or destroyed, 60 railroad lines were cut, 254 locomotives were destroyed or damaged, and 69 tanks and armored cars were destroyed or damaged. w.ring the period XIX Tactical Air Command suffered the loss of 35 planes.
Air activity was negligible during the last four days of the month due to extremely poor weather conditions for flying.
Poor flying weather continued to limit operations of XIX Tactical Air command during the first 17 days of December. In special attacks aimed at rail transportation the fightcr-bombers destroyed or damaged 1,737 railroad cars 2nd 160 locomotives. On 17 December, as the enemy breakthrough in the north took place, enemy planes were encountered in greater numbers than at any time since August, and there were numerous dog-fights with claims of 17 enemy planes confirmed and 3 probables being registered, while the XIX Tactical air Command lost 9 planes. At this tine, in anticipation of greater need of the Army for increased air support the strength of the command was increased from 5 to 9 fighter-bomber groups.
During the entire operation from 8 November through 18 December, Third US Army suffered the following losses: 4,248 killed, 20,303 wounded and 3,334 missing. These losses can be considered light in as much as the entire effort was made against a well equipped enemy who waited behind specially prepared fortifications' that many regarded by many as impenetrable. 36,489 prisoners of war were taken by Third US Army during this period, and losses inflicted on the enemy were estimated to be 20,900 killed and 61,600 wounded. In the operation 1,820 square miles of territory was captured, practically all of it being fortified terrain before the SIEGFRIED line.
Along the VIII Corps front, and on the majority of the V Corps front, in the First US Army zone, a heavy enemy counterattack, which had been developing for several days, reached an acute stage on I8 December. The attack, made by a strong force of enemy units, initially consisting of approximately 15 divisions, was Generated by the Sixth Panzer Army, under the guidance of General Von Runstedt, commander of all enemy forces on the Western Front. At this time Third US Army turned its axis from the east to the north and began its BASTOGNE - ST VITH Campaign".
PREPARED BY G-3 HISTORICAL SUB-SECTION