S E C R E T
THE CAMPAIGN OF FRANCE, AVARANCHES, BREST TO THE MOSELLE 1 AUGUST TO 24 SEPTEMBER
In the early morning hours of 6 June 1944 the long awaited invasion of Western Europe began with airborne landings being made in Normandy followed closely by seashore landings. Operation COBRA designed to effect a breakthrough near ST LO went into effect on 25 July at which time First US Army had captured the entire upper part of the COTENTIN Peninsula.
By 1 August 1944 the attack that had been started on 25 July by First US Army had developed into a major breakthrough, and elements of VIII Corps had smashed out of the COTENTIN Peninsula and were racing through AVRANCHES headed for the important BRITTANY town of RENNES. Meanwhile elements of the VII Corps (First US Army) were also cutting south in a zone east of AVRANCHES.
During this breakthrough other elements of First US Army and British units were pinning down a large part of the enemy forces to the east where an advance was also continuing, but on a much lesser scale.
Twelfth Army Group ordered Third US Army, commanded by Lieutenant General G. S. Patton, Jr., to become operational at 1200 1 August, and to assume command of VIII Corps which was far to the south of Army Headquarters. Accordingly, Third US Army moved south from its bivouac area at NEHOU, France, and became operational at BINGARD, France at noon on 1 August. XIX Tactical Air Command, which became operational at the same time, was destined to cooperate closely with Third US Army, and to share with it the credit for the successful operations during the campaign of France.
In addition to VIII Corps, Third US Army had assigned to it the XII, XV and XX Corps. Of these, the XII Corps was largely occupied with staging Third US Army units from England to the Continent, receiving them on the Continent, and moving them to the Army rear boundary. XV and XX Corps were in bivouac in the northern part of the COTENTIN Peninsula, assembling troops and preparing to become operational.
The initial mission of Third US Army was to drive south and southwest from AVRANCHES to take the RENNES – FOUGERES area, and then to swing west to capture the BRITTANY Peninsula, and open the BRITTANY ports. VIII Corps was delegated the mission of occupying FOUGERES and taking RENNES and then swinging west in the BRITTANY Peninsula, while XV Corps was ordered to assemble in the area round ST HILAIRE DU HARCOUET – FOUGERES. XX Corps was not fully operational, but was ordered to concentrate near VITRE, and to assume the protection of Army south flank.
While XV Corps was concentrating its major elements in the vicinity of FOUGERES, RENNES was taken on 4 August by VIII Corps. At this time the terrific drive of Third US Army, which was to sweep across the entire breadth of France, was in full swing.
The VIII Corps, composed of Task Force “A”, 4th and 6th Armored Divisions, 8th and 83d Infantry Divisions swept west toward BREST on three main routes. Task Force “A” (composed of Mechanized Calvary, Tank Destroyer and Engineer units) preceded the 83d Infantry Division on the northern Route, 6th Armored Division advanced on the central route, and 4th Armored Division took the southern route through REDON and VANNES toward L0RIENT. The 8th Infantry Division remained in the vicinity of RENNES until 13 August at which time it moved to Dinan.
By 7 August Task Force “A” had reached a vicinity east of MORLAIX in the northwest part of the Peninsula. 6th Armored Division was in the immediate vicinity of BREST, and the 4th Armored Division was surrounding LORIENT. The 83d Infantry Division was deployed around ST MALO and DINARD.
In one week of operations VIII Corps had cleared the greater part of the BRITTANY Peninsula, and that portion of the enemy who were in scattered pockets of in the rear of leading elements were being mopped up. Various strongpoints, however, which were heavily fortified, were strongly resisting. These include ST MALO, BREST, LORIENT and ST NAZAIRE.
In this rapid advance full utilization was made of Forces Francaises de l’Interieur, which had passed to the control of the Army Commander on 1 August with an approximate force of 60,000 armed combatants. During the first week of the BRITTANY operations they protected railroads and bridges, provided guides for leading elements of Third US Army both in the BRITTANY Peninsula, and in the drive to the east, engaged in guerilla activity on a large scale, mopping up small pockets of the enemy which had been by-passed in numerous locations by the armored spearheads.
On 4 August 1944, XV Corps was ordered to: “Seize and hold a bridgehead east of MAYENNE until relieved by First US Army: seize a bridgehead at LAVAL and secure the LA MAYENNE River as far south as CHATEAU CONTIER: seize LE MANS: prepare for further offensive action to the north, east or northeast”.
To accomplish this order, XV Corps (79th Infantry Division, 90th Infantry Division and 5th Armored Division) sent the 90th Infantry Division to MAYENNE on its northern flank, and the 79th Infantry Division toward LAVAL in the center, while the 5th Armored Division headed for CHATEAU CONTIER on the southern flank. MAYENNE fell late on 5 August while LAVAL and CHATEAU CONTIER fell on 7 August. By one day later the the 79th Infantry Division had advanced miles eastward and had occupied LE MANS. The 5th Armored Division and the 90th Infantry Division quickly moved into the vicinity of LE MANS, accomplishing all the provisions of the operational order by 8 August 1944.
The XX Corps was moved from its bivouac area in NORMANDY as quickly as possible after 1 August, to concentrate in an area near VITRE. It was composed of the 5th Infantry Division, 35th Infantry Division and 2d French Armored Division. Its first order to advance to the east abreast of XV Corps was changed on 7 August, inasmuch as a strong threat of a hostile counterattack from the east of AVRANCHES, would have separated a portion of Third US Army from the remainder of allied forces, and would have cut off the main supply artery. To guard against this threat the 35th Infantry Division and 2d French Armored Division, together with the 80th Infantry Division which was transferred from XII Corps to control of XX Corps on 7 August, concentrated in the ST JAMES – ST HILAIRE DU HARCOUET area. The 5th Infantry Division was meanwhile ordered to guard the south flank of the Army as far east as CHATEAU CONTIER, beginning immediately to perform this mission.
The XX Corps and VII Corps (First US Army) successfully held the enemy from advancing from MORTAIN to the west on AVRANCHES, and helped to form the FALAISE pocket which later entrapped a large part of German forces in western France.
The XII Corps had no part in the operations of the first week of August. It had representatives staging units in England, other representatives receiving them at the beaches in NORMANDY and delivering them to Army rear boundary. The 80th Infantry Division was the only division assigned to the Corps on 1 August, and this division was turned over to XX Corps on 7 August.
In the operations from 1-7 August, the XIX Tactical Air Command, under Brigadier General O.P. Weyland, afforded column cover for assaulting spearheads, performed armed reconnaissance on the front and flanks of Third US Army, and patrolled over the danger area in the AVRANCHES corridor. Its strength of three fighter bomber groups at 1 August was increased to nine fighter bomber groups on 7 August.
In the short space of one week, Third US Army made a drive to the south of more than 80 miles, and made in addition twin drives to the east and west, progressing to BREST on the west and LE MANS on the east. These two cities lie more than 200 air-miles from each other. After the grueling hedge-row to hedge-row fighting in NORMANDY the battle of France had progressed to a lightning fast series of drives by major elements of Third US Army which liberated more than 10,000 square miles of territory in one week.
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During the second week of August 1944 the VIII Corps continued to reduce the BRITTANY Peninsula. In the northwest part of the Peninsula, Task Force “A” completed its action and joined the 6th Armed Division which was then containing BREST. The 83d Infantry Division which was occupied in the ST MALO-DINARD area, cleared ST MALO on 14 August except for one strongpoint, “The Citadel”, and took Dinard on 15 August.
Meanwhile, in the southern part of the Peninsula, the 4th Armored Division contained LORIENT and ST NAZAIRE, but made no strong attempt to take either of these strongpoints. Combat Command “B”, 4th Armored Division moved to NANTES, where it relieved an infantry battalion of the 5th Infantry Division (XX Corps). On 13 August NANTES was cleared of the enemy. This action completed, the 4th Armored Division reverted to XII Corps, and remaining elements of 4th Armored Division in the vicinity of VANNES and LORIENT were relieved on 14 August by elements of 6th Armored Division.
To the rear, the 8th Infantry Division remained at RENNES, and performed patrol duties to the south until 13 August at which time it moved to DINAN, approximately 10 miles south of ST MALO. Elements of the division moved on and captured CAP FREHAL on 15 August, west of the ST MALO-DINARD area.
By the middle of the month there were still small pockets of enemy resistance holding out in the northern part of the BRITTANY Peninsula. In addition, BREST, LORIENT, ST NAZAIRE and the CITADEL of ST MALO were holding out. Elsewhere in the Peninsula enemy activity had ceased.
On 8th August XV Corps was ordered to advance north along the axis LE MANS-ALENCON-SEES, to secure a line running from SEES to CARROUGES and be prepared for further advance. At that time the Corps had the 79th and the 90th Infantry Divisions in LE MANS along with the 5th Armored Division, while the 2d French Armored Division was approaching LE MANS. Upon arrival the 2d French Armored was sent north. Separate drives on the northern roads were made by the 5th Armored Division and 2d French Armored Division, followed closely by the 79th and 90th Infantry Divisions. On 12 August CARROUGES fell to the 2d French Armored Division, while the 5th Armored Division took SEES. These two armored divisions then immediately merged in a drive toward ARGENTAN. They reached the vicinity of ARGENTAN on 13 August, as the 90th Infantry Division took ALENCON and the 79th Infantry Division occupied LE MELE-SUR-SARTHE.
With these advances completed, the four divisions were deployed in an area which formed the southern pincers of the FALAISE gap, and from their positions the enemy that had been menacing AVRANCHES a week previously were shelled heavily as they attempted to escape from the pocket to the east. The XV Corps was aided in this southern pincers by VII Corps (First US Army) which had moved around on the Corps flank from the MORTAIN area. The British and Canadian forces together with First US Army forces were on the northern jaw of the pincers.
This gigantic movement entrapped a large part of the German Army in the west, and removed the threat to Allied supply lines as well as the immediate threat to advancing units elsewhere in northern France.
On 14 August orders were issued for the XV Corps to push east and secure a bridgehead at DREUX. The 79th Infantry Division and 5th Armored Division were used for this purpose, while the 90th Infantry Division and the 2d French Armored Division remained to hold their positions. DREUX fell to 5th Armored Division on 16 August, and the 79th Infantry Division established a bridgehead across the AUNAU River in the vicinity of DREUX.
At the start of the second week of August XX Corps was guarding the south flank of the army, and elements of the 5th Infantry Division were in the vicinity of ANGERS and NANTES. The 35th Infantry Division was occupied in the MORTAIN area where the enemy tried continually to break through and disrupt communications between NORMANDY and BRITTANY. ANGERS fell to the 5th Infantry Division on 10 August, and the Division swung immediately to the east toward CHATEAU-DU-LOIR and TOURS, continuing its protection of the south flank of the army.
XX Corps was directed on 13 August to advance with the 5th Infantry Division, 80th Infantry Division and 7th Armored Division on CHARTRES, and to turn over the protection of Army south flank to XII Corps. Meanwhile, the duties of the 80th Infantry Division in the MORTAIN area came to an end with the termination of the German threat in that vicinity.
Following a rapid advance the 7th Armored Division and elements of 5th Infantry Division entered the important city of CHARTRES on 15 August. Other elements of 5th Infantry Division captured ST CALAIS to the south at the same time. XII Corps continued its mission of staging units and receiving them on the continent for Army until 13 August, at which time it assumed the mission of patrolling and protecting the Army south flank. It had the 4th Armored Division and 35th Infantry Division under its control at this time. Its first operational mission was to advance east on ORLEANS, protecting the south flank along the way. Major elements started advancing and were near CHAEAUDUN by 15 August.
XIX Tactical Air Command continued its close cooperation with Third US Army. By the end of the first two week operations it had destroyed or damaged 339 tanks and armored cars, 112 locomotives and 1778 railroad cars. In addition, it had cut 83 railroad lines and 7 bridges that the Germans were then using for escape. It was functioning equally effectively against other targets. Its 14th Liaison Squadron was performing valuable liaison work for Third US Army, and was furnishing transportation for liaison officers of Army Headquarters, corps and of divisions.
The Forces Francaises de l’Interier cooperated closely with the Third US Army and continued to furnish guides for spearhead units, gave Third US Army valuable information of an intelligence nature, mopped up the enemy in by-passed locations, and furnished flank guards.
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As the second half of August started VIII Corps was ordered to continue the mission of reducing the BRITTANY Peninsula. On 17 August the CITADEL at ST MALO fell to the 83d Infantry Division which had been besieging it heavily for nearly two weeks.
On 19 August orders were issued for VIII Corps to take over the protection of the Army south flank in addition to reducing the BRITTANY Peninsula. At the same time it acquired the 2d Infantry Division from First US Army, so that it was composed of the 2d Infantry Division, 8th Infantry Division, 29th Infantry Division, 83rd Infantry Division and 6th Armored Division. Grouping for the attack on BREST occupied several days and it was not until 1300 25 August that the main attack against the city started. Approximately 30,000 enemy troops were strongly entrenched in the city, and the siege against BREST proved to be one of the most concentrated and heavy fighting of the entire month’s operations. All of the divisions under control of VIII Corps were thrown into the attack with exception of the 6th Armored Division and the 83d Infantry Division which were assigned the mission of protecting the Army south flank from ORLEANS west.
XV Corps was ordered on 16 August to move from its concentration area near DREUX at the earliest possible moment on 18 August to secure a position in the vicinity of MANTES-GASSICOURT from which it could interdict the SEINE River and the road east of the SEINE River. To accomplish this mission the 5th Armored Division and the 79th Infantry Division began movement to MANTES-GASSICOURT from DREUX on 18 August, and also performed reconnaissance north of the road SEES-MANTES-GASSICOURT. THE SEINE River was crossed on 19 August by one battalion of the 79th Infantry Division who were successful in establishing the initial bridgehead. The 5th Armored Division started movement to the north on the west bank of the river to prevent the enemy from crossing, and also with the purpose of forming another pocket for the retreating Germans. At 240600 August XV Corps, substantially north of Paris, was released to First US Army. In this third week of action XV Corps had advanced from DREUX to MANTES-GASSICOURT and north along the SEINE River, and was aiding materially in forming a possible second major Allied trap of the Germans in France.
XX Corps was ordered on 16 August to take over the bridgehead established by XV Corps at DREUX in addition to occupying CHARTRES. The 7th Armored Division was dispatched from the vicinity west of CHARTRES to relieve elements of XV Corps at DREUX, arriving at DREAUX early on 18 August. The major objective of CHARTRES was captured by the 5th Infantry Division on 16 August. Following this the Corps was charged with seizing bridgeheads across the SEINE River at MONTEREAU and MELUN. The attack toward the SEINE was launched on 20 August with elements of the 5th Infantry Division reaching the vicinity of ETAMPES and securing the city the following day. On 23 August the 5th Infantry Division captured FOUNTAINBLEAU in its drive toward MONTEREAU, while the 7th Armored Division took MELUN.
In the third week’s operation’s XX Corps operated front caused by the move of XV Corps to the north. Nevertheless, the Corps advanced rapidly, and after taking CHARTRES drove to the SEINE River on two major routes.
XII Corps units at this time were advancing on the Army south flank toward the large industrial city of ORLEANS. The Corps with the 35th Infantry Division and 4th Armored Division was ordered to seize and hold ORLEANS with a minimum force, maintaining the bulk of the command in the vicinity of CHATEAUDUN. ORLEANS and CHATEAUDUN were captured on 16 August. A major attack towards SENS was launched on 20 August after the city of ORLEANS had been made secure. The 35th Infantry Division which was in the northern sector of the Corps zone took PITHIVIERS on 21 August while the 4th Armored Division to the south sped quickly to SENS and captured the city.
After capturing PITHIVIERS the 35th Infantry Division cut south, and aided by a Combat Command of the 4th Armored Division attacked the heavily defended city of MONTARGIS. The attack on MONTARGIS was in progress on 23 August when the Corps was informed that its patrols on the south flank west of ORLEANS would be withdrawn when relieved by VIII Corps.
The attack of XII Corps in the third week of August yielded a very large area of captured territory from west of ORLEANS to SENS, a distance of more than 50 miles. It was operating on approximately a forty mile front during this period.
At the conclusion of three weeks operations, Third U S Army had advanced with two corps abreast to the YONNE River. It had turned XV Corps over to First US Army for participation in the second major Allied trap of German forces. In the BRITTANY Peninsula the VIII Corps was slowly entrapping the German forces at BREST, containing those at LORIENT and ST NAZAIRE, and elsewhere had secured the Peninsula.
By 20 August the 83d Infantry Division of VIII Corps was patrolling the south flank of Army within zone as far as TOURS on the LOIRE River, and by 27 August it extended its patrols east as far as ORLEANS. The main attack on BREST started 25 August, and at the end of the month the attack was in full swing, but the heavily fortified city was strongly resisting and progress was limited. The 83d Infantry Division which was protecting the Army south flank all the way inland to ORLEANS was being materially aided by the Forces Francaises de l’Interieur.
XV Corps was not active under Third US Army during the last week of August 1944. It had been released to First US Army on 24 August, and did not revert to control of Third US Army until 29 August. At that time XV Corps Headquarters moved southeast from its positions on the SEINE River, to NANGIS Corps was in a concentration area in the vicinity of NANGIS, prepared to again assume operations under Third US Army.
XX Corps, by 25 August had captured MONTEREAU and MELUN, two important cities on the SEINE River. The Corps was ordered on 25 August to secure NOGENT-SUR-SEINE, and to advance from there northeast to secure REIMS. Bridgeheads across the SEINE River in the vicinity of MISY-SUR-YONNE and east of MONTEREAU were quickly secured, and drives were instituted to the east and northeast. NOGENT-SUR-SEINE and the historically famous town of CHATEAU-THIERRY fell to 5th Infantry Division and 7th Armored Division respectively on 26 August. After taking NOGENT-SUR-SEINE turned north toward the champagne country of EPERNAY and REIMS. By 28 August 7th Armored Division had advanced to positions 10 miles northwest of REIMS, while other elements of the division were in the vicinity of EPERNAY and MONTMIRAIL. The 90th Infantry Division was following in the wake of 7th Armored Division, mopping up along the way. The 5th Infantry Division pushed northeast during the same period and took EPERNAY on 28 August. Then the 5th Infantry Division continued its advance to REIMS and captured that important city on 29 August.
With the securing of REIMS by the 5th Infantry Division, the 7th Armored Division was freed to continue its march to the east. On 30 August it launched an attack toward VERDUN which proceeded so rapidly that the Division captured and passed through VERDUN on 31 August. The 5th Infantry Division turned over patrolling duties in the vicinity of REIMS to the 90th Infantry Division which had followed the 7th Armored Division to that vicinity, and the 5th Infantry Division also struck east for VERDUN.
At the end of the month the 90th Infantry Division was in REIMS, 5th Infantry Division was at VERDUN, and some elements of the 7th Armored Division were establishing bridgeheads across the MEUSE River while other elements were as far east as EIX.
XX Corps, employing three divisions made one of the most spectacular advances of the whole campaign of FRANCE during the last week of August. It bridged the MARNE and MEUSE Rivers, two important natural obstacles in the approach to Germany, ran through practically the entire battle area of World War I, and captured the historically famous cities CHATEAU-THIERRY, RIEMS and VERDUN.
MONTARGIS, which had been attacked by 35th Infantry Division and one -7- S E C R E T S E C R E T Combat Command of the 4th Armored Division, yielded to XII Corps late on 23 August. Other elements of 4th Armored Division were driving relentlessly toward TROYES, capturing the city on 26 August.
As units could be spared around MONTARGIS they rapidly attacked to east, and by 27 August 4th Armored Division was en route to the important city of CHALONS-SUR-MARNE. The 35th Infantry Division meanwhile was protecting the Army south flank from ORLEANS to TROYES. The 80th Infantry Division came from its bivouac area west of SENS and joined the 4th Armored Division in its eastward drive. On 28 August the combat commands of 4th Armored Division advanced abreast with combat command “A” taking VITRY-LE-FRANCOIS. Simultaneously, CHALONS-SURS-MARNE fell to the rapidly advancing 80th Infantry Division.
The 4th Armored Division continued its rapid movements to the east and on 31 August reached and occupied the ground east of the MEUSE River in the vicinity of ST MIHIEL-COMMERCY, with its Combat Command “A”. Combat Command “B” advanced south of Combat Command “A”, and reached the vicinity of JOINVILLE-EN-VALLAGE. The 80th Infantry Division was in the vicinity of BAR-LE-DUC as the month ended, and the 35th Infantry Division had pushed forward its south flank patrols as far as BAR-SUR-SEINE.
XII Corps continued unabated in its headlong drive to the east. In the last week of August it progressed over 70 miles from MONTARGIS to the ST MIHIEL-COMMERCY area.
XIX Tactical Air Command functioned with marked success during the month of August in its roll of air support for Third US Army. It performed fighter sweeps in the assault areas directly in front of the advancing Army units, flew cover for those advancing units, bombed and strafed enemy concentrations, performed reconnaissance missions, and in general operated in very close conjunction with the Army. It was extremely active in the BREST Peninsula, and was instrumental in weakening the enemy strongpoints in the city of BREST with persistent bombings.
During the month of August a total of 1049 missions, 12,229 sorties were flown. 1,469.46 tons of bombs were dropped. The score against enemy air power was impressive with a total of 158 confirmed, 15 probable and 34 damaged enemy planes in the air – 76 confirmed, 6 probable, and 26 damaged on the ground. The XIX Tactical Air Command lost a total of 97 aircraft during the month. In addition to the above, 238 tactical reconnaissances and photo reconnaissance missions were flown.
Damaged to all types of enemy ground installations and vehicles was extensive. Some examples should be noted: 501 tanks and armored cars, 2,832 railroad cars, and 4,066 motor vehicles were damaged or destroyed.
The Forces Francaises de l’Interieur (FFI) in the Third US Army zone came under control of the Army Commander when the Army became operational and throughout the month operated in conjunction with various Army units. Members of the Army Special Forces Detachment No 11 acted as liaison agents and transmitted orders from the Army Commander to resistance forces, including 30,000 armed effectives in the BRITTANY Peninsula, and 30,000 more in the country east of BRITTANY to the German frontier.
On several occasions during the month of August, Army representatives met with leaders of the Forces Francaises de l’Interieur, and resistance operational problems were discussed. Through these meetings close liaison was achieved. On numerous occasion during the month the resistance forces were given assignments guarding roads, bridges and small towns which were by-passed by Army spearhead units. They aided materially in protecting the Army south flank and employed 25,000 armed combatants in this work. Their information in intelligence matters was frequently valuable and helped greatly in the Army’s rapid advances. Valuable information for Civil Affairs and for G-3 was likewise provided. So effective was the Forces Francaises de l’Interieur in its operations that many commanders throughout the Army habitually called on Forces Francaises de l’Interieur leaders in their vicinity for support.
Third US Army became operational on 1 August 1944 at a time when First US Army was breaking out of the COTENTIN Peninsula. Taking advantage of the breakthrough Third US Army smashed southward to RENNES, broke sharply to the west into the BRITTANY Peninsula, and to the east. The impetus of the Army’s original attack was never lost, and in fact, gained speed as the month progressed.
Functioning with four corps, VIII, XII, XV, XX, Third US Army smashed inland, and passes PARIS on the south, and went nearly to the borders of Germany before the month ended. During this period the Army advanced conservatively from BREST to COMMERCY in an east-west direction, and from 50 to 100 air-miles north and south. Vast numbers of German armored cars, tanks, vehicles and guns of all sorts were knocked out. Meanwhile the following personnel losses were inflicted on the enemy: 71,000 prisoners, 60,000 estimated enemy wounded, 19,000 estimated enemy dead, as against Third US Army casualties of 2,492 killed, 11,705 wounded and 2,111 missing.
The XII and XX Corps continued on their march to the east as September began, but the supply situation, particularly gasoline was being issued in limited quantities. Some units were forced to stop completely, pending the arrival of fuel for their vehicles.
Two orders were issued during the period 1-25 September which anticipated the continued advance of Third US Army. The first of these was issued by the Army Commander, ordering Third US Army to advance with two corps abreast to ultimately secure crossings of the RHINE River from KOBIENZ to KARLSRUHE. It assigned XX Corps the mission of taking METZ, advancing east of the MOSELLE River in zone and securing crossings of the RHINE River, and called upon XII Corps to seize NANCY and advance east of the MOSELLE River in zone. The second order was received by Third US Army on 20 September from Twelfth US Army Group. It required the Army to continue its advance to the east, changing its direction of advance to secure crossings of the RHINE River in the vicinity of MANNHEIM and MAINZ, and to protect the south flank of Twelfth US Army Group from ORLEANS to the east. As will be shown, Nancy was taken by XII Corps during the continued advance, but the other provisions of these orders had not been fulfilled at the time the Third US Army offensive was halted.
The 35th Infantry Division, reaching the MOSELLE River, prepared to move on NANCY. It was stopped temporarily at the river by heavy enemy concentrations across the MOSELLE, but on 10 September the Division forced two battalions across at FLAVIGNY, south of NANCY. From this position elements of the Division swing north in a movement designed to encircle the city.
On 11 September, elements of the 4th Armored Division crossed the MOSELLE River in the vicinity of BAYON, 20 miles south of NANCY. The 35th Infantry Division was gradually surrounding NANCY, while the 80th Infantry Division was fighting its way across the River north of the city. The main attack on NANCY was launched by the 35th Infantry Division on 14 September, with positions south, southeast and southwest of the city secured. Meanwhile the 80th Infantry Division from the north was moving south to NANCY from the vicinity from PONT-A-MOUSSON. A task force, composed of regimental combat teams from both the 80th and 35th Infantry Divisions took the FORET DE HAYE, and the important city of Nancy on 15 September. By this time both Infantry Divisions had strong bridgeheads at numerous points across the MOSELLE, and the 4th Armored Division was entirely across the River in an area south and southeast of NANCY.
XII Corps, composed of the 35th and 80th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division, established bridgeheads across the MOSELLE River north and south of NANCY as the second half of September commenced. By 16 September the 80th Infantry Division was completely across the MOSELLE River, and the 35th Infantry Division was in the vicinity of DOMBASIE, southeast of NANCY, while the 4th Armored Division was due east of the vicinity at COURBESSEAUX with elements north of NANCY. Task force SEBREE, consisting of Combat Command “E”, 6th Armored Division, 134th Infantry Regimental Combat Team (35th Infantry Division) and one company of the 737th Tank Battalion (4th Armored Division) was organized to clean out the woods northeast of NANCY. It functioned successfully in this mission, though against heavy resistance, until 19 September when it was dissolved with its mission accomplished.
An attack to the east from NANCY was launched by the 35th Infantry Division on 18 September, with the town of SEICHAMPS 8 miles east of NANCY taken on 19 September. At this time the Corps had the 4th Armored Division on the south, 35th Infantry Division in the center, and the 80th Infantry Division on the north.
By 21 September the 80th Infantry Division had advanced slightly in the northern Corps zone and was fighting heavily in the MALLELOY-SIVRY-MOREY area. There were heavy counterattacks all along the thirty-mile Corps front, but all of these were repulsed while pockets of the enemy were cleaned out in the BOIS de FAULX, FORET DE ST JEAN FONTAINE and FORET DE CHAMPENOUX.
All along the Corps front the advance continued, but only on a small scale, as the enemy resistance was extremely heavy.
By 25 September XII Corps held practically a straight front running from FORET DE PARROY on the south through BEZANGE LA GRANDE, FORET DE GREMECEY, to PORT-SUR-SEILLE.
The XX Corps, consisting of the 5th and 90th Infantry Divisions and the 7th Armored Division, was on the Army north flank at the beginning of the month. The 7th Armored Division had a bridgehead over the MEUSE River at VERDUN, and the 5th Infantry Division was advancing to an area near CHEPPY, northwest of VERDUN. The 90th Infantry Division, which had been held near REIMS, advanced to an area northeast of VERDUN, while the 5th Infantry Division attacked to the east, and the 7th Armored Division sped past ETAIN toward METZ. By 6 September the 7th Armored Division had reached the vicinity of ROMBAS-ST PRIVAT-LA-MONTAGNE-DORNOT. After one successful attempt to establish a bridgehead across the MOSELLE River at DORNOT, the 5th Infantry Division reached and crossed the MOSELLE River on 10 September near CORNY, with elements of the 7th Armored Division following them across. The 90th Infantry Division moved forward to THIONVILLE, and the following day the 5th Infantry Division, augmented by a combat command of the 7th Armored Division, forced crossings in the vicinity of PONT-A-MOUSSON, south of METZ. Resistance was extremely heavy in that area, the 5th Infantry Division being hard pressed to hold its bridgeheads across the MOSELLE River south of METZ. The 90th Infantry Division accordingly sent some of its elements south to aid the 5th Infantry Division. At the middle of the month the Corps was deployed along the MOSELLE River on a front of about 40 miles. It had several crossings both north and south of the heavily fortified city of METZ, and was engaged in very heavy fighting all along its front.
XX Corps continued its attacks to secure bridgeheads across the MOSELLE River toward METZ. At the middle of the month the 5th Infantry Division attacked south and southwest of METZ, and captured MARIEULLES and the high ground in the vicinity of ARRY. Meanwhile the 90th Infantry Division continued its push forward and reached the vicinity north and northwest of METZ. Reserve Combat Command, 7th Armored Division was crossing the MOSELLE River in the vicinity of ARNAVILLE, and closed in an area in the vicinity of POMMERIEUX. Combat Command “B”, 7th Armored Division advanced south of VITTONVILLE, while Combat Command “A”, advanced to the vicinity of COIN-SUR-SEILLE.
At this time the XX Corps had the 90th Infantry Division on the north, 5th Infantry Division in the center, and 7th Armored Division on the south flank.
A coordinated attack was launched on 17 September by the XX Corps to capture METZ. The 90th Infantry Division attacked from the west, and the 5th Infantry Division from the south, while one combat command of the 7th Armored Division attacked to seize the high ground northeast of METZ. By 19 September THIONVILLE was being contained, and the 90th Infantry Division was in the vicinity of ROZERIEULLES, while the general advance was continuing slowly. COIN-SUR-SEILLE fell on 20 September to the 5th Infantry Division while enemy resistance increased elsewhere on the Corps front. The attack on METZ was not carried through because of an order on 25 September to hold present positions prior to the resumption of an offensive at some future date.
As September began the 83d Infantry Division in the VIII Corps zone launched an attack against ILE-DE-CEZEMBRE off the coast of ST MALO, while other elements of the division, aided by Combat Command “B” of the 6th Armored Division, continued to protect the Army south flank along the LOIRE River as far east as ORLEANS. Combat Command “A” (6th Armored Division) continued to contain LORIENT. ILE-DE-CEZEMBRE capitulated at 030930B September.
Other elements of the VIII Corps continued their attacks on BREST and the CROZON Peninsula in the early part of September, and were preparing for the finishing blows against that major port on 5 September when Twelfth US Army Group ordered that the Corps revert from Third US Army to Ninth US Army, still continuing however, with the mission of reducing the BRITTANY Peninsula, along with protecting the south flank of Twelfth US Army Group along the Loire River from its mouth to ORLEANS exclusive.
During the first nine days of September, Headquarters XV Corps assembled major elements to prepare for forthcoming operations. Two divisions were placed under its control, the 79th Infantry Division and the 2d French Armored Division.
On 10 September an attack was launched by XV Corps to secure the west bank of the MOSELLE River in the vicinity of CHARMES and EPINAL. The 79th Infantry Division advanced with its three regiments reaching GONDRECOURT, BETTONCOURT and NEUFCHATEAU. With the advance continuing during the next three days. BETTONCOURT, POUSSAY, AMBRECOURT and NEUFCHATEAU were captured by the 79th Infantry Division. THE 2D French Armored Division was employed to swing south of the 79th Infantry Division, and protect the Army south flank. On 10 September patrols of the division made contact with advance elements of the Seventh US Army at SOMBERNON, west of DIJON. The following day one combat command of the 2d French Armored Division reached CONTREXEVILLE while another combat command captured ST BLIN, west of NEUFCHATEAU.
On 12 September Combat Command “B”, 6th Armored Division(under Army control), was ordered to move to an assembly area east of TROYES to take over protection of the Army south flank from ORLEANS to TROYES. This released XV Corps from this mission, but delegated the Corps the responsibility of protecting the south flank eastward from TROYES. The 2d French Armored Division, while performing this flank guard struck southeast, cleared VITTEL, and advanced east to DOMPAIRE. DAMAS and DOMPAIRE capitulated to the Division on 13 September, while other elements of the Division reached EPINAL and MIRECOURT. On 14 September MATTAINCOURT, DARNEY and HOUECOURT were captured and solid contact with Seventh US Army was established at CHAUMONT
XV Corps was functioning on the Army south flank at the middle or the month, employing the 2d French Armored Division as south flank guard, and the 79th Infantry Division to advance eastward in the north sector of the Corps. Both divisions had drawn up to west bank of the MOSELLE River by 16 September.
The 79th Infantry Division drove across the River on 18 September near BAYON, while elements of the 2d French Armored Division crossed the river southeast of CHARMES. Continuing their march to the east the MARTAGNE River was bridged by elements: of both -divisions on 19 September. By 21 September, the 79th Infantry Division had elements east of LUNEVILLE, with the city secured, and other elements across the MEURTHE River. With the bridgeheads’ across the MEURTHE River now strengthened, the 79th Infantry Division then swung to the northeast. On the Army south flank the French 2d Armored Division was establishing bridgeheads across the MEURTHE River while continuing its flank patrolling. XV Corps passed to control of Seventh U S Army on 28 September following change in the Inter-Army boundary thereby shortening the front of Third U S Army.
During the first half of September the Forces Francaises de l’Interieur were very active. They accomplished objectives assigned them, and continued to justify the faith placed in them by numerous unit commanders in Third U S Army. They were particularly valuable in cleaning out resistance in the following areas: – HAUTE-MARNE, MEURTHE MOSELLE, NIEVRE and VOSGES. They destroyed an enemy gasoline dump of 200,000 gallons at CHARMES, harassed the enemy continually and disrupted withdrawal of the enemy in the YONNE, HAUT-MARNE and LOIRE ET CHR areas. In the ARDENNES area they took over 1000 prisoners, including two General officers.
During the period 1 – 25 September, XIX Tactical Air Commnand continued to actively support Third U S Army. It escorted bombers of the IX Bomber Command, made forays and raids on the enemy in the front of advancing ground units, made tactical reconnaissance and photo reconnaissance sorties, and moved its air fields closer to the front so that it was able to raid farther into the German hinterland.
There were heavier bombing missions during September than during August, with 1484 bomb-tons dropped as contrasted to 1469 during all of August. There were, howeverr, not as many strafing raids and attacks against enemy convoys. Some of the most impressive claims of the XIX Tactical Air Command list 395 gun installations damaged or destroyed, 236 tanks and armored vehicles damaged or destroyed, 133 railroad lines cut, and 1215 railroad cars damaged or destroyed.
On 25 September the Army Comnander,issued orders which provided that due to the acute supply situation, Third U S Army would assume an aggressive defense. Under this order extreme secrecy was required so that the enemy would not direct troops from the Third U S Army zone, and Army units were told to secure a suitable line of departure for a resumption of the offensive.
At this time the large scale Third U S Army offensive came to an end. With its close armor-infantry and air-ground cooperation, it had steam-rollered through France, and at the conclusion of its offensive was ready to assault the fortifications of METZ and the SIEGFRIED Line.
During this Campaign, Third U S Army captured 94,199 prisoners, an average of 1,713 per day. Losses of the Army included 4,455 killed, 22,157 wounded and 4,599 missing in action — but contrasted to losses of the enemy in personnel these losses were amazingly light
• Prepared by G-3 Historical sub-section REPRODUCED BY G-3 652ND ENGR (TOP.) BN (DET.)