The November Battle for Metz
XX Corps Preparations for the November Offensive1
Prior to the November offensive the XX Corps was strengthened by the arrival of two new AUS divisions, one infantry, the other armored. The 95th Infantry Division had arrived on the Continent in September, coming by way of the United Kingdom. Elements of the division entered the 5th Infantry Division lines east of the Moselle on 18 October, but the combat experience of the 95th in the days that followed was limited to affrays between its own and German patrols.2 Maj. Gen. Harry L. Twaddle, the division commander, had activated and trained the 95th. General Twaddle had come into the Army in 1912 as a university graduate. After a career as an infantry officer, he was posted to the War Department General Staff in 1938, later serving as G-3 of the War Department. His command of the 95th Division dated from March 1942. The 10th Armored Division had come to the Continent directly from the United States, debarking on 23 September. Its armored infantry entered the lines on 2 November in the Fort Driant area; however, this sector had lapsed into quiet and most of the division was to see its first combat during the November offensive. The 10th Armored was commanded by Maj. Gen. W. H. H. Morris, who had held his post since July 1944. General Morris
In addition to three infantry divisions (5th, 90th, 95th) and one armored division (10th) General Walker had the promise of "operational control" over the 83d Infantry Division (Maj. Gen. R. C. Macon), although with numerous strings attached. As it turned out, the 83d Division would give only artillery support after its transfer to the XX Corps on 8 November. The corps artillery numbered 19 battalions: 5 light battalions, 6 medium battalions, and 8 heavy battalions, this total reinforced by 2 battalions of the 422d Field Artillery Group attached to the 83d Division. The allotment of other corps troops had also been increased and now included: 5 tank destroyer battalions (Plus 2 battalions attached to divisions); 3 separate tank battalions (attached to divisions) ; 4 antiaircraft artillery battalions (Plus 4 battalions attached to divisions); the 3d Cavalry Group, with 2 squadrons; and 2 engineer combat groups, totaling about 8 battalions. In sum, General Walker had at his disposal 30 battalions of infantry, nearly 500 tanks, and over 700 guns when the long-awaited offensive began.
The plans for the coming operation had been prepared during days of the most exacting and detailed study; the air support plan, for example, contained a map showing each building in the city of Metz known to be occupied by Germans. On 3 November the XX Corps headquarters issued Field Order No.12 to the top commanders, outlining the broad scheme of maneuver to be followed. An earlier statement of the XX Corps mission had given the idea that the corps would encircle and reduce the Metz fortifications as the initial phase in the resumption of the Third Army offensive toward the Rhine. But this final field order set the "primary mission of all troops" as "the destruction or capture of the Metz garrison, without the investiture or siege of the Metz Forts." Therefore, the plan called for the XX Corps to attack, encircle, and destroy the enemy in the Metz fortified area, reconnoiter to the Sarre River, seize a bridgehead in the vicinity of Saarburg, and finally, on orders from the army headquarters, resume the attack toward the northeast.
The initial envelopment of the Metz area was assigned to the 90th Division, forming the arm north of the city, and the 5th Division, encircling the city from the south. The 95th Division was to contain the German salient west
The XX Corps Begins the November Offensive
Through the first days of November the XX Corps staff put the finishing touches on plans for the new offensive, while the troops finished their brief training schedules and convoys moved huge quantities of supplies up from depots in the communications zone. Rain and snow flurries persisted day after day, grounding the American planes and slowing traffic on the roads to a
In general, the XX Corps already held the ground from which the attack would take off, but one slight readjustment in the lines had to be made in the vicinity of Berg-sur-Moselle, west of the Moselle, where the enemy still maintained observation posts on the heights overlooking the American north flank. (Map XXX) On the night of 3 November General Walker dispatched the 3d Cavalry Group to clear the enemy from the town of Berg. By 0800 the following morning dismounted troopers held the hill overlooking Berg, but in the afternoon the Germans counterattacked and retook the hill. The American cavalry unit returned to the attack on the morning of 5 November after Berg and the commanding hill had been subjected to a heavy shelling; this time it took and held both the town and the hill.4
On the night of 7 November the 90th Division began to shuttle its troops into assembly areas on the west bank of the Moselle across from Koenigsmacker, six miles northeast of Thionville, where the division would make its crossing. The 95th Division, on the right of the 90th, had its left regiment on its designated line of departure in position to lead off in the corps attack. Its original mission, that of making a demonstration on the west bank of the Moselle, was altered in the last hours before the jump‑off. The 95th now would make a crossing, under orders to establish a bridgehead in the Uckange-Bertrange area three and a half miles south of Thionville.5 Only a limited force, however, was assigned for use east of the river, and General Walker still expected the division to co-ordinate its efforts on both sides of the Moselle so as to give the impression of a major attack‑while in fact the 90th Division made the main effort farther north. The 5th Division, which had returned to its old positions in the bridgehead south of Metz on 1 November, relieving the 95th Division there, was aligned facing the Seille River. Since the XX Corps plan of attack called for the 5th Division to make its main effort initially in the south beginning on 9 November, co-ordination of the 5th Division and XII Corps attacks was considered. However, on 4 November General Walker decided that the 5th Division would not attack simultane-
On the night Of 7 November, when General Patton gave the order that would set the Third Army attack in motion, the XX Corps assault troops began the move into assembly positions, guns were displaced forward to support the advance, and bridging and smoke generator equipment was trucked and manhandled as close to the Moselle as camouflage precautions permitted. Early on the morning of 8 November the dull sound of massed artillery fire to the south signaled the start of the XII Corps attack. All through the day the XX Corps troops lay quietly in woods and other bivouac areas. Then, as darkness came, the assault units took up attack positions and the 95th Division moved forward the troops assigned to carry out the demonstration and initial crossing preliminary to the main corps attack.
The Uckange Bridgehead
General Twaddle, the 95th Division commander, selected the 377th Infantry (Col. F. E. Gaillard) to make the D-day demonstration on the north flank of the 95th Division. This deceptive operation, called aptly enough by the code name CASANOVA, was intended as a limited-objective attack. Part of the 377th would cross the Moselle in the neighborhood of Uckange and extend a bridgehead about three-quarters of a mile inland to the little town of Bertrange, just short of the main highway between Thionville and Metz, thus giving some cover to the right flank of the 90th Division. The remainder of the 377th was given the task of erasing a small enemy salient on the west bank of the Moselle, which had been left south and east of Maiziéres-lés-Metz at the close of the 90th Division capture of that town. This attack was to be made in conjunction with the Uckange crossing. The rest of the 95th Division was
just after dark, on the night of 8 November, a small detachment of engineers from the 320th Engineer Combat Battalion crossed the Moselle south of Uckange in assault boats, crawled onto the east bank, and there blew a gap in the German wire and mine field with bangalore torpedoes, returning to the American side of the river without casualties. At 2100, H Hour for "Operation CASANOVA," the 1st Battalion of the 377th Infantry (Lt. Col. Joseph E. Decker) dispatched C Company across the river. The first wave received no small arms fire while in the boats. The 73d Regiment, 19th FG Division, responsible for this sector, had no outposts at the river and required some time to move troops into the threatened area. But the "bouncing Betties" along the bank took their toll as the company debarked. The Americans passed through the gap in the German wire and advanced about four hundred yards to the east, then halted to await daylight and the arrival of the remainder of the battalion.
In the meantime the enemy artillery, located inland, had opened up, apparently firing on check points earlier fixed along the river. Company B of the 135th Engineer Combat Battalion, assigned as part of the 1139th Engineer Group to support the 95th Division crossing, tried desperately to throw a footbridge across the river, but the German guns were too accurate. Three bridge sections were destroyed, twenty-four men became casualties, and work on the bridge halted until a new and less vulnerable site could be found.7
The attack launched by the 2d (Lt. Col. Robert L. Walton) and 3d (Lt. Col. Ross Hall) Battalions to reduce the Maiziéres pocket on the near side of the river was less successful than the river crossing. In this sector the 1215th Regiment of the 462d VG Division had been forewarned by the 90th Division attack in late October and had laid a dense mine field in front of its lines. The three assault companies which were sent off at 2100 to drive the Germans from the small woods north of Semcourt, the slag heap outside Maiziéres, and a wood lot beyond Brieux. Château ran into trouble immediately. Scouts stumbled onto trip wires that set off whole sections of the mine field and inflicted many casualties on the troops following. One platoon was reduced to a strength of one officer and five men. The Germans, alerted by
the exploding mines, poured in mortar and artillery fire, adding to the losses as the assault companies groped their way through the "vast mine fields." When the morning of 9 November dawned F Company held the woods north of Semécourt, but elsewhere the initial attack had been repelled.8 Late in the afternoon the companies were re-formed, some tanks and additional infantry were put into the attack, and by dark the 377th had driven the enemy off the slag heap and away from Brieux Château.9 A small German pocket still remained around the town of Hauconcourt, which lay beside the river northeast
During the early morning hours of 9 November the 1st Battalion of the 377th shuttled more assault craft across the Moselle and by daybreak had two companies of infantry and a heavy weapons platoon on the flood plain east of the river. Sporadic mortar fire harassed the advance, but the lead troops bypassed Bertrange and moved onto a low hill about four hundred yards east of that village without meeting enemy infantry. Here the small force halted and dug in. Back at the river the rising flood waters and intense German gun fire made further crossings in daylight extremely hazardous, despite a smoke screen laid down by two sections of the 161st Smoke Generating Company, and Colonel Decker was ordered to hold the remainder of the battalion at Uckange.
The Moselle had risen steadily since the previous night. During the day it reached flood proportions, swamping its banks, inundating the road approaches and swirling along at a speed that made the flimsy assault boats unmanageable. By the night of 9-10 November the river torrent had nearly isolated the American troops on the enemy bank and it was problematical whether they could be reinforced and provided with heavy weapons before the Germans gathered enough strength to wipe them out.
Fortunately the 19th VG Division, in whose area the troops from the 377th had landed, made no counterattack in any strength, the Germans contenting themselves with patrol action and desultory fire from field guns and mortars.10 For the next three days supplies were flown across the river by small liaison planes, which dropped medical supplies, sleeping bags, socks, gloves, ammunition, and other necessities almost into the American foxholes.11 Attempts by the engineers to build and launch an infantry support raft were frustrated by German gunfire and the turbulent river.12
The 90th Division Crossing in the Vicinity of Cattenom
When General Walker made his decision to put the 90th Infantry Division and 10th Armored Division into a wide envelopment north of Metz and Thionville, three points on the Moselle were considered as possible crossing sites: Rettel, Malling, and Cattenom. General Van Fleet, who had taken command of the 90th Infantry Division during October, ruled out the Rettel area because it lay under German observation from the heights to the northeast, and the 90th could spare neither the troops nor the time to seize or contain this ground. The terrain south of Rettel was more favorable. Here the Moselle flowed through a broad flood plain with low banks. Beyond lay one-half to one mile of flat land, terminating in abrupt slopes leading onto long, wooded ridge lines that on the far side extended perpendicularly back from the river valley. On the right of the zone assigned to the 90th Division the Cattenom crossing site lay under the guns of Fort Koenigsmacker, perched on the terminus of a ridge line. The tactical effectiveness of its location forbade that Fort Koenigsmacker be bypassed; it had to be taken, and quickly. Through the center of the division zone of advance ran the heavily wooded, rugged ridge lines on which the French had constructed some of the main fortifications of the Maginot Line. Here the initial obstacle was a group of bunkers and field works clustered around the little village of Métrich which blocked the main road south from the crossing site at Malling. The northern part of the division zone had natural features that favored the establishment of a blocking position on the left flank of the 90th Division while allowing the main attack to pivot toward the southeast. A long ridge line stretching southeast from Sierck-les-Bains through Fréching, with its highest point Mount Altenberg-hard by Sierck, provided a natural defensive position for
General Van Fleet planned to put his division across the Moselle before daylight on 9 November in sufficient strength to overrun quickly the German forts at Koenigsmacker and Métrich and secure a firm hold on the tips of the ridges extending southeast. Remaining elements of all three infantry regiments were scheduled to take part in the follow-up on 9 November. The 358th (Col. C. H. Clarke), on the right, was to cross near Cattenom. Once on the east bank the right battalion (the 1st) would launch a direct assault to take Fort Koenigsmacker and the village of Basse-Ham lying at its foot. At the same time the 3d and 2d Battalions of the 358th were to bypass the fort to the north and strike to secure lodgment on the main ridge line extending southeast from the fort. The 359th Infantry (Col. R. E. Bell), using the Malling crossing site, was to carry the attack on the left wing of the division. Its objective, in the first phase of the maneuver, was the high ground between Mount Altenberg and the village of Oudrenne. The reserve regiment, the 357th Infantry (Col. J. H. George), was scheduled to cross behind either one of the two assault regiments at the earliest moment and thrust down along the Maginot Line through the gap left between the 358th and 359th. Since the large town of Koenigsmacker lay between the axes of advance for the two assault regiments, plans were made to neutralize the town and its hinterland by artillery and chemical mortar fire until such time as the 357th Infantry could arrive east of the river and seize Koenigsmacker.
The final object in the wide‑swinging offensive by the 90th Division was the seizure of the southern terminus of the long, rough ridge line extending from Koenigsmacker to Charleville-sous-Bois. Once in position on this high ground northwest of Boulay-Moselle the 90th Division would dominate the main roads leading east out of Metz, and the northern half of the XX Corps pincers grip around the Metz-Thionville position could be considered closed. The distance to be covered by the 90th Division drive was some sixteen miles. The road net in the division zone east of the Moselle was hardly adequate, even in good weather. Furthermore, the main axial road, running. southeast from Koenigsmacker beside a little stream known as the Canner, was unusable unless the Americans held the ridge lines on either side. These two ridge lines, in the right and center of the division zone of advance, were serious
General Van Fleet planned to break through the German defenses overlooking the Moselle and quickly push down the ridge in a power drive, using two battalions in each of the assault regiments. One battalion of corps engineers was attached to each assault regiment, with the initial mission of ferrying the infantry across the river; the 315th Engineer Combat Battalion, the divisional engineer unit, was assigned to handle the bridging of the Moselle. The 90th Reconnaissance Troop (reinforced) had the task of screening the right flank of the division during the drive to the southeast; it was anticipated that this unit would eventually make contact with elements of the 95th Division on the east bank of the Moselle. The 10th Armored Division would cross the Moselle behind the infantry and then come abreast of and protect the left flank of the 90th.14
The success of the 90th Division attack would turn to a considerable degree on surprise and the prompt seizure of its initial objectives. During the week before the Third Army resumed the offensive, the division was withdrawn from the line confronting the series of forts west of Metz and dispatched, ostensibly for training, to the Audun-Aumetz area behind the corps north flank, where both the 5th and 90th Divisions had conducted training during October. The final assembly area for the attack was the Forêt de Cattenom. Although this forest offered ample cover and lay close to the Moselle, it was on a forward slope under observation from the German side of the river and therefore could be entered only during hours of darkness. In the last quiet days the 3d Cavalry Group, screening this sector, extended its patrolling. Then, on two successive nights, the 90th Division artillery displaced to positions on the rear slopes behind the forest. The guns were followed on the night of 7-8 November by the infantry, moving by truck through the rain along slippery, narrow roads.15 By daybreak the entire 90th Division, 6 battalions of supporting artillery, 2 battalions of tank destroyers, 1 battalion of tanks, 3 battalions of engineers, and 3 bridge trains were in position inside the forest and behind the hills. Each man who would take
TANKS AWAITING SIGNAL TO CROSS MOSELLE, as 712th Tank Battalion near Sentzich moves up to support 90th Infantry Division. Antiaircraft gun is shown in foreground.
part in the assault now was briefed. The artillery registered with one gun in each battalion. Assignments already had been given in the assault boats, and even the reserve regiment and supply troops had been given assault boat training in case there should be difficulty in bridging the Moselle. Telephone wires, strung during the past several nights, were at the river bank, and officers of the 90th, using 3d Cavalry Group vehicles and insignia, had completed reconnaissance on the west bank. During the early evening of 8 November the 3d Cavalry Group stepped up its harassing fire, a feature of previous nights, in order to mask activity on the American bank. Trucks moved bridging equipment down the roads leading to the demolished Moselle bridges. Mortars and machine guns were placed in position close to the water's edge so as to give direct support to the assault troops; tanks, assault guns, and infantry cannon moved to comparable positions at daybreak.
A little before midnight the assault battalions of the 358th and 359th began the 400-yard carry to bring their boats to the river. The ground they traversed
Now the main obstacle was the raging Moselle, rising with extreme rapidity. The right-wing battalions in each regiment had been forced to load into their assault boats in waist-deep water. Engineer boat crews had to be doubled in order to buck the current. Many boats on the eastern bank were lost when their crews, under galling enemy artillery fire, abandoned their craft, allowing them to float away after debarking the infantry. In the 358th sector, the eighty assault boats rapidly dwindled to twenty, although some of those lost were subsequently retrieved. The engineers working to put in footbridges found it impossible to anchor their cables securely. At the Cattenom site shellfire directed from armored observation posts in Fort Koenigsmacker made the bridge site untenable and destroyed the first five truckloads of bridging apparatus. At Mailing a support raft was launched into the swirling waters and then capsized with its very first load.16 All the while the river continued to swell.
Across the river from Cattenom, in the zone of the 358th attack, the leading platoons of the 3d Battalion also moved speedily forward. They slipped past Fort Koenigsmacker before daylight and started the advance toward the high ground between Kuntzig and Inglange which marked the initial objective for the right wing of the 90th Division. The 1st Battalion (Lt. Col. C. A. Lytle),17 on the right of the A threw C Company into Basse-Ham before the enemy could react and dispatched Companies A and B to make the coup de main at Fort Koenigsmacker. On the success of this blow the 90th Division maneuver turned.18 Before daybreak the two companies were disposed in the woods in front of the hill on which the fort stood. About 0715 the Americans attacked, rushing up the steep hill, cutting and smashing through the
By midnight General Van Fleet had eight battalions of infantry on the enemy bank and a few light antitank guns. Seven towns had been taken and at a few points the bridgehead had been extended about two miles to the east. But the bag of prisoners had been small during this first day of the attack-only about two hundred‑and it was apparent that the main enemy force had yet to be encountered.
The Enemy Situation North of Metz20
The LXXXII Corps (General der Infanterie Walter Hoernlein) formed the right wing of the First Army, holding a sector which extended from just south of Metz, through the Metz bridgehead, and north along the Moselle as far as the left boundary of Army Group B, in the neighborhood of Grevenmacher. The three infantry divisions comprising this corps were arrayed with the 462d VG Division occupying Metz and its environs, the 19th VG Division deployed in the corps center along the Moselle from Hauconcourt north to a point between Koenigsmacker and Métrich, and the 416th Division holding a thirty-five-mile front along the river which took in nearly all of the western side of the triangle formed by the confluence of the Moselle and the Sarre.
The two German divisions north of Metz were far from first-class fighting formations. The 416th Division (Generalleutnant Kurt Pflieger), like many another division on the Western Front in the autumn of 1944, had been beaten to fragments on the Eastern Front and then returned to Germany for reconstruction. After a brief stay in Denmark as a security division, it was dispatched to the First Army in early October, relieving the 48th Division in the quiet
In early November the LXXXII Corps had no tanks at all. General Balck made a gesture at strengthening the right flank of the First Army by sending the 486th Antitank Battlion, equipped with forty or fifty antitank guns, to Dalstein. But in the absence of tanks and any substantial complement of antitank weapons the LXXXII Corps was forced to depend on the natural barrier provided by the Moselle to stop an American tank thrust north of Metz, supplementing the river obstacle with a series of huge mine fields. Balck recognized the importance of such a defense and divided most of the antipersonnel and antitank mines in his depots between the LXXXII Corps, for use behind Thionville, and the LXXXV Corps, defending the Belfort Gap. The 19th VG Division alone planted some 40,000 mines along its front. The total number used to impede the progress of the American divisions in the attack north of Metz must have been tremendous.
About three weeks before the Third Army offensive Balck ordered General Knobelsdorff to group the five field artillery battalions of the 416th Division and 19th VG Division along the boundary between the two divisions so as to provide massed fire against any thrust in the Thionville sector. Further, Balck forbade Pflieger to commit his indifferent infantry against the first wave of American infantry and prescribed that in the initial phases of an attack the riposte should be made only by long‑range, observed artillery fire and heavy infantry weapons, sited to cover mine fields and obstacles. German intelligence did not anticipate that the American attack would come in the sector held
The initial American crossing east of Uckange on the night of 8-9 November had no immediate repercussions at the higher German headquarters. It seems probable that the limited strength used in the crossing led the Germans to diagnose this maneuver correctly as merely a demonstration. The enemy reaction to the subsequent attack by the 90th Infantry Division was slow, for undoubtedly the troops on the spot were caught by surprise. Later, local commanders attributed their slowness in launching counterattacks to the activity of American planes and the fierce concentration of artillery fire from the west bank of the Moselle. Actually, the east side of the river was only weakly outposted and during the first hours of 9 November the enemy was forced to rely on the fire of the artillery groupment, concentrated as Balck had directed, and the mortars supporting the infantry outpost line. In addition the attack by the 90th Division struck directly at the seam between the 416th Division and the 19th VG Division, further delaying the initiation of planned defense measures. The 416th Division particularly was dispersed and unwieldy in the face of the American advance. At Malling, where the 359th Infantry made its crossing, there were only one and a half companies of infantry.21 The nearest German support not already engaged was one company of the 713th Regiment about five miles to the rear. Pflieger ordered his reserve bat-
The only troops in the First Army free for use in an immediate counterattack were those of the 59th Regiment, 19th VG Division. At dark on the night of 9 November a reinforced company, supported by three assault guns, was shuttled north. Shortly before 0300 on 10 November this force struck at Kerling, which had been taken a few hours earlier by elements of the 3d Battalion (-), 359th Infantry. The Germans overran the American outposts and captured two antitank guns blocking the road east of the village. Apparently civilian sympathizers had mapped out the American positions, for the enemy drove head-on in the darkness without any attempt at preliminary reconnaissance. The forward platoons of Companies L and K held on until their machine guns were out of ammunition, and then the battalion fell back to the high ground northwest of Kerling. This movement uncovered the Kerling-Petite-Hettange road, the main highway through the center of the regimental zone, but the few German survivors were in no condition to continue any drive to the Moselle. The 90th Division artillery massed its guns on Kerling and, as day broke, Companies I and G moved up and blocked the road west of the village.
The Continuation of the 90th Division Attack
During 10 November there was little activity in the zone of the 359th Infantry, on the north wing of the division, but opposite the center and right of the 90th enemy resistance began to stiffen as the American attack hit the Fort Koenigsmacker and Métrich positions held by the 74th Regiment. The 357th Infantry had occupied the town of Koenigsmacher without a fight the
On the right the 358th Infantry also found the Germans reacting more stubbornly on 10 November. After repulsing a stiff counterattack in Basse-Ham where it had been covering the regiment's open right flank, Company C was moved to Fort Koenigsmacker in an endeavor to take the fort by assault from the south. There it ran into a wide and deep moat faced with stone and concrete and filled with twenty-five rows of barbed wire. Company C then was shifted to the west to link up more closely with the remainder of the 1st Battalion and to knock out a German assault from the fort which had temporarily cut off one platoon of Company A. On top of Fort Koenigsmacker Companies A and B, now reinforced by C, blasted away at the ferro-concrete works jutting above the surface.23 However, the enemy guns on the fort were not silenced and machine guns covering the roads below still were active. Concealed by the early morning fog two companies of the 3d Battalion passed the fort successfully and dug in on the Bois d'Elzange ridge, the regimental objective, where they waited for the remainder of the battalion to advance through the fire laid down by Fort Koenigsmacker. The 2d Battalion tried to swing around north of the fort and join the troops of the 3d Battalion on the ridge, but was badly cut up and halted by flanking fire from the fort.
As the second day of the attack ended, the situation in the 90th Division bridgehead seemed most precarious. Unaware of the weakness of the German
ENGINEERS WORKING IN CHILL WATERS to span the Moselle at Cattenom, where the flooded river was 1,000 yards wide.
forces opposing the division, General Van Fleet and his troops expected a full scale counterattack, since this was the obvious moment for retaliatory action. No armor or tank destroyer support was across the river as yet and covering fire depended on the batteries sited on the west bank, whose gunners, working in mud to their knees, fired around the clock. The infantry were tired, soaked to the skin, and numbed with cold. What few blankets were to be had were used for the wounded. Rations were slim and ammunition was becoming scarce. Battle casualties had mounted, but fatigue and exposure threatened to take an even greater toll in the ranks. The supply routes back to the river were still under fire. The rapidly dwindling medical supplies in the aid stations on the far side, plus the considerable hazard involved in the laborious three-hour crossing of the torrent, now under heavy fire from German artillery, forced the decision that evacuation across the Moselle would be limited to the severely wounded who were expected to die unless they were rendered more extensive medical attention than was possible there. Lacking their own
Despite the weather and the river some resupply reached the troops across the Moselle, and a few 57-mm. antitank guns were ferried over to reinforce the infantry. Early on the morning of 11 November the three regiments swung into an advance, the tired and miserable "doughfeet" moving forward with surprising speed and drive. In the center the 2d and 3d Battalions of the 357th launched a predawn attack, moving abreast in column of companies down the main Maginot ridge line, which here rose between two little streams, the Canner and the Oudrenne. One company of the 3d Battalion was detached to clear the enemy from the remaining works of the Métrich position. Before daybreak the company was in the pillboxes surrounding the last large casemate-but something had been learned from the Fort Driant experience and no attempt was made to force a way through the tunnel entrances leading into the casemate. Instead, a small detachment was left behind to seal in the German garrison with small arms fire. The main body of the 357th moved swiftly over the rugged, wooded ground, following the few narrow trails that passed for roads, or maneuvering cross country to assault
On the north wing of the division the 359th briefly was thrown off stride by local counterattacks during the morning hours-probably made by troops of the reserve regiment of the 19th VG Division. Just before daylight a rain of artillery shells exploded among the 1st Battalion infantry holding the left flank of the regiment. Behind this concentration about one hundred fifty Germans and three assault guns advanced from the forest cover of the Videmsbusch toward the American lines. Two of the enemy guns were disabled at the first shock,27 but the 1st Battalion was being driven back; then a platoon of only ten men, from A Company, charged in on the German flank and disorganized the attackers. By this time the American artillery was on the target and the enemy had no stomach for continuing the fight. At 0900 the lost ground was retaken and the battalion moved forward to the attack.28
On the opposite flank the 3d Battalion had just occupied the high ground directly north of Kerling when German assault guns and infantry counter-
By midmorning the 359th attack had gained full momentum all along its front. The ridges ahead were taken after a stiff fight, Kerling was outposted, but Oudrenne remained in German hands. The American troops seized and blocked the crossroads southeast of Rettel, thus cutting the main highway entering the regimental zone from the north, and the left flank of the division was stabilized along a relatively defensible line.
Over on the south flank of the 90th Division the 358th Infantry had what the divisional After Action Report called "an exceptional day" on 11 November. Early in the morning the elements of the 3d Battalion which had filtered past the guns at Fort Koenigsmacker and taken up positions on the Bois d'Elzange ridge captured a three-man patrol coming along the back road that led to the fort. The Germans told their captors that a relief party of about 145 men was following, en route to reinforce the garrison. Thereupon, 1st Lt. Frank E. Gatewood deployed K Company and his five machine guns in an ambush and, when the German column was only fifty yards away, gave the order to fire. Over half of the enemy were killed. The rest fled.30
Before daybreak the 2-d Battalion slipped past the machine guns and artillery on the north side of Fort Koenigsmacker, which had checked its advance the day before, mounted the ridge, and took its assigned position on the right of the 3d Battalion. While the 1st Battalion, reinforced by G Company, continued the fight at the fort, the balance of the regiment drove ahead along the ridge under continuous mortar fire. In the late afternoon the 3d Battalion attacked and took Hill 254, whose field fortifications overlooked the road between Valmestroff and Elzange, killing or capturing "its considerable gar-
At the end of 11 November the 90th Division was in a far more advantageous situation than twenty-four hours earlier. The left flank, which was also that of the corps and army, was fairly secure. The first German main line of resistance had been broken at Forts Métrich and Koenigsmacker, and was cracking at spots along the ridge lines in the sectors of the 357th and 358th. Over five hundred prisoners had been taken. The area of penetration had nearly doubled. Finally, the flooded Moselle had begun to recede. At midnight the first tractors snaking trucks loaded with jeeps and supplies splashed through the flooded causeways and over the Malling bridge. Ferries, now more manageable, crossed vehicles and antitank guns. With the flood waters ebbing at the rate of about three-fourths of an inch per hour, however, it would still be a matter of hours until the 90th Division drive could be supported in proper fashion.34
The enemy fight thus far had been carried by the 416th Division, reinforced by infantry of the 19th VG Division. But at long last the Kampfgruppe of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division, earmarked earlier for use in counterattack, had procured some gasoline and trucks. During the night of 11-12 November this Kampfgruppe moved south to assembly areas opposite the 359th Infantry. Rundstedt's headquarters had ordered specifically that the counterthrust be made just south of Sierck, apparently with intent to roll up
At 0300, on 12 November, the 25th Panzer Grenadier Kampfgruppe, composed of the 35th Panzer Grenadier Regiment and reinforced by some ten tanks and assault guns, struck the lines of the 359th.35 The initial German assault drove the 3d Battalion outposts out of Kerling and forced the battalion back to the high ground northwest of the village. There, after much confusion, it re-formed on the right of the 1st Battalion. Shortly before 0600 the main attack developed, one enemy force thrusting along the Kerling-Petite-Hettange road, another striking at the junction of the 1st and 3d Battalions south of Hunting.36 The attack down the road was made in force, with the obvious intention of seizing Petite-Hettange and from there launching a blow against the Malling bridge site. Led by assault guns and tanks, the German infantry marched in single file on both sides of the road‑straight toward Petite-Hettange and the reserve positions manned by the 2d Battalion. The first clash came when the enemy hit G Company (1st Lt. A. L. Budd) and two platoons of the 2d Battalion heavy weapons company (Capt. S. E. McCann) deployed in the woods south of the road. A part of the German column turned aside to deal with these forces; a part continued on toward Petite-Hettange. The mortar and machine gun crews supporting G Company especially distinguished themselves in the action which followed. Sgt. Forrest E. Everhart, who had taken over the machine gun platoon when the platoon commander, 1st Lt. William O'Brien, was killed, led his men with such bravery as to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.37 Pvt. Earl Oliver stayed with his machine gun when the other guns had been knocked out, and maintained a continuous fire until he was killed by a mortar shell. When day broke twenty-two enemy dead were found in front of his position-some only fifteen feet away.38 So close had the Germans pressed the assault that a sergeant in the mortar platoon had uncoupled the bipod of his mortar and used it at
Farther down the road toward Petite-Hettange two American antitank pieces were knocked out by the assault guns in the van of the attack column. But a third antitank gun continued to fire in the darkness up the Kerling road and succeeded in immobilizing the enemy point. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Robert Booth, the 2d Battalion commander, gathered a mixed force of cooks, clerks, and an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon, at the crossroads southeast of Petite-Hettange. This scratch force momentarily checked the German column with fire from small arms and bazookas. By now all of the twenty artillery battalions available to give support were busy shelling the road. Then, as a last crippling blow, two American tank destroyers that had been able to make their way across the Malling bridge, just before it was destroyed by enemy artillery fire, came rolling through the half-light up to the crossroads and before stopping destroyed two German assault guns and immobilized a third. The American infantry, artillery, and tank destroyers had taken the heart out of the Germans and they began to fall back; only one enemy assault gun got away.39 Later, some two hundred enemy bodies were counted lying alongside the cratered road.
The secondary attack against the south flank of the 1st Battalion, disposed in the woods north of Hunting, was equally unsuccessful. Here the enemy infantry crept forward through the darkness until they were only fifty yards from the woods and then charged, firing and yelling. Although the American riflemen were driven back, Pfc. Lloyd F. Harbaugh, of D Company, bravely manned his heavy machine gun and held back the attackers while his own infantry reorganized. When his ammunition gave out Private Harbaugh was killed, but he had won time for his comrades and the German attack finally was repelled with heavy loss to the enemy.
The main body of the enemy already was in retreat toward Kerling when Colonel Booth and Lieutenant Budd led Companies E and G in a wild charge into the German flank, turning the withdrawal into a rout. In sum, the counterattack on which the German command had counted so heavily cost the
Progress along the ridge in the center of the 90th Division zone was rapid on 12 November, but the stubborn enemy made the 357th Infantry pay heavily for its gains. The reserve battalion had been brought across the river, though with much difficulty, and with this reinforcement available to mop up the troublesome pillboxes in their rear the 2d and 3d Battalions were free to continue the advance. As the 3d Battalion emerged from the Bois de Koenigsmacker and into the draw below, it came under fire from a line of trenches on the forward slope of the next ridge southeast of Breistroff-la-Petite. For some hours the battalion maneuvered to close with the Germans in the trenches. Finally, Pfc. Foster J. Sayers, of L Company, wormed his way through the wire strung along the glacis in front of the German trench line, leaped into the trench, and poured an enfilading fire from his light machine gun down its length. Private Sayers was killed.40 But his company poured through the breach he had made and the position was taken. The 2d Battalion had circled around the Germans on the slope and when the day ended held a spur overlooking the village of Inglange.41 On the left the 3d Battalion lay with its open flank refused, waiting for the situation in front of the ~59th to clarify. This day of battle had seen the enemy forced to relinquish another segment of the long ridge chain; but the ranks of the two assault battalions were rapidly thinning.
The 358th Infantry likewise found the Germans on its front determined to stand and hold. The 1st Battalion was placed in reserve, covering the right flank of the division and resting after the hard battle at Fort Koenigsmacker. The 2d and 3d Battalions launched a co-ordinated attack against Valmestroff and Elzange. These villages were taken after bitter fighting during which
Back at the river, prospects were a little brighter at the close of 12 November. A bridge was under construction at the Cattenom crossing. The Malling bridge was in process of repair, after a lucky hit by German gunners.43 Both crossing sites were fairly well covered by a smoke screen. The Moselle had ebbed to a point where heavy rafting could be done, and by midnight two platoons of tank destroyers, two platoons of tanks, and a number of jeeps fitted as litter carriers had been ferried across. But in the forward positions there was little to cheer the foot soldier. There still were no dry clothes or blankets in which he might warm himself during the cold November nights. Each company had,gaping ranks; and in six of the nine battalions the rifle strength was now only half the original complement.44 Moreover, the events of 12 November gave no indication that the German will to resist was weakening.
On the enemy side of the hill the LXXXII Corps had only a gloomy story to relate to the First Army and Army Group G. As early as 10 November OB WEST started an investigation to determine the causes for the American penetration south of Sierck. The explanations proffered were: the lack of combat experience in the 416th Division and its dispersal along an overextended front; the accurate and heavy American artillery fire, ably adjusted by low flying observation planes; and the intervention of the American Jabo's, which prevented the movement of troops into counterattack positions. There was little answer that Rundstedt's headquarters could make when presented
The 90th Division Advance Continues-13 November
By 13 November the advance of the 357th Infantry had carried the regiment almost beyond range of its artillery support. The regiment paused and cleared out the remaining knots of Germans in its rear with explosive charges and flame throwers, while the regiments on either flank moved up abreast. The 359th Infantry reoccupied Kerling without a fight. But when the 2d Battalion attacked, late in the afternoon, to effect a juncture with the 357th outposts near Oudrenne, the leading company hit squarely into a large mine field. Three tanks, leading the advance, were destroyed in quick succession. After futile attempts to find the limits of the mined area, the infantry were
During the day the 359th occupied Oudrenne and joined its right flank firmly to the line held by the 357th. The 358th continued its push and placed the 3d Battalion astride the Inglange-Distroff road. Then, when the German garrisons in the two villages were denied mutual support, the attack forked out to take them. The 2d Battalion captured Distroff in some very hard fighting and rescued a twenty-four-man patrol, belonging to the 3d Battalion, which had entered the village but had been driven to seek shelter in the
The Expansion of the 95th Division Bridgehead
On the night of 10 November General Walker ordered General Twaddle, the 95th Infantry Division commander, to expand his operation on the east bank of the Moselle, where the 1st Battalion of the 377th Infantry had its foothold opposite Uckange. General Walker was still seeking to establish a firm bridgehead, with adequate heavy bridging, through which to cross the 10th Armored Division in accordance with the XX Corps scheme of maneuver. The corps commander therefore instructed General Twaddle to commit the 2d Battalion, 378th Infantry (Lt. Col. A. J. Maroun), acting as corps reserve, in a reconnaissance in force to determine the feasibility of seizing a bridgehead at Thionville, about three miles north of the tiny lodgment area held by the1st Battalion, 377th.
Two companies of the reserve battalion, supported by
the 135th Engineer Combat Battalion, crossed the Moselle, which here separated
the American- and German-held districts of the city, and by midday on 11
November had cleared a small area in the eastern section. Stronger resistance
was encountered at the edge of the city, where the Germans were holed up in
Fort Yutz, a large, old, star-shaped fortification of the Vauban type. This
fort was separated from the city proper by a canal which served the fort as
a forward moat. Fortunately, the canal was narrow enough at two points to be
crossed without boats; F and G Companies made their way across and into the
fort under heavy mortar fire. Here the German garrison stood its ground with
flame throwers and small arms, but by noon of 13 November the 2d Battalion overpowered
it and held Fort Yutz. North of Thionville the Americans quickly expanded
the bridgehead perimeter. One artillery shell fired into Basse-Yutz produced
a fluttering of white towels and sheets-the Germans had with
The story changed when the 2d Battalion switched to the southern sector of the Thionville bridgehead perimeter on the afternoon of 14 November. On the northern end of the Illange plateau were clustered four works of the Driant type, small but rather modern, and a fixed battery, grouped to give mutual support and to cover the main Metz-Thionville highway, along which the 2d Battalion had to advance in order to relieve the 1st Battalion of the 377th Infantry, isolated on the east bank of the Moselle opposite Uckange. As the 2d Battalion approached Fort Illange an apprehensive German soldier put out the white flag. Colonel Maroun dispatched 1st Lt. James Billings to demand a surrender, promoting Billings briefly for prestige purposes with an extra pair of captain's bars. Although the garrison consisted of only one company of the 74th Regiment, the enemy commander nevertheless refused to negotiate and prepared to defend his position. A call from the 2d Battalion brought the artillery across the river into action and shells from the 155-mm. guns and 240‑mm. howitzers poured in on the fort. When the fire lifted, the three rifle companies debouched from the woods surrounding the fort and went up the slope at a run in front of the German works. At the top the infantry took shelter in a fringe of trees encircling the fort area and waited while artillery and mortar fire again was concentrated on the enemy. The final assault was made through twenty yards of barbed wire under severe shelling by the German mortars, whose crews had returned to their weapons as soon as the American concentration ended. By dark a third of the enceinte was cleared.51 All through the night a fire fight raged, but next morning the Americans "buttoned up" the reinforced concrete works above ground with machine guns and mortars, and then proceeded systematically to blast them open with shaped charges. Their occupants were finished off with threaded charges of ten-pound TNT blocks dropped in through the vents. At 1040 the German survivors surrendered to Colonel Maroun, who had been twice wounded during the action. The capture of the Illange forts ended all organized resistance in the northern sector of the 95th Division zone east of the Moselle. On the previous day the cavalry reconnaissance troop of the
At 1015 on 15 November, while Colonel Maroun's battalion still was fighting at the Illange forts, Col. Robert L. Bacon52 was given command of the 95th Division troops east of the river, provided with some cavalry, engineers, and tank destroyers, and ordered to attack south with this task force toward Metz, clearing the enemy from the east bank of the Moselle as he went.53 In actuality, Task Force Bacon at this moment did not exist as a homogeneous command, for the 2d Battalion, 378th Infantry, and the 1st Battalion, 377th Infantry, were not yet in contact. Indeed, the 1st Battalion now was so hard pressed by the enemy that the other troops composing Task Force Bacon were compelled to launch an immediate attack south for its relief.
On the morning of 13 November the last company of the 1st Battalion, 377th Infantry, crossed the Moselle to join the little force already in the Uckange bridgehead. General Twaddle had ordered the 1st Battalion to attack at once and push north past the towns of Bertrange and Imeldange, take Illange-which lay on the edge of the dominant plateau south of Thionville and make contact with the drive southward by the 2d Battalion of the 378th Infantry. (Map XXXI) Company A debarked from its assault boats straight into the attack and took Bertrange and Imeldange without much fighting. The remainder of the 1st Battalion swung north and was just in the process of setting up defenses in the two villages, preparatory to bivouacking for the night, when a task force from the 73d Regiment of the 19th VG Division and a mobile unit from the 485th Antitank Battalion counterattacked. The American forces in the two towns were separated and both were hard beset by mobile columns of infantry. In their armored personnel carriers the Germans dashed up and down the streets, firing into the houses where the Americans had taken shelter, and spreading disorder and confusion in their wake. The tank destroyers emplaced west of the river as direct support for the 1st Battalion did not have the range to reach the counterattack. Communication
The 10th Armored Division is Committed
On 9 November the 10th Armored Division assembled around Molvange and Rumelange, which were far enough west of the Moselle to be safe from enemy observation. There it waited for General Walker to give the order committing the division east of the river. On receipt of the order from the corps it was supposed to cross the Moselle in two columns, pass through the 90th Division bridgehead wrested from the Germans north of Thionville, and strike quickly to effect a deep penetration. Once the division sliced through the enemy crust the 110th Armored plan of maneuver called for the left column to advance to the east and win a bridgehead over the Sarre River, somewhere near Merzig. This bid for a Sarre crossing site was particularly important in
The terrain in the zone assigned for the 10th Armored Division drive had little to recommend it to an armored force. The road net was limited. One good paved highway did exist, running from Kerling, through Laumesfeld and Bibiche, to Bouzonville. The only other through road which could be used for tanks stretched from Oudrenne (via Lemestroff, Monneren, and Dalstein) to Freistroff. However, this route had not been used by the Germans during the occupation and had fallen into disrepair. Any cross-country movement would be most difficult, particularly after the autumn rains had beaten into the clay soil characteristic of this country.
For five days General Morris, commander of the 10th Armored, waited for the word to send his division across the Moselle. The five days were marked by orders and counterorders, new plans and estimates‑all contingent on the caprices of the flooded river and the degree of success achieved by the enemy gunners shelling the American bridge sites. The assault crossing at Thionville by Maroun's battalion gave the possibility of a new and successful bridging operation, just as the corps commander had intended. At this point the flood waters of the Moselle were constricted by two relatively high retaining walls, and the stone piers of an earlier bridge still stood. The 1306th Engineer General Service Regiment (Lt. Col. W. C. Hall) set to the task of building a Bailey bridge on 112 November, under orders from General Walker to continue on the job regardless of enemy fire. German mortars and field guns threw in one concentration after another. Once, during the late afternoon of the 12th, work had to be suspended for a couple of hours. On the morning of the 13th the wind shifted, blowing away the covering smoke. German gunners laid their shells within a hundred yards of the bridge but could not get a direct hit. This time work on the Bailey continued, the engineers climbing into the superstructure clad in flak suits. Finally, at 0930 on 14 November,
CCB began the 10th Armored Division drive on the early morning of 15 November, advancing under flurries of rain and snow along the road east of Kerling. Progress was slow. The reconnaissance units and the platoon of medium tanks at the head of the column were forced to halt again and again to deal with German road blocks, antitank guns, and pillboxes blocking the highway. CCA pushed out of the bridgehead late in the afternoon and, as day ended, entered Lemestroff at the left of the line held by the 357th Infantry. General Althaus originally had intended to keep a provisional reconnaissance squadron at the head of his combat command, in conventional fashion, but the German guns blocking the route were too effective against light armor and these reconnaissance elements were deflected to the flanks of the heavier column.59
The enemy forces, mostly from the 416th Division and the 25th Panzer Grenadier Kampfgruppe, stood their ground where they could on 16 November, but the armored columns now were well into the German positions and about 250 prisoners were bagged.60 CCA attacked in two task forces. Task Force Chamberlain (Lt. Col. Thomas C. Chamberlain) switched through Kerling and attacked southeast along the main paved highway, bivouacking for the night east of Laumesfeld. Task Force Standish (Lt. Col. Miles L. Standish) continued along the meandering, indifferent road.east of Lemestroff
To make maximum use of the few poor roads, on 17 and 18 November the 10th Armored Division fanned out in splinter task forces. The Germans no longer had much cohesion, but a few small groups tried to check the American armor with bazooka fire and antitank guns. More than six hundred of the enemy surrendered to the tankers and the armored infantry. For the first time in days the skies had cleared, permitting the XIX TAC to go aloft in force. General Weyland put the 405th and 406th Groups on the columns retreating before the 10th Armored-with disastrous results to the enemy. On 18 November one detachment from CCA reached the Nied River, just across from Bouzonville, but found the bridges blown. A few tanks and infantry discovered a bridge near Filstroff, damaged but still usable, and crossed the Nied north of Bouzonville; night came before the rest could cross. In the meantime the north column of CCB took Launstroff, six miles west of Merzig. One task force drove as far as Schwerdorff, only four and a half miles from the junction of the Nied and Sarre Rivers, on 18 November.61
CCA established a shallow bridgehead across the Nied River the following day, although the enemy (rear guard detachments of the 73d Regiment) showed more fight than in the days past and succeeded in killing fifteen of the combat command and wounding twenty-one-a relatively high loss for this operation. Likewise, CCB was moving very slowly as the enemy stiffened to hold the approach routes leading to the Sarre River; apparently there would be no dash to seize the Sarre crossings. But the 10th Armored Division had completed its mission, insofar as the XX Corps envelopment of Metz was concerned; the infantry divisions on the inner rim of the circle had clamped tightly around the city by the morning of 19 November, and there was little probability that the enemy had the reserves available for an attack from the east to relieve the Metz garrison. Therefore, with General Patton's injunction that the Sarre must be crossed ringing in his ears, the XX Corps commander ordered General Morris to pull CCA back from the Nied River and send it north to join the rest of the division. On the night of 19-20 November the combat command blew the Nied bridges and began rolling in black-out back through the 90th Infantry Division en route to take part in the attack toward the Sarre.
When the 10th Armored Division passed through the lines of the 359th Infantry on 15 November and struck out to the east, the 90th Division bridgehead had attained a width of eleven miles and a depth of seven. Although the 416th Division and the 19th VG Division were giving way, and the roads behind the German lines were filled with vehicles heading east, there was still a reserve force capable of making a serious counterattack. The Kampfgruppe of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division had been reinforced by a battalion from the 74th Regiment after the reverse suffered at the hands of the 359th Infantry in the fight west of Kerling; now the First Army commander was given permission to use it in another riposte, this time at the southern flank of the 90th Division. The German records do not reveal the reasoning behind the decision to recommit this Kampfgruppe. Probably the enemy commander merely hoped to delay the American advance and cover the withdrawal of his own troops. In any event the Kampfgruppe of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division, composed at this time of three battalions of infantry, field artillery, tanks, and assault guns, was sent around the open right flank of the 358th Infantry to an assembly area in the Bois de Stuckange.62
At daybreak on 15 November the Kampfgruppe struck east at Distroff in what the 90th Division After Action Report later called "the most violent counter blow of the campaign." Distroff was held by the 2d Battalion, 358th Infantry, its position blocking the main road net leading into the rear of the regimental sector. In addition a platoon from Company A, 712th Tank Battalion, was bivouacked in and around the village, and a platoon from the 773d Tank Destroyer Battalion was in position back of Distroff. A little before 0700 enemy shells suddenly burst in the village. This preparatory fire continued for about twenty minutes. Then the Germans were seen coming along the road from Metzervisse, a few tanks and assault guns leading the attack, and the infantry marching or riding in armored carriers. Two German battalions seemed to be involved in this assault, one hooking into Distroff from the south and one circling to the east of the village. A third battalion, apparently marching to envelop the American position from the north, was checked by the fire of the 90th Division artillery and took no part in the main fight. Close to Distroff the German tanks and assault guns were hit by fire from
DISTROFF. The area shown in the photograph is indicated on Map XXX.
The Distroff counterattack was the last to strike the 90th Division during the envelopment of Metz, though organized and stubborn German resistance continued a while longer. During 15 November the 357th Infantry maintained its uphill and downdale advance with an attack to take the ridge between Budling and Buding. About 0645 the 2d and 3d Battalions moved out of the woods astride the ridge where the regiment had halted three days earlier. As the troops came down the forward slopes overlooking the valley road toward Budling, enemy shells began dropping at an estimated rate of one round per second. At first the guns could not be discovered. Finally the American forward observers ascertained that the fire was coming from Maginot Line casemates on top of the Hackenberg, a promontory jutting out from the east end of the enemy ridge. From there belt-fed French 75's enfiladed the whole valley and the forward lines of the 357th. Since the 3d Battalion, nearest the Hackenberg, could not advance in the face of this quick fire without unnecessarily high losses, Col. J. H. George, the regimental commander, brought the 1st Battalion up from reserve to aid the 2d Battalion in making an envelopment of the enemy's left flank. At the same time American guns began hammering away at the Hackenberg works with counterbattery fire. A platoon of tank destroyers opened up at 2,750 yards and immediately scored direct hits on the German casemates-with no discernible results. Then the heavy pieces took a hand in the action, but neither the 8-inch guns nor the 240-mm. howitzers were able to still the enemy artillery.
The day ended with the 357th still held in check. During the night, however, some self-propelled 155-mm. guns were moved to within 2,000 yards from Hackenberg and on 16 November they neutralized the German guns, allowing the two right-wing battalions to cross the valley and take the steep, wooded ridge beyond. Next day the attack continued on its up-and-down course, only to be checked in the second valley ahead when the 2d Battalion unexpectedly ran into a determined enemy detachment barricaded in the village of Klang. In the meantime the 3d Battalion occupied the Hackenberg. There they found that the American self-propelled guns had already given the quietus to irs defenders, whose bodies lay heaped around the demolished quick firers. Hastening on to pass between the two leading battalions the 3d Battalion arrived just in time to take part in a squeeze play at Klang. The appearance of some American tanks rolling down the road toward Klang had discouraged the enemy in the town and precipitated a general exodus,
While the 357th was busy cracking the last resistance in front of the division left wing (the 359th was now in reserve), the 358th wedged its way forward on the right. After waiting twenty-four hours outside of Inglange for the situation at Distroff to emerge clearly from the smoke of battle, the 3d Battalion struck down into Inglange on 16 November in a co-ordinated assault with tanks and tank destroyers. Most of the defenders had evacuated the spot during the earlier lull and only thirty prisoners and two antitank guns were taken. The 2d Battalion followed up its hard-won victory at Distroff in an attack co-ordinated with the 1st Battalion, both using marching fire. The 2d Battalion took Metzervisse, after the village had been subjected to a heavy shelling by division and corps artillery, and a flanking attack had turned the German position along the railroad embankment on the north. On 17 November the 2d Battalion continued on to Metzeresche with tanks leading. By now the enemy was withdrawing everywhere. Metzeresche was quickly overrun and the 1st Battalion leapfrogged ahead to a position astride the Dalstein-Metz road.
The events of 17 November, both north and south of Metz, greatly worried General Balck, the Army Group G commander. He saw that unless the north flank of the First Army was withdrawn to the east, and quickly, a gaping hole would be torn in the German front which might never be mended. At 1930 Balck gave orders for the First Army to pull back its right and center, the 416th Division and 19th VG Division withdrawing in this move to the line Borg-Launstroff-Bouzonville, while the XIII SS Corps redressed its right wing to link up with the left of the LXXXII Corps. During the night of 17 November the German guns began barrage fire and the enemy infantry abandoned their positions in front of the 90th Division and the southern column of the 10th Armored Division.65
On 18 and 19 November the American forces pursued the retreating German columns. General Van Fleet threw the 359th Infantry into the chase and
This eleven-day operation by the 90th Infantry Division shows how far it had come since its initial performance in Normandy. While the enemy forces opposing the 90th in the November operations often were poor,68 elements
of the division had met and defeated troops from one of the crack German divisions on the Western Front, the 25th Panzer Grenadier Division, and had fought through terrain of considerable natural difficulty, made worse by the autumn rains. The seizure of a bridgehead over the Moselle in particular had been ably executed and had so impressed General Patton that he termed it "one of the epic river crossings of history."69 The demonstrable losses inflicted on the enemy during this operation totaled 2,100 prisoners, some 40 tanks and assault guns, 75 artillery pieces, over 200 vehicles, and an unknown but high number of dead and wounded.70 However, the 90th Division itself had lost some 2,300 officers and men in the first seven days which marked the hardest fighting.