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314ème régiment d'infanterie américaine - Récit détaillé

Le document «  Through Combat 314th Infantry Regiment » donne un récit très détaillé des opérations du 314ème régiment d'infanterie américaine dans le Blâmontois.

Mais hélas, parmi les nombreuses photographies qui l'illustrent, une unique photographie fait référence à Manonviller ; on voit d'ailleurs toute la difficulté des légendes de photographie en des lieux non identifiables, puisque qu'une photographie présentée dans d'autres documents comme prise en foret de Parroy, est indiqué dans cet ouvrage comme prise ... en Normandie.

“Moving up into position in the Normandy area”

Thick and sticky mud at Fort de Mononviller.

Nous ajoutons en fin de document, 3 cartes reproduites en fin de l'ouvrage.

Through Combat 314th Infantry Regiment


The way to Marainviller stood open now, and Company A had set up in the town by 1430, September 24th, the other rifle companies of 1st Battalion following as far as the edge of the Foret de Mondon, astride the Fraimbois-Marainviller road. As they moved up, they passed the sad remains of the drive some thought might have won the war in September - six light tanks, three assault guns, and a squad of jeeps, abandoned there by the 2nd Cavalry for lack of gas, back in the days when the disorganized Krauts were running for the far side of the Siegfried defenses and a man could drive across the Meurthe without drawing a shot-days that were only a few weeks past.
On the 25th, an Able Company platoon crossed the bridge at Marainviller to explore the fringes of the ominous Foret de Parroy, eight hundred yards away, but the mission was disrupted by small arms and mortar fire from the woods. The Germans were not showing their full hand yet, being content to wait out the American attack, but all G-2 sources were agreed that the forest was held in strength. There'd be no doubt about that, soon. Meanwhile, the regiment was ordered to remain south of the Vezouse and continue its patrols.
With another river crossing imminent, 1st Battalion worked over the stream on either side of Marainviller for likely fords, found the river was too deep and swift in most places. A try near town drew small arms fire, which wasn't promising, and a second patrol east of Marainviller brought back a negative report. When it crossed the bridge again to check some houses to the right, small arms discouraged further investigation, and, all the while, artillery fire was dropping into town.
Late on the night of the 26th, the field order for the new attack came down from Division: the XV Corps was to clear the Foret de Parroy, the 79th Division attacking on the left and the 2nd French Armored Division on the right, after the XIX TAC had sent its dive-bombers to soften UP the enemy defenses. The division's first plan was to use the 315th and 313th in the northeastward drive, while the 314th remained in reserve on the southern flank, in the Foret de Mondon. From there, the battalions were to be ready to cross the Vezouse at either Chanteheux, Croismare, or Marainviller.
H-hour was tentatively set for 1300, September 27, hut bad weather held up the air preparation, and a half hour before the attack had been originally planned to jump off, the regiment received word to resume defensive positions along the Vezouse from Marainviller to Croismare. By 1600, A Company was back in Marainviller and F Company in Croismare, the balance of the 2nd Battalion on tap on the northwest edge of the Foret de Mondon. The autumn rains were setting in by then, and the cold was bad enough already to give an idea what misery real winter would bring.
The big air show went on the morning of the 28th, seventy-five minutes of heavy bombing, but the tactical results, as PW interrogation later indicated were negligible, and the psychological profits were even less, for most of the German troops in Parroy were veterans of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, and, after Sicily and Italy, dive-bombing was nothing new to them. About the only real gain was in the morale of the assault troops waiting to jump off, as they watched the bombers peel off to give the opposition hell. At 1400, two hours after the bombardment, the 313th and 315th attacked.
Things were quiet in the 314th's sector that night, a 2nd Battalion patrol located a ford near Croismare for future use. At midnight, XV Corps went over to the 7th Army, the third of the three American armies committed in the ETO to which the 79th had been assigned, but the paper change did not affect the stolid Panzer Grenadiers waiting in the Foret de Parroy, The river towns caught some random artillery and mortars on the 29th, and Division ordered patrols sent out by both forward battalions to cross the Vezouse after dark and prod the forest approaches for possible enemy. The other regiments of the 79th had none of that uncertainty, for they were already in the woods and heavily engaged by German armor and infantry.
Early morning of the 80th, as the patrols continued to report increased enemy activity across river from the regiment, Colonel Robinson and Major Hillier attended a meeting at Division CP. where they received the orders for the 314th to drive across at Croismare and join the division attack on the Foret de Parroy. The battalion breakdown called for the 2nd Battalion, backed by Company B, 749th Tank Battalion, and a platoon of TD's to push ahead on into the woods facing Croismare, with 3rd Battalion following and veering right alongside the 2nd, while 1st Battalion in Marainviller laid down a smoke screen to its front, and went through the motions of attacking there. Artillery support was worked out at the 314t.h CP by Generals Wahl and Ott, commanding Division and Corps Artillery, respectively, and the battalions made ready to move out that afternoon.
H -hour was tied in with the progress of the other regiments, however, and both of them were catching hell, running into vicious counterattacks after every small advance. As the battalions waited, word came back that the jump-off had been postponed till morning of October 1. In three days fighting, the 313th and 315th had shoved about a third of the way laterally through the Foret de Parroy, moving eastward, and no doubt remained in anyone's mind as to the enemy's determination to cling to his forest defenses. To hold the line, he had assigned the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division and the 113th Panzer Brigade, case-hardened and aggressive fighters, and a constant flow of reinforcements poured into them from other sectors, thrown into the line almost as soon as they arrived. The Germans seemed not to have read the authorities who minimized the usefulness of tanks in heavily wooded terrain, for the forest was alive with tanks and assault guns and, in almost every counterattack, the men in the foxholes saw what looked like whole herds of Mark IV's lumbering down the trail and firebreaks blasting pointblank at them.
It was into such unmerciful warfare that the 2nd Battalion jumped off at 0615, October 1, after forty-five minutes of artillery preparation. The attack gained ground fast, at the start, and both G and F Companies were at the edge of the woods in little over an hour. In another hour, the forest had swallowed them, and E Company forded the river to follow them in. The artillery barrage had stirred up heavy counter-fire, by then, and both Croismare and Marainviller, down river, were under heavy shelling as 3rd Battalion started across at 0930. Up ahead, the 2nd Battalion, after a 1400-yard gain which included sixteen prisoners, halted at noon, one tank poorer, to let the 3rd catch up.
By 1340, the battalions were even, and they moved out together, meeting only scattered resistance until they buttoned up for the night two hours later. They held a line 1800 yards within the forest, from which they established contact with the 313th, over on the left, at. 1955, and they'd taken relatively little punishment getting that far, but the easy going was over. In Marainviller, meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, replaced in Corps Reserve by the 313th's 1st Battalion, had sent B and C Companies across the Vezouse to take up positions on the regiment's right flank, just inside the southern fringes of the Foret, preparatory to clearing out the southern spur of woods known as Les Grands Bois. Between the forward companies and A Company, back in Marainviller, Anti-Tank Company had set up a road block near Beaulieu Farms.
That night, the enemy poured in the artillery, and the 314th's veterans, who had been through the bitter hedgerow fighting of Normandy, and the savagery of the Meurthe bridgehead, found themselves in for something worse. In the woods, each incoming shell sounded as if it were headed straight for you, even when it hit two hundred yards away. The night was loud with the rending crash of tree bursts - a man above ground had no chance at all when the shrapnel ripped down, and a foxhole without a lid was little more protection - and hidden by the uproar of the artillery was the silent rush of the mortars that you never knew were coming till too late. As you crouched in the sodden chill of your foxhole, the swish and blast of the stuff coming in was almost better than the silences, when each slight rustle became a Kraut patrol in your groggy imagination. The dawn you ached to see was little relief, for the dim light barely filtered through the heavy-lidded forest, peopling the dank underbrush with phantom enemies, so that a man would suddenly empty a full clip into a tree stump he'd been staring at for hour.
October 2, at 0800, the regiment attacked again, driving through the woods for the west edge of a clearing about 1000 yards ahead. K Company, leading 3rd Battalion, made the objective in forty minutes, meeting little trouble, except from the woods themselves. To leave the trails was like clawing your way through a monster briar patch, and the trails themselves and the firebreaks - ten-yard-wide aisles to split off the forest - soon turned into shin - deep quagmires under the October rain. Over such terrain, the 3rd Battalion still managed to keep together to the clearing, but when K and L Companies tried to work a platoon across the open space, a storm of enemy fire soon changed their minds.
2nd Battalion also made good progress during the morning, guiding left to pinch out the hard-hit 313th, but, as it backed around to attack due east, it was snagged by a set of German machine-gun emplacements. Lacking elbow room to maneuver a full-scale attack, it was decided to send G Company around to the left through the 313th's sector and slip E Company through the narrow gap between the converging regiments. G Company got as far as Hill 286 before it stalled, and, just as Easy Company stuck its nose out ahead of the 313th's lines, it was smacked by an enemy attack and had to pull back to the 313th's right rear to reorganize.
By now, it had become apparent that the keystone of the energy defenses in the Foret de Parroy was the main supply crossroads on the regimental boundary line, about 300 yards ahead of the October 4th line and the 3rd Battalion, leaving a minimum force to engage the Germans guarding the clearing, swung the balance of its companies left to augment the 2nd's drive against the strong point. 1st Battalion, to the south, ran into a company of infantry, well dug in, before its sweep of Les Grands Bois had fairly started, and was ordered to hold up, now that the emphasis of attack had shifted to Cross Roads 709. That night, about 2230, E Company got orders to swing around back of the 313th to plug a gap widening between the 315th and the 313th.
2nd Battalion's attack, set for 0600 of the 3rd, was held up fiften minutes by fog. When it got under way, E and F Companies, slanting together like the two arms of a V drove northward up the ridge line to clean out the enemy pocket blocking the 313th and made contact with the 315th further on. Wheeling eastward as they passed through the point elements of the 313th, the companies caught the enemy by surprise in a flank attack and took the position before 0800, along with 17 prisoners. It was a bright beginning for an overcast day, and the two companies, now moving in conjunction with the 315tth on. Easy's left, pushed on along the boundary road for 150 yards, where a hundred-yard road block, contrived of felled trees and strongly defended, halted the rush.
E Company sat down to wait for the light tanks to come forward and silence the three machine-guns guarding the block, while Fox Company kept driving on the right another 200 yards. There they surprised a group of fifty Germans moving to new positions across their front, and, after the infantry had killed an officer and six men, the medium tanks rolled up to spray the woods, soon had the surviving enemy headed for the rear areas. At 1600, the battalion was back in alignment, with E on the left, F in the center, and G on the right, as the three companies jumped off together. Within an hour, F and G were on the objective, and E Company only 150 yards short of it, and the battalion buttoned up for the night. Over on the right, the medium tanks set up a trail block, while the light tanks, stymied by the hundred-yard road block, swung off in a long loop through the 315th's area to find positions protecting the regiment's left flank.
The only serious action had come that morning in B Company's sector, where it tied in with K Company on the 3rd Battalion right. At 0900, a company of infantry, supported by direct-firing tanks, drove down a fire break and folded back B Company's whole front, but C Company, on the right, held fast, halting the advance. Even so, a considerable dent in the lines resulted, as K Company had to bend back its right flank to keep contact with Baker, and the lost yardage balanced in part the gains made by 2nd Battalion to the north.
Either way you went, forward or back, meant hacking a new hole through the ancient tree roots and forging for thick overhead cover to make a lid for it against the tree bursts. Even after you'd dug in, the shell fragments ripping through the air were likely to get you through the entrance gap you'd left. As cold and wet as you got in the soggy darkness of the forest, you couldn't have slept anyway, so you squatted there, imagining that every crackle and murmur you heard was an enemy patrol that had slipped past the outposts, for the Germans here gave as good as they got, and the woods at times seemed to be crawling with them. Each day it rained, the supply trails grew deeper in mud, and the ammunition details forgot there had ever been such a thing as firm ground underfoot. Helpless in the slop, the ambulances had to wait back on the main roads for the casualties, which meant more litter bearers were needed, and men got scarcer with each enemy counter-attack. That could make as much as an hour's delay in evacuating the wounded, and some of them didn't have the hour of life to spare.
You thought of that, and wondered if the next one would be you. Overhead, the artillery split into the trees like a giant axe, and in the sudden silences which followed, you could hear the measured spatter of ram on the mat of fallen leaves beside your hole. Maybe you couldn't remember sleeping, but, all too soon, it was time to go back on guard again. The pressure was unrelenting, it seemed never to end. Patrols prowling through the forest maze never knew whose lines they were behind, and lead scouts veterans of a score of patrols, would blow up under the constant strain without an enemy near. The companies grew jittery with the sum of each man's fears, so that Colonel Robinson, coming down the line to check positions, found more than one shakey young company commander he had to ease back from the brink of giving way. Each day, the combat fatigue losses climbed.
The big try for Crossroads 709 was set for 0700 on the 4th, but just as the companies prepared to jump off, four Mark IV tanks and a company of German infantry drove through the woods into 2nd Battalion's front. Two of the tanks headed into E Company's lines, and Sergeant Joseph Dries, waiting by the trail with a bazooka, allowed one of them to come within five yards of him before he fired. His first round did for the tank, which was so close by then that rocket fragments ricochetted and nicked him about the head, but one tank wasn't four and the others slammed into the battalion positions, four of t hem veering left into G Company's line. Riding up to the lips of the foxholes, they blasted the helpless riflemen at that murderous range, and both E and G Companies took heavy casualties before the attack was finally blocked,
The rest of the morning was spent in reorganizing the battalion for a new attack. It was timed to coordinate with the 315th's jump-off at 1300; Fox Company, with tank support, was to swing north in an attempt to cut behind the crossroads strong-point, while the battalion's other companies threw in supporting fire. As soon as the tankers turned over their motors, though, enemy tanks opened direct fire down a forest alley on both the tanks and G Company, and a simultaneous concentration of mortars completed the disorganization. Before the assault companies could regroup, an enemy counterattack piled into the boundary sector between E and G Companies and punched a hole clear through the wavering lines, Only by throwing in 2nd Battalion's Headquarters Company and the heavy weapons men from Company H was the gap mended, and, though the fighting simmered down about 1700, it left a sorry sag in the battalion line. With its normal reserve committed, the 2nd had to borrow a reinforced platoon from Able Company that night for a new secondary defense,
The other battalions remained in place, while this small battle was being fought to the north. That night the regiment received the welcome orders to hold fast on the 5th, while the 315th looped around to the left to outflank the stubborn crossroads defenses. At 1300, the 2nd Battalion turned loose all available fire to divert the enemy from the flanking maneuver, but, otherwise, the companies set tight, listening to the jump of Corps Artillery's barrage pounding the enemy ahead and the shuttling scream of the German's counter-fire, Able Company, still in reserve, sent up another platoon during the afternoon to plug a gap between Fox Company and Company L on the left flank of the third Battalion,
With the Germans filling the air with artillery, no one strayed far beyond diving distance of his foxhole those days, but still the rumors went the rounds, They had a couple of beauts to mull over, one that the Foret de Parroy was Adolf's pet woods, where he fought in the last war, and he had ordered it held this time at all costs, and the other, a quote from a captured German colonel that the Americans hadn't taken the forest in the last war, and this one would end with them still trying. More authoritative, and more encouraging, too, were the G-2 reports that the 104th Panzer Grenadier Regiment defending the sector had already been badly chewed up and was fast becoming a patchwork of reinforcements,
The lull in activity continued through the 6th, as patrols went out to locate likely spots for employment of TDs and tanks in the forthcoming offensive, Up on First Army's front, the newscast reported, a major breach had been opened in the Siegfried Line at Aachen, and Third Army units were fighting a nightmare war in the winding tunnels of Fort Driant at Metz. Back in the States, the St. Louis clubs were in the thick of un intra-city World Series, but no one was running an innings pool in the Foret de Parroy,
On the 8th of October, as Corporal John D. Kelly of Easy Company, one of the heroes of Cherbourg, received the Distinguished Service Cross from General Wyche at the 2nd Bn. CP - an award that was later raised to the Congressional Medal of Honor - the regiment received its orders for resuming the attack, scheduled for the morning of October 9, Crossroads 709 remaining the objective. That evening, the Germans tried another counter-attack against the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, employing two tanks with infantry, but a brace of normal barrages silenced the German armor, and the foot troops soon withdrew.
The October 9 attack moved out at 0650, with E and G Companies abreast and a driving rain turning the water-soaked earth into a bog. The objective lay only two hundred yards ahead, but a yard in that tangle of mud and briars was worth a mile of open ground. In little over an hour, E Company hit dug-in infantry, backed by tanks, on the west side of the crossroads clearing, and G Company, which had moved out on the right, swung left, reversing its field in an enveloping move, while Company F, further to the right, looped wider still to strike north and cut the arterial road behind the Germans from the other direction. Both jaws of the miniature pincers sliced across the objective road, and, at 1300, Fox Company started a platoon with tanks down the road to catch the Germans from the rear. Meanwhile, Easy Company drove across the clearing which had checked its advance, finding it house full of wounded enemy at the far side of it, and, at 15:30, the jig was up for Crossroads 709. With its fall, the enemy's last hope of holding the Foret de Parroy went a-glimmering, and the bleary-eyed 2nd Battalion, which had carried the brunt of the 314th's drive, pulled out, leaving the pursuit of the retreating Germans to the recommitted 313th. The story of the last big fight for Crossroads 709 would not be complete without recalling to mind the picture of Colonel Huff's O.P. that day. He and his staff carried on the direction of the fight from under the combined shelter of the command tank and command TD for the operation. On top of the vehicles stood Tank Commander Captain Wood and TD Commander Captain Patterson, screaming into their respective radios, trying valiantly to keep their armored monsters from shooting each other up, as tanks and TD's from both the 315th and the 314th converged on the Crossroads from three different directions. They earned the drink of Cherbourg cognac and the Bronze Star Medal they got that day. Six months after the war, Colonel Robinson met in Germany Baron Von der Borch, who commanded the 15th Tank Grenadier Division Units in the Foret de Parroy. In discussing the battle with the Colonel, the German Commander remarked, "If you found it bad in that forest, how do you think we found it? It was hell ! My units were so cut up that they were of little use in subsequent actions against the British in Holland."


As next day's patrols and PW questioning both indicated that the enemy had withdrawn all along the line, 1st Battalion took off through the southeastern bulge of woods that had been its original objective, setting up a line on the southeastern fringe facing toward Marainviller. 3rd Battalion met no opposition, either, as it swung up 1000 yards to the east of the 1st's positions, but the Germans had strewn their trail with anti-tank, and anti-personnel mines, and casualties still were heavy.
On the 11th, the 2nd Battalion withdrew to an assembly area near Croismare, and the other battalions, finding no enemy to hinder their progress, took up positions on a line north from Manonviller to Fort de Manonviller. The fort was an ancient French pile, big enough to hold a regiment and situated to command the countryside. Properly garrisoned, and guarded as it was by high walls and moats, it might have given a division trouble, but the Germans, in their haste to vacate the area, chose not to defend it.
The regimental mission was to keep in contact with the enemy, but the 3rd Battalion found none to contact on the 12th as it shoved its lines forward a few hundred yards, and the 1st moved up over half a mile to the four hills called Les Quatres Mamelons. The war improved, once you moved it out in the open and took away the enemy to a safe distance, and it was easier to understand the cheerful Frenchmen down in the 2nd French Armored's sector, who shrugged at any minor military disaster which might befall them and told you: "C'est la guerre." Normal military procedure was not for them. In the heaviest artillery barrages, they still wore their little red berets, and the jeeps their contact-patrols drove up to the 314th's outposts were apt as not to have a freshly-slaughtered hog draped across the hood and a miscellany of frying' pans, pots, and quilts dangling over the stern. No one could ask for gamer fighters, but a general with strong convictions about his offensive timetable did well to watch his blood pressure when he was waiting for them to move out of whatever town they landed in.
Once they were roiling, they'd drive against anything the Germans had, but first they had to be sure they'd taken care of all the available cognac and champagne, not to forget the mademoiselles. They never forgot the mademoiselles.
On the morning of October 13, the regiment was alerted to move out on the attack again, H-hour being 1300. The 314th left boundary was the railroad line from Marainviller to Avricourt, and the 3rd Battalion was ordered to guide along the ridgeline, while the 1st Battalion drove off to the right, the 2nd remaining in reserve at Fort de Manonviller. The Regimental objective, divided between the two assault battalions, was a ridgeline stretching from elevation 276 to 306.
The companies jumped off on time, augmented by an over-sized tank company from the 749th and a company of the 773rd's tank destroyers, and the advance met no opposition in its first hours. About 1600, the 1st Battalion stirred up some small arms fire in the woods near its objective, and I Company, closing in toward the railroad station an hour later, hit resistance there. Land K Companies moved u on either side, and the 3rd Battalion buttoned up for the night on that line, facing east, while the 1st Battalion, with its three rifle companies arrayed in letter order, tied in by patrols with the 315th on the southern flank.
The early going had been easy, but the terrain was spongy with rain, and the dwindling supply trails lost their identity in a sea of mud as the advance continued. The chow jeeps careened over the ruts each day with meals and ammunition, but bed rolls, even when you could get to them, were soggy and useless, and sleep was possible only in the advanced stages of exhaustion. Short of that, you huddled in your raincoat in a foxhole puddle-morale was something a man with a wet backside knew nothing about - and wondered how much colder it had to get before people called it winter.
Next day, Oct. 14th, 3rd Battalion was ordered to bypass the railroad station strongpoint, containing it if necessary, and drive on to its objective, which was more easily said than done. Item Co. was stopped cold by machine-gun crossfire coming at it from emplacements protected by a carpet of mines and booby-traps, overlaid with barbed wire and concentration wire, and the tanks had to come up to break a path for the infantry, the advance getting under way again about 1255. By 1650, the three companies, L, K, and I, had established a line beyond the railroad station running south toward the 1st Battalion's position. Colonel Robinson and General Wyche were at Col. Purvis' OP when a German patrol passed within 100 yards of it. The patrol was later routed by M Company men, little knowing it had passed up a plum. A platoon from G Company was set up as a stop-gap between the two battalions, but the balance of 2nd Battalion remained in reserve, contrary to the original plan, which had called for it to follow through in strength and block the center of the regimental line as 3rd Battalion veered northeast.
The regiment was ordered to dig in on the 15th, consolidating its positions, and G Company, in its entirety, moved up between the 1st and 3rd Battalions, each of which pulled back a rifle company into reserve to fortify its thinly-spread line. As G Company took over, it bagged a whole platoon of enemy, but other action was limited to patrols, which brought back word that up ahead was a regiment of the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division, another of whose units had tangled with the 314th in the Foret de Parroy.
They were still a cagy, aggressive enemy, as they soon demonstrated. The standard works on armored tactics agreed that tanks were too vulnerable in night fighting to be effective, but the Germans must have thrown the books away. Mounting a small task force of tanks and infantry, they slammed into G Company's line at the outlandish hour of three-thirty o'clock in the morning, on October 16, and the overmatched riflemen, after a costly two hour scrap, had to fall back. The enemy gain was short-lived, however, as Fox Company, coming up from reserve, counter-attacked at dawn with tank support, taking forty-five prisoners, and G Company was back in its old line by mid-morning. It had good reason to give ground under the enemy assault, for the German prisoners admitted they had used twelve tanks and two companies of infantry in making the breakthrough.
If sleeping had been difficult before, it became impossible now, for the rain fell faster than you could bail it out of the hole, and there was this new threat of another armored counter-attack at any time. On October 17, in the early morning hours, the Germans tried it again, this time with nine tanks and almost It battalion of infantry, and G Company, which was once more the target for attack, had to run for it. It seemed purely a harassing move, though, for when Fox Company drove through at daylight to regain the position, the Germans had already withdrawn. Later in the day, E Company moved in to relieve George Company's battered platoons, and caught Germans digging in to its front, and captured 49 of them.
About this time, the rumors began to drift forward of a new division, the 44th, fresh from the States, moving up to take over from the hard-worn 79th. The 79th had had 127 days of combat without a rest period, which, if it wasn't already a record for American army units, would soon become one, and while not many of the line company men had been lucky enough to stay up there all that time unscathed, even the replacements who had come in as recently as Parroy were groggy enough to need a. break. Before they'd get it, though, the regiment had one more job to do, one more objective to take, the high ground between Points 305 and 306.
To bring the regiment up level on that line required a wheeling maneuver, as the right flank was only a few hundred yards from it, but the left sector of the objective was distant enough to demand a fullscale attack. By way of preparation for it, the 114th Regiment, 44th Division, moved up the evening of the 19th to take over 1st Battalion's sector on the extreme right, and the 1st, which was to make the long haul up the railroad tracks to Point 306, shifted over to an assembly area 2500 yards southeast of the railroad station. From there, it was to take off at H-hour, timing its advance to pass the depot as 3rd Battalion on the right, hit Le Remabois, and continue up the tracks, which furnished the only avenue of attack in a heavily-wooded area. 3rd Battalion, after taking Le Remabois, would keep going to the center of the objective in Bois le Remabois, while 2nd Battalion, leaving E Company to guard the southern anchor at Point 305, followed up the 3rd, setting lip defensive positions along the path of advance.
H-hour was set for 0635, October 21st, and while L Company spent part of the 20th clearing a patch of woods to be used either as a screen or a springboard for the main effort, the rest of the regiment remained in place. Everyone knew now that once this objective was taken, the 44th was to take over and the 79th to go into Corps Reserve for a break, and all days the stories went through your mind of pilots who'd flown that one mission too many - it would be just your luck to catch one the last day up there, with a vacation finally due.
The attack on the 21st had to wait a half-hour for the tanks to show up, the terrain having become all but impassable behind the 314th's lines, but the battalions moved fast once they were under way. In less than an hour, L Company, the 3rd Battalion's spearhead, was inside the Bois le Remabois, and I and K Companies were only another hour behind. In the woods, they ran into a storm of mortar find small arms fire, but, before 1300, they were seeing daylight through the eastern fringe of the Bois, and the objective was soon taken, 2nd Battalion filling in the line back to point 305.
To the north, 1st Battalion started its attack, losing two of its supporting tanks to mines in the first minutes after the jump-off, but Able Company, in the lead, kept rolling, and was sitting on Point 306 by 1145. The high ground the battalions had taken was inlaid with trenches and pillboxes left over from the first World War, and tire companies crowded into them for shelter from the German mortars and artillery. This was no time to be taking a chance on your life with the game in hand and relief due any hour, and the bottom your foxholes seemed hardly deep enough. 1st Battalion outposts spotted enemy infantry and tanks milling around in front of them, but artillery fire soon changed whatever plans they might have had, and the only semblance of an enemy attack came at noon of the 22nd, as a small enemy patrol broke through a gap in the woods between I and L Companies. A Platoon from C Company quickly plugged the opening, and two of the Jerries were killed behind the lines, the other six captured.
Next afternoon, under cover of a thick fog, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were relieved by their opposite-number battalions in the 44th Division's 71st Infantry. The new troops coming in were a hapless-looking crew, laden down as they were by full field packs, overcoats, extra shoes, and all the other AGF impedimenta you so quickly learned to do without, but even so, they were a welcome sight. The 3rd Bn. officers' loss on the day of relief was heavy. Maj. De Bruhl, Bn. S-3, Capt. Erdman, I C.O. and Lt. Dooley, K Company C.O. were all wounded seriously although fortunately all recovered, but never again rejoined. Colonel Purvis said later that the loss of these brave officers gave him one of his darkest days. A cadre of officers and enlisted men was left behind with them for a day's duty as advisors on the local situation, but the rest of the two battalions wasted no time pulling out. With the 1st Battalion temporarily attached to the 315th Infantry, Colonel Robinson's responsibility for the Regimental sector was at an end.
On the following day came the 1st Battalion's turn for relief. The first lap of its trip to Luneville was an anxious one, for the railroad tracks down which it filed was "Artillery A1Iey," under pounding twenty-four hours a day by the Germans, and festooned here and there with booby traps and mines. As you shuffled over the ties, with one ear cocked for stuff coming in, you could better understand how the poor Joe felt who'd come back up the tracks to the company from a twelve-hour trip to the rear with a PW detail, during which he'd sweated ink, only to find another batch of Krauts waiting for him. They looked like so many albatrosses to him, till a gleam of hope came into his bloodshot eyes.
"Listen, Mac," he asked the Top, "How's about I take along a hand grenade and come back in five minutes ?"


The short break at Dirty Gertie's remained a happy memory, but Luneville had a few modern improvements in its favor; here there were not only hot meals and clean clothes; the roofs were still on this town, and the cafes in operation, and although the competition among patrols was fierce, the lucky ones did make contact with a mademoiselle now and again. The best part of Luneville, though, were the billets, big factory buildings with all four walls standing and straw pallets you could stretch out on and sleep, after all those weeks of huddling in saturated foxholes. The Krauts had gone off with the plant machinery, as part of their industrial redeployment programs - when the Germans looted, they didn't fool around with souvenirs - and the old sheds were quite roomy. Once you'd persuaded your fidgety nerves that there was no more artillery coming in, you had it made.
With the conforms of garrison life came a few of the disadvantages. Snooping and pooping gave place to plain stooping, as the police-up details worked over the area. There were lectures on military courtesy - the salute you were reminded, was a form of greeting - and some of the NCOs who had won their hooks the hard way, at the front, found difficulty in keeping their feet straight when they had to give close order drill. That was the quickest way of shaping up the new replacements, though, and most of the training, once the regiment settled down to a regular program, dealt with the more practical considerations of map reading and patrolling. Evenings, after the working day had finished, there were USO shows, movies, company parties, and, for another popular form of diversion, just a rolling downtown to show the rear area commandos what real combat infantrymen looked like.
On October 28, Colonel Robinson addressed a regimental formation, recalling some of the bitter lessons learned in combat and pointing out the need to reduce the losses from such non-battle casualties as trench foot and combat fatigue, a good part of which might have been avoided. Two days later, the companies began a two week training schedule. That was one schedule most of you wouldn't have minded playing out, realizing what was likely to come after it, but it had hardly run a day before the first alert came in.
The early reports from the front had been encouraging, as the relief of the division by the 44th had gone so smoothly the enemy didn't even know we were gone. They turned loose their propaganda loud-speaker on the 44th's lines, interspersing nostalgic jazz with appeals to the Americans to be good fellows and lay down their arms so they could get some of that good German "treatment." "Come on over," their spokesman said, " soldiers of the 79th Division, and get a hot meal." The situation lost some of its humor, though, with the regiment back on a three-hour alert, and even the jokers who had announced that they wouldn't take a million dollars for their combat experiences, began to look a little dubious about sweating out the next installment.
"The regiment put in three days of waiting to move out to Baccarat, where it was to constitute a reserve for the 2nd French Armored Division, but the situation apparently righted itself for, on November 4, the 314th was taken off alert. That day as a black autumn rain fell, the regiment passed in review before General Wyche, who had come over for a presentation ceremony. On the 5th, the entire division received orders to prepare for a move four miles east to Benamenil, in the 2nd French Armored's sector, and the route reconnaissance parties went out. Not until the 9th, though, did the field orders come down outlining the action to follow.
To the east loomed the Vosges Mountains, and the Saverne Gap slicing through them was one of three favored routes for an invasion of Germany. To protect it, the enemy had set up an elaborate defense line south across the XV Corps sector from Rechicourt le Chateau, near where tile 44th had relieved the division, to Blamont and Baccarat, twenty miles in a straight line. A straight line would have been easier to crack, for the Germans' positions followed the ridge lines, instead, utilizing World War I fortifications where available, and studded with pillboxes, anti-tank guns, and machine-gun strongpoints, In those positions, the Germans expected to spend the winter, or, at worst, to delay an Allied attack sufficiently to cover a withdrawal to the even stronger defenses of the Vosges Mountains, which the textbook tacticians had labeled "impregnable. "
The 7th Army's plan was not merely to push this line back, but to break clear throughout and race the German defenders for the Saverne Gap and the key city of Strasbourg on the Alsatian plain beyond. XV Corps, with the 44th on the left and the 79th on the right, was to take Sarrebourg on the western side of the Vosges and force the pass, prepared to fan out east of the mountains ,and disrupt what might be left of the enemy defenses there. The 79th's zone of attack ran along the axis, Ancerviller to Nitting, five miles northeast of Hattigny, By circling south and east of Sarrebourg, it was to aid the 44th in taking that city, then drive east through the mountains, while the 2nd French Armored closed up behind, ready to exploit any breach the American infantry could pry open in the Vosges defenses.
In the 79th's sector, the 314th and 315th had for their first objective a ridge just north of Harbouey, the 314th, with B Companies of the 304th Medics and 191st Tank Battalion attached, to take the high ground northeast of Ancerviller and Harbouey. To prepare for the attack, the regiment was ordered to move to an assault assembly area southwest of Montigny on the night of D-minus-one, and secrecy was stressed-bumper markings had to be erased, even on reconnaissance runs-and the move was to be made after dark complete surprise being essential to the success of the offensive. Once the drive was under way, the emphasis would shift to speed. Lead elements were ordered to by-pass all towns, crossroads, und other likely strongpoints, and, in case where the spearheading battalions blundered into a scrap, the units following were to detour around the fight, highest priority being accorded to capturing bridges and rail tunnels intact. The whole idea was to outrun the Kraut retreat to the Vosges, for, if they got there first, it meant a winter's work to pry them loose.
H-hour was set as 0700, November 13, and, on the evening of November 11, the regiment made a preliminary move to the Benamenil assembly area, went on from there to the assault positions on the following night. The weather had turned to rain and cold as the infantry moved out on foot for the forward area, all but a minimum of vehicles being held back till the risk of enemy observation had been canceled out by the attack. The situation map showed eleven highpoint objectives ahead, numbered consecutively, which were a series of controlling terrain features along the boundary between the 313th and the 314th. Once the eleven were taken, if it were done speedily, the French armor could take over and the breakthrough would be on, but each one of them required a separate, and, in at least one case, as time would prove, an extremely costly operation.
Initially, 1st Battalion was to take Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 3A, while 2nd Battalion swept over Nos. 4 and 5, all parts of an elongated ridgeline. The Germans had a custom of pulling most of their men off line and into billets for the night - they liked to fight a comfortable war, wherever possible - and Colonel Teague, the 1st Battalion's commander, decided to capitalize on that weakness. He pushed Band C Companies across the line of departure during the night of the 12th, had then on the slopes of No.1, at the throats of the enemy, before daylight. The rain had thickened to snow by then, and it made a rough night to spend moving up to the attack, but the assault troops had their reward in the ease with which their overran the startled enemy, taking the first of the eleven strongpoints by 0815, after scarcely an hour's fighting.
Point 2, a hill about 2000 yds. northeast of Montigny, was not as easy. As B Co. approached it along a spiney ridge, pushing doggedly though brutal artillery and mortar fire, the Germans opened up with anti-tank guns, too, and the direct fire crippled one of the tanks supporting the advance, turned the attack into a retreat as the badly-rattled infantry started to pull out. A man on that bare hillside was as conspicious as a fly on a pane of glass, and almost as defenseless, but Capt. Elisha Amos, the company commander, running from squad to squad and from tank to tank, managed to rally them. The attack piled up again after gaining another five hundred yards, and once more he had to get the men off the ground and moving, but each small gain was measured in terrific casualties. When Staff Sergeant, James Delaney, one of the company's mortar squad leaders, crawled forward to help the medics evacuate the wounded, he brought back six men himself under the heavy fire, then had to take over the entire 2nd platoon, which had lost its leader and all its non-coms. The company had 47 casualties, that day, including Captain Amos, and Colonel Teague, at mid-day, ordered it back to the shelter of the reverse slope to regroup after the shattering morning attacks.
Over in 2nd Battalion's sector, the advance met less resistance. By 0845, Fox Company, leading the column of companies, was into the woods blocking its path, and rolled on through small arms fire toward the objectives. Both of them were in battalion hands by early afternoon, and the companies found themselves in command of the major road from Domevre to Montigny. Meanwhile, the survivors of B Company jumped off at 1410 in a renewed drive for No.2, and this time the German small arms and artillery were helpless to halt them, the position falling after ninety minutes of fighting.
Moving up to take No.3 and No. 3A. the 1st Battalion met only artillery fire on the way, reported the points taken by 1700, while L Company, called up from reserve, covered the bloody hilltop at No.2 to fill a gap between the 314th and 315th. Of 3rd Battalion's other companies, I had moved to No.1, while K remained near Montigny. That night, the regimental staff scratched their heads as they looked at the overlays, for the 315th had not yet taken Ancerviller, and the 314th's swift advance had thrust its nose well beyond the protection of the flanking regiments. 31 prisoners had been taken during the day, mostly from the German's 798th Division, but the going, in spots, had been plenty rough, and the enemy's main line was still ahead.
If the thought of the six strongpoints to come made you a little uneasy as you shivered in the November cold, the enemy must have been more than somewhat apprehensive themselves. "The adjacent unit to the left," wrote the G-2 of the 361st Volks Grenadier Division "is opposed by the 79th U. S. Div. which is said to have fought particularly well in Normandy, and is considered as one of the best Attack Divisions of the U.S. Army." Maybe a lot of the faces had changed since Normandy, but the German gunners, watching Baker Company's riflemen pick themselves up off the hillside that morning and wade on into the murderous fire, could hardly have told the difference between them and the men who took La Haye.
Next day, 3rd Battalion took over the attack, moving out at 1115 in conjunction with a battalion from the 315th on the left, and headed for the next four strongpoints, No. 6, No. 7. No. 8, and No. 9. Once they were taken, it would be 2nd Battalion's turn to take the last two of the regiment's eleven, 1st Battalion getting a respite from the attack. I. Company led off the offensive. Ticking off No 6 in two hours' time, with no resistance, No. 7 in another hour, and was halted only by the early darkness - the days here were as short as they had seemed endless in Normandy - buttoning up between No.7 and No. 8 for the night. Its heaviest loss had been a tank, knocked out by anti-tank fire from the 315th's sector, near Halloville. 1st Battalion, after outposting 3A for flank protection, moved C Company up to 7A, drawing only artillery fire as it did, and 2nd Battalion, relieved of its road blocks by 2nd Battalion of the 313th, moved up to an assembly area near No.6, ready to follow up the 3rd Battalion's drive on the 15th.
By this time, the snow and rain had turned the ground into a hopeless morass. A slit trench filled up almost as fast as a man dug it, so he stayed above ground as much as he could, curled up in a pair of soggy blankets when they brought up the bedrolls. At regular intervals through the night, though, the Krauts threw in artillery, and with each barrage came a muffled clamor of groans and curses as the sleepers, given their choice between a dry backside and a wet hole, flopped into their waiting tubs.
The regimental drive held in place on the morning of the 15th, while the battalions waited for the 315th to fight its way up level on the right flank. By noon, it had, and the 2nd and 3rd Battalion prepared to move out. Their objective remained the same, and the 3rd Battalion jumped off at 1315 to take No. 8 and No. 9, cutting the road east out of Barbas, the 2nd following at 1400, in conjunction with the 315th's advance, heading for No. 10 and No. 11. So quickly did the companies move that 3rd Battalion's I Company was at No.8 before the 2nd even took off, and, by 1530, 2nd Battalion had F and G Companies sitting on No. 10, Easy Company on the way to No. 11, and 3rd Battalion had completed its mission at No. 9.
Progress was not so automatic as it sounds, though. The terrain was all bare ridges and hills, with likely spots for OPs every' here you looked, and, for the protection they had from enemy artillery, troops moving over it might as well have been match-stocks on a sand table. Small arms fire was less of a consideration, as the 3rd Battalion caught the German at chow at one of their objectives and closed in. Resistance everywhere was moderate, but every move the companies made was traced by shell bursts. Once all eleven points had been taken, the anxiety seemed ended for the night, at least, and the companies started digging in. They'd forgotten the old axiom that taking an objective too early in the day was asking for another later on.
At 1620, Division sent orders down for a patrol to seize the bridge and crossroads south of Fremonville, on the Vezouse, which the 314th had just finished crossing at Marainviller and Croismare on the way into the Foret de Parroy. That was the way they built their rivers - the legendary Meauder was not in it with such wandering streams as the Moselle and Vezouse - and a river wasn't a river till you'd fought your way across it at three different places. This time, the orders called for the bridge to be taken during the night, the regiment to follow the patrol into Fremonville if it proved to be unoccupied and send a task force over to take Barbas on the left for flank security. Accordingly 1st Battalion was assigned the Barbas swoop, while 2nd Battalion, backed up by the 3rd, secured the Fremonville bridgehead. Even as the plans for the attack were being worked out at the CPs, the Germans threw in more artillery, and Lt. Colonel James P. Davis, the regimental executive officer, was hit by shell fragments, had to go back.
A later edition of Division orders set the drive on Barbas for next morning, and provided that the attempt on Fremonville might be held up as the patrol reported back that the bridge was intact and defended by a squad of enemy infantry. It became apparent that the Germans had no intention of letting Fremonville, with its natural river barrier, go by default and the 2nd Battalion's attack was put back until daylight of the 16th.
Next day, at 0840, the 2nd 13attalion jumped off, but no sooner did E Company's assault waves raise up out of their foxholes than enemy small arms and direct heavy-weapons fire from elevations across the Vezouse lowered them back down again, and G Company, which was to share the crossing with Easy, founds troubles of its own, for its route of advance was under the guns of German artillery set up on the high ground southeast of Blamont. It was the sort of day they called good football weather back home, crisp and clear, but this was it more precarious kind of broken-field running when you were trying to outguess the Kraut artillerymen, and progress all day was negligible, despite heavy casualties.
The 1st Battalion driving into the woods south of Barbas, C Company, the point unit, swiftly outflanked a large outpost in its path, taking 25 prisoners, but the enemy tanks and infantry guarding the approaches to Barbas itself were not so easily circumvented. Although the situation seemed to require tank and TD support, the company managed to work a squad of infantrymen into a hole on the edge of town, as an opening wedge, and scouts soon spotted four tanks and some 300 German foot troops leaving Barbas on the back road to Blamont, ending the skirmish. With Barbas in 1st Battalion hands, A and C Companies pushed on across a stream and took up positions on a ridge south of Blamont, while B Company remained in Barbas.
Darkness, found the 3rd Battalion between No. 10 and No. 11, near the main road from Harbouey to Blamont, and 2nd Battalion somewhat north of No. 11. That night, 2nd Battalion was ordered to patrol to the Fremonville bridge, and, if possible, across to the railroad tracks on the far side, but the patrol was stopped by small arms fire as it came to the woods before No. 11, and a second patrol went out to find a detour around the right side of the woods. If the road was clear, the battalion planned to attack at 0300, but the patrol found the alternate route bracketed by enemy-infested woods and small groups of Germans working up and down both banks of the Vezouse. Over on the bridge south of Blamont, the 1st Battalion's two forward companies had moved into a trench system already dug for them where they spent a wakeful night exchanging hand grenades with the Krauts who shared the premises, until the enemy wearied of the sport.
Meanwhile, 3rd Battalion had been probing the woods west of No. 11, and, at 0515, after three hours of the confusion that always went with organizing a night attack, the battalion drove for the forest. It was slow work, against heavy small arms fire, and though two companies had made it into the woods by 0800, they found themselves catching fire from two sides there and the forward elements were quickly pinned down. 2nd Battalion was to have kept step with them on the right flank, but it hit a stone wall of resistance, and only E Company, in flank contact with the 3rd, was able to gain at all. Even Easy Company had to give ground under the blistering fire, and when the afternoon attack died down at nightfall, the 3rd Battalion, and Easy Company beside it, had only a few hundred yards of forest to show for the day's expensive fighting. An0ther attempt was made by the rest of 2nd Battalion in late afternoon to advance northeast of No. 11, but the German artillery and machine guns soon smothered it.
In the 1st Battalion area, about 0900, the Germans mounted a counter attack made up of one tank and several squads of infantry, to explore A Company's positions on the ridge. They made the mistake of going by way of an outpost whose crew included Pfc. Duane Hemenway. The outpost was set up in a shell crater, and after the tank gunner had missed it with his first shot, at 75-yard range, Hemenway, who wasn't bothered by technicalities of fire power, jumped up on the lip of the crater with his bazooka to have it out. He was in plain view of the Germans, and spotted the tank two more misses before he got the range with his rocket-launcher. His second round caught the tank head on, persuading the tank commander to withdraw, and the deserted German infantry were easy meat for the outpost riflemen, who killed five of them and captured one.
During the day, the 313th's 2nd Battalion crossed the Vezouse west of Barbas and fought its way into the woods there on 1st Battalion's flank. By midnight, the attacking force had closed in to the 1st's positions and taken them over, and the 1st withdrew to an assembly area near Halloville. Next day, Company F, with tank support, was to jump off from No. 11, heading northeast to clear out the woods holding up E Company, while 3rd Battalion picked up from its forest line and drove on through to the river. Once there, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were to cross and seize Fremonville, and the 1st prepared to follow up the assault waves from its reserve position. All signs indicated a rough passage, for the 315th, which had hopped a battalion across the Vezouse further up the line, was already reporting savage resistance.
At 0700, November 16, the attack opened up, and 3rd Battalion, shoving quickly through the woods which had given it so much trouble the previous day, had I Company jogging across an old wooden foot bridge west of the main one by 0815. Simultaneously, Fox Company and its tanks slanted in ahead of E Company and slammed through to the Vezouse at the site of the main bridge. It was the "former main bridge" now, as the Germans had blown it during the night, and the infantry had to leave their armor, four mediums and five light tanks, on the near shore, and wade across under the enemy's guns. Fremonville was another 300 yards removed, and the path to it was a gauntlet beaten by heavy crossfire that stopped all but one twelve-man platoon out of the company. Even they didn't reach the main street until 1700, and the balance of F Company trickled in slowly, to spend the twilight hours playing hide and seek with two Mark IV tanks and accompanying infantry around the western fringe of town,
During the afternoon Lt. Colonel Huff's 2nd Battalion O.P. had some distinguished visitors. Major General Wade H. Haislip, the Corps Commander, Major General Ira T. Wyche, the Division Commander, Colonel Robinson, the Regimental Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Teague, Commanding Officer of the 314th's Red Battalion, and Lt. Colonel Purvis, Commanding Officer of the 314th's Blue Battalion. They were all there to help the 2nd Battalion into Fremonville, Shortly after the gathering of all this brass, a Kraut 88 opened up on the O.P. Did you ever see two Major Generals, one full Colonel and three Lieutenant Colonels (don't forget Huff) trying to make themselves smaller than the green apples generally found on the attic floor of a French farmhouse ? You would have, had you been present that day on the top floor of a certain farmhouse on the banks of the Vezouse. Now to get back to our story.
I Company, which had had better luck at the crossing, had worse luck later on. As it swung up to the railroad tracks southwest of Fremonville, the Germans turned loose every kind of fire they had on the advancing infantry, and the company, caught between hell and high water with no cover near, took such a beating it was forced to fall back across the river after noon to reorganize, the entire 3rd Battalion going into an assembly area west of No. 11. As darkness settled upon the Vezouse, Easy Company moved into western Fremonville to take over the area around the railroad station, and G Company followed to occupy the rest of the western third of town. Next day, they were to join Fox in sweeping out the town and taking the high ground beyond, while 1st Battalion, after its day of rest, was ordered to converge with the 313th's attack on the heights northwest of Fremonville, and free the crossing sites from enemy observation.
The defenders of Fremonville kept the small hour popping with random fire, which was the customary prelude to a withdrawal, and, though they showed considerable fight ill the morning, 2nd Battalion had then heading for the suburbs by 1100. Soon after 1st Battalion made contact with the 313th at their joint objectives, finding no enemy in sight, and the battalions moved into column for the march to Richeval, with the I & R Platoon and 1st Battalion leading the rest of the regiment . The breakthrough to Alsaee was under way.
The four miles to Richeval were covered without incident, and the column swung east to Hattigny behind 1st Battalion's lead. As A Company came abreast of a ridge half a mile beyond the town, It found the road ahead splattered with mortar fire, and quickly deployed off the highway into a pine woods, the eastern end of which, 1000 'yards away, overlooked Hattigny. The rifle squads, moving fast, had moved across almost half that interval before heavy automatic weapons and mortar fire brought them up short.
With his company pinned down, Captain Flannery, whose habit of doing his own scouting, on another occasion, cost him an anxious forty-eight hours behind enemy lines, crawled forward to gauge the enemy's strength, got to within twenty yards of them to plot their positions and his own attack. Given the situation Lt. Colonel Teague, the battalion commander, ordered A Company to engage the enemy and keep them too busy to interfere with the other companies of the battalion as they looped wide across the open fields leading to Hattigny. Daylight was fading as A's platoons edged up to the attack, but the row they stirred up made as fine a scrap as there would be in the whole war. Neither side was dug in, and there were no mortars or artillery to help in the close-in fighting, just every man for himself. The darkening forest crackled with small arms fire and grenade blasts for three hours, and, at the finish of it, the long days spent on the ranges had paid off. The Germans, with most of a battalion to hold the forest line against a company's attack, left thirty-three dead on the field, with proportionate losses in wounded and captured, while A Company, which had done all the fighting, had only minimum casualties.
Under cover of the engagement, Band C Companies drove on across the field to Hattigny, which higher headquarters chalked up as captured by the 2nd French Armored Division earlier in the evening. Such was not the case, as the Germans held on until after midnight, then put the town to the torch in a blaze that could be seen for miles against the night sky. After a week of slugging, the 79th had driven a wedge deep into the enemy lines, splitting off the 728th Infantry from the remnants of the 708th, with whom the division had had a previous engagement at Le Mans. In prisoners alone, the Germans had lost 637 men, and their desperate efforts to keep their receding line straight had forced them to pull back their right flank each day before the 44th Division, forfeiting a host of potential strongpoints, to keep contact with their badly-battered left. Their Vezouse line had been smashed at Fremonville, and the withdrawal to the Vosges was fast deteriorating into a rout.





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