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Octobre 1944 - Attaque sur Embermenil

COMBAT STUDIES INSTITUTE, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Mai 1984

On orders from the regimental commander, the 313th REGIMENT spent most of the 12 October patrolling east and northeast of LUNEVILLE to determine the strength and location of the withdrawing German forces. By the evening of the 12 October, it had been determined that the Germans had established strong defensive positions in EMBERMENIL and along the ridgeline to the east of EMBERMENIL. The division commander ordered preparations to begin to seize EMBERMENIL and the ridgeline with the attacks to commence on the 13th. (51)
From the German perspective, EMBERMENIL was critical to hold. A critical rail line extending from EMBERMENIL east to STRASBOURG and into Germany was the principal pipeline supporting German forces in the region. Additionally, the ridgeline east of EMBERMENIL presented the first defensible terrain east of the FORET DE PARROY. However, the overall condition German forces was poor due to weeks of constant fighting. Reinforcements had been scarce, consisting in large part of medical rejects, old men, and young boys originally destined to perform security roles along the German frontier. The prime fighting replacements were being sent to the north to participate in the upcoming ARDENNES offensive.
Despite these shortcomings the 5th PANZER ARMY was able to establish a formidable defensive network. German commanders had learned early in the battle of the overwhelming superiority of American artillery and airpower and adjusted their tactics accordingly. As indications mounted that the 79th DIVISION was preparing to launch a major offensive on 9 October, the main body of the German force withdrew from strongpoints within the forest, leaving security elements to oppose the Americans. The elements that withdrew began at once to develop a defensive belt east of the forest. By doing this the American artillery and air attacks struck mostly empty terrain within the forest and the stay behind security forces were able to slow the attack using economy of force tactics.
In the early morning hours of 13 October, the 79th DIVISION began final preparations for the attack against EMBERMENIL. The plan was for the 314th REGIMENT to attack to seize the high ground south of the town, with the 313th REGIMENT attacking to seize the town. The 315th REGIMENT was to remain in division reserve.
At approximately 1330 hours on the 13 October, the division began its attack. The 314th moved forward with two battalions abreast against initially light resistance. The 313th also attacked with two battalions abreast but encountered moderate to heavy resistance as they attempted to move through the town. Both regiments continued to encounter stubborn resistance throughout the afternoon, but by 1700 the 313th had secured the town. By 1800 the 314th had captured the high ground, but continued to battle small pockets of resistance in the vicinity of the railroad station just outside the town.(52)
Plans were made to continue the attack during the evening of the 13th. However, the weather had begun to deteriorate during the afternoon, and by nightfall heavy rains severely hampered any further progress. By early evening the division halted the attack and concentrated on consolidating the objective and preparing to continue the attack the next day.
At 0900 on 14 October the 313th REGIMENT, supported by the 3d BATTALION, 314th, attacked the high ground to the east of EMBERMENIL. The regiment immediately encountered heavy enemy resistance, drawing heavy fire from wired and dug in enemy positions along the entire front, and only small gains were made. The 2d BATTALION, 313th continued the attack in mid afternoon but quickly suffered two tanks destroyed from mines and anti-tank fire. Heavy mortar and artillery fire forced the battalion to withdraw.(53)
Following this second attack the division commander directed the division to go on the defensive for a few days to give the men time to get some much needed rest and to conduct equipment maintenance. The 313th and 314th REGIMENTS remained deployed on line, and the 315th continued in division reserve with its Ist BATTALION providing security for the division's left flank. All three regiments maintained aggressive patrolling to their front, and the division was supported by CORPS ARTILLERY for harassing fire.
During the 15 and 16 October, German forces launched several limited counterattacks. In each case the German attack was broken up by artillery fire.
On 17 October two German prisoners revealed German plans to conduct a major attack against EMBERMENIL, and the railroad station in particular. At 0320 the Germans launched a strong attack with infantry and tanks preceded by an artillery barrage. The American artillery failed to stop the Germans and the division positions were penetrated. The 314th REGIMENT launched a counterattack which restored the lines. A second German attack was launched at 0330 against the 313th REGIMENT, but artillery and mortar fire forced the Germans to withdraw before reaching the 313th positions.
By 17 October, elements of the newly formed 44th DIVISION had moved into positions around LUNEVILLE and preparations were made for the successive relief of the 79th DIVISION units. Operations Instruction No. 26 was issued which directed the attachment of the 44th to the 79th to free 79th units for upcoming attacks.(54) Additionally, the 44th DIVISION ARTILLERY was attached to the 79th for the attack which was to commence on the 20th.(55)
During the same period the Germans were also involved in the relief of units. ARMY GROUP G headquarters had directed the withdrawal of the 15th PANZERGRENADIER DIVISION to the north, and reassignment to the LVIII PANZER CORPS to protect the SAARBOURG avenue of approach.(56) To replace the 15th PANZERGRENADIER DIVIS!ON, ARMY GROUP G assigned the 553d VOLKSGRENADIER DIVISION, which had suffered heavy losses in fighting on 4 October near METZ.(57) To build up their combat power the 553d was assigned several fortress infantry units and flak batteries.(58) These troops had been destined to hold security positions along the German border, and were not considered suitable for front line fighting. However quality replacements were not available due to the priority on preparations for the Ardennes offensive.
The relief was completed without incident during 15-18 October. To completely fill the gap left by a mechanized division, the 553d INFANTRY had to extend their lines to the north and south, eventually extending their frontage for 35 kilometers.(59) The division was further hampered by a total lack of self propelled assault guns and limited anti-tank defenses. (60)
During 18 and 19 October the 79th continued to maintain its positions and prepared to conduct an attack on the 21st to finally dislodge the Germans from the ridgeline. To further support this attack the 144th and 71st INFANTRY REGIMENTS of the 44th DIVISION were attached to the 79th DIVISION with the mission of occupying the 79th positions.(61) The Germans maintained light pressure on the 79th by conducting harassing attacks. These attacks were all broken up by artillery fire.(62) Adverse weather continued to preclude the use of friendly air support. By the evening of the 19th the last regiment of the 44th had closed with the 79th and preparations were near completion for the attack on the 21st.
During the evening of 20 October the 315th REGIMENT moved on line with the other two regiments in preparation for the attack. The Germans made heavy use of artillery fire during the afternoon and evening, but with little result. The weather cleared sufficiently for the XIX TAC to provide air interdiction sorties against AMENCOURT. Bomb Damage Assessment indicated troops, vehicles, and supplies were hit.(63)
At 0636 hours on 21 October, the 79th launched its attack with three regiments abreast.(64) The division initially encountered moderate resistance consisting of small arms and heavy mortar fire, but by 0900 the 313th and 314th had reached their objectives.(65) The 315th was held up by determined resistance along the ridgeline, but achieved its objective at 1400 hours after committing its reserve battalion.(66) Adverse weather again prevented friendly air support.
On 22 October the 79th consolidated its positions and prepared for relief by the 44th DIVISION. German forces launched several counterattacks during the early morning hours but failed to achieve a penetration.(67)
During the 23d the division continued to improve its positions along the ridge and to fend off small enemy counterattacks. The Germans launched one large attack against the 315th REGIMENT. The attack was made by 100 infantry supported by four Mark IV tanks.(68) By 1500 this attack had been repulsed after stubborn fighting and heavy friendly artillery support. Once again bad weather precluded friendly air support. During the evening of the 23d the relief in place of the 79th DIVISION by the 44th DIVISION commenced.
The relief in place continued smoothly on the 24th until 0615 when the Germans commenced a strong artillery barrage, and tanks and infantry were observed preparing to attack.(69) US artillery fire stalled the German attack until 0815 when the Germans launched a strong attack against the 315th REGIMENT.(70) By 0845 two companies of the 315th had been driven from their positions, but a counterattack supported by tanks regained the ground.(71) Following these attacks the relief continued and at 1200 hours Major General R.L. SPRAGINS, CG 44th DIVISION, formally assumed responsibility for the sector.
The 79th DIVISION had completed three weeks of hard fighting against four German divisions in bad terrain and under abominable weather conditions. It had inflicted an indisputable defeat on the Germans. Many factors were responsible for the victory. The commanders displayed aggressive and competent leadership and the men displayed determination and tactical skills. The Americans showed tactical flexibility and good use of combined arms teams.
Commanders made excellent use of reserves to influence the action, and were able to maintain excellent control of their units despite the terrain. But in the end the decisive factor was the overwhelming American artillery and the ability to mass fires.

51. History of the 313th Regiment, p. 125.
52. 314th Regiment, p. 44.
53. History of the 313th Regiment, p. 126.
54. 79th Division, "AAR," p. 8.
55. Ibid.
56. 79th Division, "G2 Bulletins", 20 OCT 44.
57. Ibid.
58. Ibid.
59. Ibid.
60. Ibid.
61. 79th Division, 'AAR,' M p. 9.
62. Ibid.
63. Ibid.
64. 79th Division, "AAR," p. 10.
65. Ibid.
66. Ibid.
67. Ibid.
68. Ibid.
69. Ibid.
70. Ibid.




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