134th Infantry Regiment
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
Transcribed by Roberta V. Russo, Palatine, Illinois
With the Chateaudun - Orleans area consolidated, the 35th Infantry Division was ready for its next operation. It was to be a continuation of the American blitz with the 137th attached to the 4th Armored Division. On 20 August, the Regiment, combined with elements of the 4th was divided into three parts. The 1st Battalion formed a team with Combat Command A; the 2nd Battalion and another armored battalion formed Combat Command B; the 3rd Battalion was attached to Combat Command R. One battery of the Santa Fe's 448th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion was also attached to the armor.
The plan for the coming move called for spectacular action. Sixty miles southeast of Paris was the city of Sens. Located on the navigable Yonne River, just below the junction with the Seine, this rail and highway center was reported to be a central supply point for German strongpoints to the northwest as far as Paris and southwest to Montargis. The mission of Combat Commands A and B was to capture Sens and cut the supply route. Combat Command R was to remain in Orleans to secure the city.
Moving in a column of tanks, tank destroyers, self-propelled artillery and trucks, the plan was for these forces to travel approximately 90 miles without flank protection. Caution was necessary as it was believed that the Germans were in considerable strength on the Loing River at Montargis and farther north at Fontainbleau. It was decided to move between these reported strongpoints and cross the Loing at Souppes, and then push east into Sens.
The success of such an operation depended largely on the surprise element as the enemy was unaware of the proximity of the American Forces, due to his own shattered transportation and communication lines.
At 0900 on 21 August Combat Command A left Artenay and was followed four hours later by Combat Company B. Swinging through Patay and Ormes to Orleans, the column then turned northeast. Main highways as far as Nibelle were avoided where possible. The force moved through Trainou, Sully la Chapelle and Ingrannes, then turned east through the Chene Pointu Forest to Nibelle.
Here the cavalcade took to the main highways, moving into Boiscommun, east to St. Loup les Vignes, then to Juranville and Corbeilles. This was the first time these towns had seen allied troops since most of them had been occupied by German troops only the previous day.
Combat Command A proceeded northeast toward Sens, through Chateau-Landon and Souppes, then east through Egreville, Jouy, Montacher, St. Valerien, and Villeroy. Moving into Sens, the forces caught the Germans by complete surprise. Not a single casualty was suffered by the 137th Infantry and almost the entire German garrison was taken prisoner. Many Nazi officials were taken in dress uniform. They admitted that they had thought the Americans were miles away. By 2200 Sens was completely liberated. In occupying the city Combat Command A had now advanced farther east into France than other allied troops yet reported. Combat Command B had reached Corbeilles at 2030, and remained east of that town for the night.
The next morning, Combat Command B moved on to Chateau Landon, but ran into enemy resistance at Souppes. This point had been passed by Combat Command A the previous day, but the Germans hadn't exposed themselves to make a stand. By noon, however, all resistance against Combat Command B had been wiped out with only small casualties suffered. Later in the day Combat Command B turned southeast and captured Courtenay and Douchy cutting the escape route east from Montargis.
At Sens the Yanks were enthusiastically welcomed by the delighted French, and, as in Orleans, there were numerous parades, demonstrations and public gatherings.
Caught unaware, the Nazis had no time to remove the huge piles of supplies they had gathered. Warehouses and storage caves yielded large stores of canned goods, flour, chocolate, and other foodstuffs. For many days afterward, Yanks had hotcakes for breakfast made from German buckwheat. There were also many enemy vehicles in good repair and a number of prisoners were captured.
Meanwhile the 134th and the 320th had been active in another direction. On 21 August the 320th occupied the town of Pithiviers and the high ground in that vicinity without opposition, while the 134th began a movement to the east. The regiments were in combat team formation. Combat Team 134 operated with the 255th Field Artillery Battalion, Company A of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and one battery of the 448th Anti-Aircraft Artillery, Combat Team 320 strengthened by the attachment of Company C of the 654th, the 127th Field Artillery Battalion and one battery of the 448th.
On 22 August, Combat Team 134 moved into the vicinity of Montargis and launched an attack on the city. In the afternoon an advance was made into the southwestern outskirts of the town. Scattered resistance was encountered, including roadblocks and armored vehicles. By noon of 23 August, one battalion was advancing in an encircling movement around the southern edge of the town.
Combat Team 320, in the meantime, took positions on the high ground west of Montargis after fighting through light opposition to the northeast. By nightfall Montargis had fallen to the combined operation of Combat Teams 134 and 320.
The next day Combat Team 320 moved by foot to the vicinity of Courtenay, conducting mopping up operations while en route. Combat Team 134 also advance several kilometers east of Montargis and on 25 August, it moved by motor to Joigny, seizing and holding the town while patrolling south and east of it. Both Combat Teams mopped up in the Charny-Douchy-Montargis sector as far as St. Florentin and south of Joigny. Combat Team 134 alone captured over 900 prisoners on 26 August as the division counted 1134 in the Prisoner of War cage for the day.
The 137th then was released from 4th Armored control and continued on the mission of protecting the south flank of the XII Corps. This was also the south flank of the Third Army from Orleans to Troyes.
Intelligence reports indicated that the enemy might attempt a counter-attack with the objective of recapturing Troyes and breaking through the south flank of the Third Army. To prepare for this, Task Force "S" was assembled on 28 August consisting of Combat Team 320, 737th Tank Battalion and elements of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The mission was to protect Troyes from attacks from the east, southeast or south and to clear the area north of the Seine River from the city to a line from Vendeuvre to Bar sur Seine. The force did this and moved to the vicinity of Brienne le Chateau on 1 September. The remainder of the division continued its mission of flank protection until relieved by other XII Corps troops on 8 September.
With allied forces driving north from southern France and east from Normandy and Brittany, the next move of the 35th was to advance across the Moselle River below Nancy, take the city and open the way for a drive on the German border. Control of the Moselle and the Meurthe Rivers below Nancy was essential to the occupation of the city itself.
The first step in this operation was to occupy the high ground east of the Moselle River in order to cover any crossing that might be made. It was assumed that the Germans would blast all bridges over the river which they did. The 134th Infantry was ordered to attack to the north and the 137th to the south.
On 10 September the attack was made at 0800 and the 2nd Battalion, 137th, encountered artillery fire east of Houdelmont. They continued to drive forward. By 1300 they had crossed the north-south highway between Centerey and Benney Forest. A half-hour later the battalion was in Benney Forest itself, while two miles south the 3rd Battalion had reached Lemainville. By 1700 the 137th was on the high ground west of the Moselle in a position to attempt a crossing the following morning.
The 134th advanced east from Thuilley-aux-Groseille on the same day and secured the west bank of the Moselle in its sector. At 2230 the 2nd Battalion had crossed a bridge over the river. Shortly after midnight the enemy counter-attacked while at the same time, the Luftwaffe tried to bomb the bridge. Enemy artillery also made the bridge a target and succeeded in destroying it. The 2nd Battalion, caught on the east bank of the river, fought back valiantly, but its losses were heavy as it was driven back across the river.
Fort de Pont St. Vincent was the dominating terrain feature in this area. Why the Germans abandoned it, no one knew. After Company A, 134th had occupied it, the Germans realizing their gross error, attacked. But the valiant men of Company A, realizing that they held a prize, drove the Germans off after a brisk firefight.
On 11 September the 137th attempted to make two crossings of the Moselle - the 2nd Battalion near Crevechamps and the 3rd near Neuviller sur Moselle. The first to cross the Moselle from the 137th was 1st Lieutenant (later Captain) Joseph S. Giacobello, Mt. Union, Pennsylvania. With 15 men of Company F he crossed the river and was soon out of communication with the rest of the battalion. The remainder of Company F was pinned down most of the day on an island in the river below Crevechamps. The crossing was difficult because the Germans had blown all the bridges from Flavigny south and they held strong positions on the east side of the river with machine gun emplacements on the steep bluffs overlooking it with well-placed artillery positions in the rear. The canal running parallel to the river's west bank was an added barrier.
The 2nd Battalion was unable to put additional forces across the river in the Crevechamps area that day and Lieutenant Giacobello and his men were the only Americans across the river at that point. Resistance was so great the battalion had to withdraw and attempt a crossing farther south.
Elements of the 3rd Battalion crossed the river in their sector during the day but were pinned down until late in the afternoon. At 1730, a coordinated attack was launched by the entire 137th with the 3rd Battalion in the center, the 2nd on the left and the 1st Battalion on the right. With heavy artillery support the 1st and 3rd each put two companies across the river by 1845 in the vicinity of Lorey and St. Mard.
The attack continued throughout the night and by the morning of 12 September the 1st Battalion had cleared all enemy resistance from the area around Lorey. The 2nd Battalion to the north crossed the river early in the afternoon, then worked back along the east bank and was rejoined by Lieutenant Giacobello and his men who had been thought lost.
A number of concrete pillboxes which were located in all battalion sectors were knocked out by artillery, bazookas and grenades. A former enemy Command Post and a large quantity of German equipment was captured.
With the area cleared by the 1st Battalion, it was possible to put a ferry across the river at Neuviller and shortly afterwards a treadway bridge was completed at that point by the 130th Engineers. By late afternoon, most of the 137th was across the river.
The Germans launched a counter-attack with armor and infantry in a desperate effort to throw Santa Fe troops back into the Moselle, but, with the support of Company B of the 737th Tank Battalion, Company C of the 137th repelled the counter-attack and moved in to destroy an ammunition dump at Domptail. Racing to the left, they cleaned out the hills east of the river and then swung back between the 1st and 3rd Battalions. The 2nd Battalion then took Crevechamps after a large part of the town had been set on fire.
The 320th Infantry crossed the Moselle on 13 September and attacked north and east on the right flank of the 137th against artillery, mortar and small arms fire. Punching past Tonnoy, the regiments advanced rapidly and shortly occupied the high ground between Saffais and Coyviller, with the assault guns and tanks of the 737th in position to protect the left flank against attack from the direction of Flavigny.
During the afternoon Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., watched from an Observation Post as the 1st Battalion of the 320th Infantry and attached units drove the enemy from their positions.
On 14 September, the 1st Battalion of the 137th, together with elements of the 737th and 644th Tank Destroyers attacked Rosieres, the infantrymen riding atop tanks. This established the regiment on a line from the Moselle to the Meurthe River. The 137th put a force across the Meurthe strong enough to hold a position on the east bank, while the 320th continued to attack to the northeast, reaching the Meurthe on 15 September in the vicinity of Dombasle. At this point, General Baade, estimating that there was very little enemy artillery and mortar fire in this area, at noon ordered an immediate daylight crossing at Dombasle employing the fire power of all available tanks and tank destroyers. By 1600 the 1st Battalion, 320th, had forced a crossing of the river and the canal and the attack continued against enemy positions to high ground to the north. Extremely heavy fighting resulted in numerous enemy casualties and prisoners.
In the meantime, the 3rd Battalion, 320th, moved to the Rhine-Marne Canal and the Le Sanon River in the neighborhood of Sommerviller. This area was under heavy enemy artillery fire. But by nightfall, most of the foot elements were across the river and canal in their respective zones. The 4th Armored Division was also using the bridge at Sommerviller, an example of highly successful coordination. Tanks and tank destroyers of the 35th, operating with Combat Team 320th also crossed, and by early morning all vehicles were over. The 320th continued to advance with the 3rd Battalion in the lead, securing the town of Haraucourt after destroying small enemy forces. Then this same battalion attacked Buissoncourt and, against severe resistance, secured the town by dark. Many prisoners were taken, including the commander and eight staff officers of the enemy battalion defending the town. On 17 September the 320th took Mazurelles cutting the Nancy Chateau-Salins highway, the German escape route to the east.
Meanwhile, the 137th had cleared out the wooded areas in its sector and taken high ground near Azelot and north of Manoncourt. The Germans had by now withdrawn most of their forces from that area between the Meurthe and Moselle Rivers, and the 1st Battalion of the 137th took St. Nicolas.
During this time Task Force "S" had been organized under XII Corps controlled by Brigadier General Sebree, composed of Combat Team 134th, less the 2nd Battalion; the 319th Infantry Regiment (80th Infantry Division); 905th Field Artillery Battalion; 696th Field Artillery Battalion; 161st Field Artillery Battalion; 974th Field Artillery Battalion; Company A of the 60th Engineers; Company A of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion; one company of the 110th Medical Battalion, and one battery of the 448th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion.
This force assembled east of Toul on 14 September with the definite objective of capturing Nancy. At the same time, to protect the advance of this task force from any flank attack across the Moselle River, a Task Force "T" had been organized under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert S. Thompson, consisting of the 2nd Battalion, 134th Infantry; the 35th Reconnaissance Troop and the 127th Field Artillery Battalion with the mission of protecting the west bank of the Moselle River from Ft. de Pont St. Vincent to the south.
At 0600 on the 15 September Task Force "S" proceeded toward Nancy along the Toul-Nancy highway, with regiments in columns of battalions, the 319th leading and the 134th following. Since the 35th had completely outflanked the city, no enemy troops were encountered, but the roads and all the areas were heavily mined. The column moved quickly into Nancy and the artillery occupied the high ground about three miles west of the city.
Inside the city, as with all large French cities that had been liberated, chaos reigned. The French, their natural emotion and excitability released by their sudden freedom from the Nazi hell, ran about confusedly, seeking to ferret out collaborators, snipers, Germans, or anyone else who threatened their newly-found happiness. Rumors flew thick and fast. By evening, with the arrival of more American troops, the excitement calmed and peace once again was known in Nancy.
The Germans had left hastily. It was a matter of pride that the city and vicinity were so thoroughly cleared that four days later the Santa Fe Rear Echelon, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Richard G. Chadwick, Lowell, Massachusetts, Adjutant General of the Division, occupied the barracks which up to the 10th of September had been occupied by German troops and known as Rommel's Barracks.
The 134th, eager as always to seize an opportunity, quickly threw a bridgehead across the Moselle, capturing the hills east of the city. The Germans viciously counter-attacked but the Nebraska regiment stood firm. Nancy was definitely liberated.
It is a matter of interest, too, that the day after Nancy was liberated, the great American entertainer Bing Crosby and his troupe entertained various elements of the Division.
The same day that the 134th entered Nancy, the 2nd Battalion of the 137th Infantry moved through Lupcourt to the high ground just east of the Canal de l'est Emb't de Nancy, and thence north to the Meurthe River. The 3rd Battalion moved from Manoncourt to the vicinity of Laneuveville. The regiment was now in a position to cross the Meurthe, which was accomplished in force the next morning. The 1st Battalion had crossed in assault boats and occupied Varrangeville.
Farther south, at Rosieres-aux Salines the 150th Engineer Battalion had reinforced the bridge they had erected at that point to support the crossing of armor. The 737th Tank Battalion and the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion poured across the bridge and then swung north to cross the Le Sanon River at Sommerviller. Then they doubled back to the west to join the 137th Infantry.
The Germans had planned to entrap the troops of the 137th as they crossed to the east bank of the Meurthe. In the forest northeast of Chartreuse they had hidden a strong force supported by 20 tanks. Their plan was to allow the 2nd Battalion of the regiment to pass them and then to counter-attack and cut off the battalion as it advanced to the north. The success of this Nazi plan might easily have spelled disaster.
But an alert aerial observer of the Santa Fe's artillery spotted the enemy activity in the woods, and further reconnaissance determined that the forest was alive with troops. Division artillery was called for and the fire of nine battalions was focused on the area. Hundreds of the enemy were killed and a great amount of material was destroyed. The survivors of the debacle attempted to escape by breaking through the 2nd Battalion of the 137th at Chartreuse. They were completely annihilated by the combined fire of the artillery, the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion and the 737th Tank Battalion which had by this time moved in from their river crossings.
On the morning of 17 September, the Division began an advance to the northwest with the 137th in the center, the 134th on its left and the 320th on the right. The 80th Division was operating to the north, and the 4th Armored had driven east as far as Bezange le Grand, south of Chambrey. In their swift advance they had necessarily by-passed large concentrations of the enemy in the Champenoux Forest and other wooded areas in the vicinity. It became necessary for the 35th to mop up these isolated, though potent, groups.
By noon of 17 September, the 1st Battalion of the 137th had entered Lenoncourt, proceeding against artillery and mortar fire and heavy mine fields. The advance was continued, but on the morning of 19 September the Germans launched a heavy counter-attack in the vicinity of Agincourt, and drove the 134th from the high ground east of the town.
In the mists of early morning on 20 September, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 137th moved into what was to be one of the bloodiest battles the regiment had yet experienced. Both battalions advanced to the woods south of Highway 74, which leads from Nancy to Saarbrucken. The highway runs through an open valley, bordered on the north by a heavily wooded slope. From this concealment the enemy had an almost unobstructed view of the highway and across the valley to the opposite slope, a thousand yards to the south.
As the troops came in range of the enemy they were hit by heavy machine gun and mortar fire. One platoon worked its way into the woods, but had to withdraw under the withering fire. At one point a German tank came out of the woods and fired point-blank at the troops. But no sooner had it retired to its place of concealment that the Yanks smashed into the woods and knocked out a machine gun nest that had been harassing them.
All through the day the struggle continued, fought without quarter on each side. The men of the Santa Fe made repeated attempts to rush the woods, but each time they advanced over the open terrain, they were pinned down by machine gun fire and then heavily shelled by mortars. In the early morning of 21 September, 35th Artillery began a continuous barrage on the positions in the woods, which was amplified by air support at daybreak. Still the enemy fought stubbornly from their well-entrenched cover.
In two days of fighting only one Santa Fe platoon had been able to penetrate the woods, and they were out of communication with their company. It was clear that only a concentrated attack, supported by armor, could clear this area.
Combat Command B of the 6th Armored Division was attached to the 35th and on the morning of 22 September it was located north and in the rear of the enemy in the Chapenoux woods. At noon a coordinated attack began. Following a heavy artillery preparation and air strike, the tanks of the Santa Fe's 737th Tank Battalion moved in with the infantry riding on them. The Germans met the attack from dug in positions on the south edge of the woods in an unbroken string of emplacements, each having an almost perfect field of fire. With a network of trails leading in and out of the woods, accessibility of supplies was facilitated and it was possible for the enemy to move tanks out to the fringe of the woods to fire, and then withdraw to another position. Once, however, the strongpoints on the edges of the woods were cracked, the main resistance would be broken.
Jumping off the tanks as they approached the woods, the 137th drove into the position prepared for hand-to-hand combat. In less than an hour they had forced the enemy to withdraw and began the pursuit through the woods. Then Combat Command B of the 6th began closing the trap from the rear. American tanks were barking in all directions as the German withdrawal became a rout. The roads from Moulins to Bouxieres aux Chenes became a choked mass of enemy motor and horse-drawn artillery as the 134th charged forward from the hills east of Nancy.
Hastening enemy troops struggled through the already packed highways, in some instances with columns four miles long. The 134th reported this mass retreat and air forces went to work on the fleeing Germans, strafing and bombing at will. Elements of the 137th not only took the woods, but also swung left and captured Amance and the high ground in order to forestall any further German concentration in that sector.
Throughout the next two days the Division continued to mop up the area, taking many prisoners and great quantities of booty.
The 35th was now running into the battlefields of World War I. Here were discovered vestiges of the old trench systems of warfare, so different from the mobile one of today.
The enemy was finally able to reorganize the remnants of his scattered army in the vicinity of Gremecey and the Chateau Salins Forest. Reinforcements were moved in from the north in such proportions as to suggest the possibility of a large-scale counter attack. So the XII Corps moved to defend a line from the Seille River, near Manhoue, east, then south through the Gremecey Forest facing the German-held towns of Coutures and Chambrey. The line then extended east and south through the Bezange la Grande Forest, with the 4th Armored defending this area. The 80th Division was in a position to the left of the 35th, and the 6th Armored remained east of Nancy in Corps reserve.
In the 35th Division sector, the 134th was on the left, the 137th on the right and the 320th in division reserve, having been released from 4th Armored control.
Early in the afternoon of 26 September, the 3rd Battalion of the 137th received some artillery shelling in its area to the north and east of Gremecey. About 1800, a small German force attacked through the Chambrey Woods, from the direction of Coutures, but was driven back during the night. The next morning, Nazi artillery fire increased and enemy planes began to circle overhead. The Americans grimly awaited the attack which was certain to come. Shortly after 0700 the enemy, moving west on the Chambrey-Pettoncourt Highway, overran a road block, captured four anti-tank guns and placed themselves in position to bring direct fire into Pettoncourt. The 1st Battalion of the 137th had been bolstered by the addition of two companies from the 2nd Battalion, but their position was still precarious. Seeing the danger, the Division Commander, General Baade, ordered the 1st Battalion of the 320th and Company C of the 737th Tank Battalion to support the defenders of the threatened area.
During this action the versatility of the American soldier was displayed by men of Gun Section No. 4 of the 448th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. Stationed on the outskirts of Pettoncourt, they saw a file of Germans descending a nearby slope. Losing no time in changing from their primary mission of anti-aircraft defense to ground defense, they poured 11 rounds of high explosive 40mm into the file. Eight of the enemy were killed and the complete formation dispersed. In this manner a probable surprise attack on the Division flank was averted.
By 1130 the enemy was forced back sufficiently to recover three anti-tank guns, and by early afternoon the 1st Battalion of the 137th had restored its lines to original positions, clearing Pettoncourt and the roads leading into it from the danger of direct enemy fire.
The Nazis had failed in their initial attempt; but they were determined to carry through the attack. Late in the afternoon, a heavy force attacked Fresnes and drove the outposts from town. During the night and into the early hours of the morning there was constant patrol action by the enemy, probing at lines and seeking to find a soft spot in them. The Division had its own patrols out also slithering through the darkness, seeking the enemy's strength. By daylight, it was learned that in addition to the concentrations of infantry north of the 137th area, the Germans had moved up heavy armor in large numbers.
When the enemy attack did come, it was in a rush. By noon a strong German patrol had infiltrated behind the Command Post of the 3rd Battalion of the 137th and captured the Battalion motor pool. With the Command Post and the right flank of the battalion endangered, the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Albert M. Butler, Hastings, Nebraska, committed his headquarters and all available men. Company F and one platoon of tanks were sent to relieve the precarious condition.
Enemy tanks continued to move into the 3rd Battalion area, but between 1000 and 1300, Company B of the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion had knocked out five tanks, three of them Tigers, and one self-propelled gun. Enemy patrols had again infiltrated into the area and the battalion wire team was attacked by Germans with bazookas.
Late in the afternoon, with reports of enemy tanks mounting, the air corps was called to strike at Chambrey and west of Coutures, known to be a concentration area of the enemy armored force. Fighter-Bombers strafed and bombed heavily and also attacked Jallaucourt to the northwest. The air attacks continued until darkness and the 137th was able to strengthen its lines.
The main German attack came at 0530 on 29 September, the enemy moving in from the direction of Fresnesen-Saulnois. Company L of the 137th was in the northeast tip of the Gremecey Forest and was the first to be hit. They determined to hold fast while the other companies strengthened their lines. By 0830 they were completely surrounded. Fighting like tigers, Company L tore through the encirclement of German forces and freed themselves from the trap. Their Commanding Officer, 1st Lieutenant Rex Hooper, Phoenix, Arizona, was wounded, and his Executive Officer, 1st Lieutenant Lawrence Malmed, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was captured. But Lieutenant Malmed, who was no stranger to the ways of the Germans, not only talked his captors into releasing him, but brought twelve of them back to his own lines as prisoners.
The Germans continued their tactics of infiltrating and surrounding troops with coordinated drives from the northeast against the 137th Infantry and the 3rd Battalion of the 134th from the north. L Company, commanded by Captain Greenlei, Hastings, Nebraska, bore the brunt of the attack. It was evident that the enemy must be cleared from the Gremecey Forest before they had an opportunity to regroup for a large scale thrust.
Early in the morning of 30 September, an attempt was made by the 320th and 137th to drive the Germans from Gremecey Woods. But attack in the forest was difficult, and heavy mortar fire forced the 2nd Battalion of the 137th back. The Germans continued their infiltration, moving in behind Company E and cutting off one platoon. During this action Major William G. Gillis, Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion, 320th, Cameron, Texas, was killed while leading his troops.
With the left flank open and a 700-yard gap between companies, the 2nd Battalion's 137th defenses were in grave danger. The Germans, throwing a barrage of mortar and machine gun fire before them, poured through the gap to the left of Company E and moved in toward Gremecey.
The 2nd Battalion, 320th Infantry, fighting a rear guard action was rushed in from the vicinity of Rhis de Bois in time to help stop the break-through. With their assistance, the Germans were held off until the lines were once again firmly established. The stiffening of resistance caused the Nazi attack to cease for the day.
As nightfall came on 30 September, the 137th was opposed by strong German forces from a point midway between Pettoncourt and Chambrey on the Seille River, northward to the edge of the Gremecey Forrest. Within the Gremecey Forest, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 320th and the 3rd Battalion, 137th, were in position, tying in with the 134th southeast of Fresnes. From there, the 134th extended west to Manhoue.
A coordinated attack by the 6th Armored Division and the 35th was ordered for 1 October in an effort to repel the Germans from the Gremecey Woods. The 3rd Battalion, 134th, the 137th, 320th, Combat Command A and Task Force Hines of the 6th Armored jumped off at 0930, intent of reestablishing the lines on the east edge of Gremecey Forest and, in addition, taking the town of Chambrey which remained a German stronghold despite the artillery and aerial pounding.
Task Force Hines moved swiftly over the open terrain in the vicinity of Merlinsole, a short distance northwest of Chambrey. Enemy artillery showered them, inflicting heavy casualties, but the Task Force pushed on to its objective. The 2nd Battalion, 137th, advanced to the east and by mid-afternoon was at the southwest edge of the Bois de Chambrey. A concentrated attack was launched to the north to clear the woods of the enemy and reestablish the defensive position on the east end of the woods. Company B of the 137th also advanced, and by 1700, it was fighting in the streets of Chambrey against a superior force.
In about three hours, the company had established itself in the town and driven the Germans about a thousand yards to the east and northeast.
It was during this fighting that General Baade was wounded by a shell splinter from German artillery. He was operated on at the Division Medical Clearing Company and returned to command the Santa Fe on the following morning.
The manner of the German concentration led General Sebree, who was temporarily in command during General Baade's absence, to believe that they would make a counter-offensive and try to recapture the town. All the Battalion anti-tank guns were moved into the approaches to the town, and roadblocks were placed on all roads leading into it. General Sebree intended to hold his hard fought for advantages at all costs.
Meanwhile, tanks from the 737th were employed to pin down the enemy in the woods, while the 137th's 2nd Battalion and Company A advanced north. By dark they reached a point only a few hundred yards away from the eastern edge of the Bois de Chambrey. The 320th continued to punch at the Germans and advanced to the east against bitter resistance. The 2nd Battalion, attacking behind artillery preparation, routed the enemy out of recently reinforced World War I fortifications penetrating the eastern edge of Gremecey Forest. Combat Command A of the 6th accomplished its mission without difficulty.
The expected German counter-attack against Chambrey did not materialize and the next few days were spent in improving the defensive positions. Barbed wire was laid and the men of the 60th Engineers (C) Battalion dug up the German minefields and re-laid them to aid in the defense.
During the lull, Lieutenant General Patton visited the Division area and, among other things, personally congratulated General Baade and Colonel Sears, Commanding Officer of the 137th, for the fine stand that had been made.
At this period the Germans, gloating over the capture a few days before of a number of men from Company K, 137th, shot propaganda leaflets into Division lines assuring that the Germans would never be conquered and taunting the 35th for fighting and dying in vain. "Give yourselves up to us," they persuaded, "and save your lives for future happiness." Santa Fe men laughed at the leaflets and sent them home as souvenirs.
On 8 October it was decided to establish a new main line of resistance on the left portion of the Division sector by pushing north to a line from Ajoncourt through Fossieux to the Foret de Gremecey. Following a 30-minute counter-battery and a 10-minute artillery preparation, the 134th, with the 3rd Battalion, 137th, Company B, 86 Chemical Battalion and the 737th Tanks, attacked at 0615. This attack was coordinated with the 80th Division and Combat Command B, 6th Armored Division on the left in a Corps effort to enlarge the bridgehead east of the Moselle River.
Riding on the tanks of the 737th, the 137th's 3rd Battalion spearheaded the attack and drove against opposition to the northwest. At 0930, Company L was at the edge of Fossieux, and Company K was east of the Fossieux-Ajoncourt Road, while Company M was inside the town itself.
It was a day of revenge for Company K. Still rankling from the casualties inflicted on them in the Foret de Gremecey and the humiliation of the Nazi psychological barbs, they threw themselves into the fight with such spirit that by noon they had taken over a hundred prisoners.
To the left of this action, Company F, 134th mopped up after elements of Combat Command B, 6th Armored. Pushing north they arrived at Arraye-et-Han and Ajoncourt early in the afternoon. The 134th's attack to gain the new main line of resistance having been successful, the XII Corps ordered the Division sector defended along the line it now held. But the enemy had other ideas. On the morning of 9 October they launched a fierce counter-attack to retake Fossieux with tank-supported infantry. Company A, 134th, Company L, and Company K, 137th, were ordered to meet the threat in and around the town.
During the morning, six enemy tanks ventures forth from their well-concealed hiding places in the wall of the northern part of Fossieux, only to find tank destroyers of the 654th patiently waiting for them. Four of the tanks were knocked out and a hit scored on a fifth. The fighting continued throughout the day and the next morning. When the remaining tank was destroyed, the enemy finally retreated from Fossieux. An artillery liaison plane was greatly responsible for directing artillery fire to assist in the destruction of these tanks.
In order to neutralize any further mechanized attack which the enemy might launch on the 35th's left flank, six bridges over the Seille River, all in enemy territory, were blown by demolition men from the 60th Engineers, using a tank-infantry-engineer team. The engineers and the infantry, commanded by Captain Denny, C Company, 134th, rode to the bridges on the tanks, and while the engineers placed their explosive charges, the infantry and tanks provided the necessary covering fire.
On 10 October, General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the United States Army, in company with Lieutenant General Thomas T. Handy, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. and Major General Manton S. Eddy, visited the 35th. General Marshall asked many questions, but appeared to be especially concerned with the condition of the enlisted men, and whether they had adequate clothing and supplies for their comfort.
Other than continuous patrolling and improvement of defense lines, there was little activity in the 35th sector for the next few days. Artillery and aircraft continuously harassed the woods southwest of Lemoncourt, where the enemy was trying to regroup his forces. The 35th sector was intermittently shelled by the enemy, especially with a railroad gun which the Germans shuttled up and down the area. On the night of 11 October, friendly aircraft destroyed one such gun.
The 320th held the right side of the line, and the 134th the left sector, while the 137th took a much-needed rest in division reserve. On 15 October, the 137th relieved the 134th on the left.
Sixteen miles east of the Division area, near Dieuze, was the Etange de Lindre, a large artificial lake formed by damming of the Seille River at Lindre Basse. The Germans controlled the lake and the dam and were in position to release the impounded water at any time. The Seille Valley would be flooded through German-held Sallennes, on through Chambrey, circling the Santa Fe sector including Alincourt, Aboncouurt, Manhoue and Ajoncourt, and beyond again to German-held territory to the north.
Flooding the valley, coordinated with an enemy attack of sufficient force might result in the trapping of a considerable number of 35th men in the bend of the river. Since the enemy was known not to be strong enough to make an attack at this time, the Army decided to forestall any such plans by blowing the dam. An immediate inundation would bog down the enemy at their strongpoints at Dieuze, Marsal and Vic-sur-Seille and destroy the possibility of a surprise future counter-attack.
The Engineers removed all the Bailey bridges over the river which would by affected by the flood, leaving only those at Ajoncourt, Manhoue and Pettoncourt. Dykes were constructed where necessary and the 543rd Amphibious Truck Company was attached in the event an unforeseen flood level was reached. Rations and supplies were provided for the units to be isolated by the flooding.
Shortly before noon on 20 October, when all was in readiness, a formation of 12 P-47's skip-bombed the dam, using 1000-pound bombs. A breach of about 50 feet was made in the dam, flooding the town of Dieuze and spreading out over the surrounding lowlands. In the Division sector the water rose five feet in 72 hours, and remained at that level for five days before gradually receding. Although the water rose to the level of the dykes, they adequately protected the road and bridges, so that traffic was not curtailed during the flood stage. Except for the sporadic shelling by the Germans, and for constant patrol work, the division front remained static until 7 November.
At about 1300 on 21 October, the Santa Fe encountered its first robot bomb. It landed in a forest south of Lay St. Christopher, but did no damage.
On 24 October, during the early morning hours, large caliber artillery, believed to be German railroad guns, pumped 17 rounds into the city of Nancy and the adjoining suburb of St. Max. Several landed in the immediate vicinity of the Division Quartermaster, but no damage was done to military installations. The same day, the 134th relieved the 320th on the division's eastern front and the latter went into division reserve.
On 25 October, Army Psychological Warfare Group began a five-day intensive campaign on the Division front. A loud speaker system was employed to deliver messages to the Germans and their lines were flooded with safe-conduct passes. Just how effective the messages were could not be determined at the time. On the last day of the campaign, Company K of the 137th decided not to rely on psychology, but went out and captured a Nazi prisoner by force. This Nazi told of the new German weapon called a "pupchen." He described it as an anti-tank rocket gun, compact and easily handled, with a barrel about one meter long. It fired a 75mm rocket with and effective range of 200 yards against a tank.
In addition to regular defense work, the 60th Engineers constructed a corduroy road near Chambrey for the use of ammunition trains of the 216th Battalion. Over 10,000 timbers were used and it was believed to be the longest corduroy road constructed in the ETO at that time. It was built in only eight days.
On the last day of October, Colonel Sears, who had so capably led the 137th since 25 July, received orders which took him from the regiment. At midnight the command was taken by Colonel William S. Murray, Nogales, Arizona, formerly of the 5th Infantry Division.
The Third Army's defense during this time was merely in preparation for a new big push. If the Germans thought that the Third could be stopped permanently, they were vastly mistaken. The halt was of the Allied Command's choosing and not due to any move by the Wehrmacht.
The following letter, while commending the 35th Infantry Division for its valiant part in the liberation of France, indicated the shape of things to come:
HEADQUARTERS XII CORPS
OFFICE OF THE COMMANDING GENERAL
APO 302, U. S. Army
14 October 1944
Major General Paul W. Baade
Commanding, 35th Infantry Division
APO 35. U. S. Army
Dear General Baade:
The fighting of the last few weeks has punched home to us one point so obvious and so clean cut, that I want every soldier and every officer in the Corps to realize its full significance. That point is to say: The Germans, even the best and most experienced are visibly frightened of us. They are frightened by your superior equipment, frightened by your more skillful tactics, and above all, frightened by your magnificent courage and will to win.
Since the beginning of your memorable drive from Le Mans through Chateaudun and Orleans, the 35th Infantry Division has met its assigned tasks with distinction. It seized Pithiviers and Montargis, and assumed the prodigious task of protecting the south flank of the Army and the XII Corps from Orleans to the east. Despite vigorous enemy counter-attacks it has played a major part in establishing, defending and enlarging of our bridgehead across the Moselle. All members of the Division have conducted themselves in a manner of which they may well be proud.
We are now between rounds of a fight to the knockout. The last round saw you stagger the German back to his corner. While we are now gathering our strength for the kill, he is hanging on the ropes. He cannot last another - he is bound to go down. I am confident when the next round comes up that the 35th Division will continue to show him the same courage, the same skill, and the same driving determination that have won for it its successes to date.
I congratulate the 35th Division on its past - I wish it Godspeed and early victory in its future.
/s/ M. S. Eddy
/t/ M. S. EDDY
Major General, U. S. Army
Hq. 35th INF. DIV., APO 35, U. S. Army, 17 Oct. 44
TO: All Officers and Enlisted Men, 35th Inf. Div., same address.
1. No on knows better than each of you how true the Corps Commander's words are. Each individual in this division has given his best - the proof is the record. As we prepare ourselves to continue on our march to victory against the inferior enemy, I urge every officer and enlisted man to inventory his knowledge of his job and his weapons - Train! Practice! Ask questions! Let's go in for the kill with every ounce of strength, knowledge and determination we have.
2. I desire that every commander insure himself that all members of his command receive full knowledge of this letter to which I add my sincere appreciation and heartfelt congratulations for your splendid achievements.
/s/ Paul W. Baade
/t/ PAUL W. BAADE
Major General, U. S. Army
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