Saturday, December 20, 2014

Following the 10th Armored (10): A Critical Time

This is part of a series following my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. He was a medic with the 80th Medical Battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, part of Patton’s Third Army.

19 – 20 Dec
Two days of 24-hour combat was faced by most of Combat Command B (CCB). Nichols, in Impact, describes Team Cherry’s experiences:
With tanks in the lead and dismounted doughs around them, the shot-up force pushed north… The enemy did not emerge lightly from the Team’s determined stand as it lost 15 tanks, 1 armored car, 2 halftracks, 3 anti-tank guns, 184 Germans killed and an undetermined number wounded. Our Teams lost 11 Mediums, 7 light tanks, 17 halftracks, 1 tank dozer and 2 recovery vehicles. In addition 1 Tiger officer was killed, 1 officer and twenty enlisted men wounded and 2 officers and 44 men were missing. Cherry’s Tigers were a tower of strength and fortitude as they held off numerically superior enemy forces to help prevent Bastogne from being captured on December 19.

It was not fully known until studies were made after the was, just how enormous was the German strength…It is difficult to imagine the utter hopelessness of Team Cherry’s situation in view of the tremendous forces arrayed against it, plus the fact that the team was confined to just one road, and to maneuver was out of the question… [While it may have been a minor victory for the Germans,] Cherry’s [Tigers] softened the enemy and… gained precious time for General McAuliffe’s airborne battalions to deploy east of Bastogne

Team O’Hara, meanwhile was attempting to prevent the enemy from gaining the town of Marvie. Even with a position on higher ground, O’Hara was powerless to stop the enemy halftracks from smashing into the town. There other troops from 327th Infantry routed the Germans in a house-to-house combat that lasted into the early afternoon. Later in the day snow flurries began to fall. Nichols reports:
…as the ridges became white and the drifts deeper, the most pressing problem became that of getting the defenders indoors in order to escape the icy blasts of the Ardennes winter.
As this important 48-hour period came to an end, the 101st Airborne was able to place several battalions on the front. It was the critical defense by the Tiger armor that had bought the needed time. Nichols writes:
It is likely that without the determined stand taken by the CCB Tigers east of Bastogne, the defense of the city would have been impossible. Subsequent newspaper accounts, movies, and magazine articles about the Battle of Bastogne have given little attention to the significance of the Tigers’ role, but the men who fell and those who survived are themselves the most eloquent testimony that the first twenty-four hours were the most punishing and the most crucial of the German winter blitz…. [The defense by the Tigers] resulted in a major upset of enemy plans, giving General McAuliffe time enough to bring in his troops and drape them around the Bastogne perimeter.

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