Thursday, December 18, 2014

Following the 10th Armored (9): A Serious Affair Indeed

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.

16 Dec - 18 Dec
The Battle of the Bulge Begins

Map depicting the Battle of the Bulge German counteroffensive.
  • The 10th Armored was down in the lower right, south of Luxembourg when the attack began. (See map below)
  • Combat Command A (CCA) and most of the 10th stayed in that south eastern sector as part of the defense near what became the extent of the offensive.
  • Combat Command B (CCB) continued on to Bastogne where it was instrumental in holding the city until enough reinforcements arrived with the 101st Airborne. Bastogne survived in spite of the siege that made it a surrounded enclave.
16 Dec- all units of the Division were alerted for movement
 north with the mission of counterattacking a major
 German drive. Little more than this was known at Division Headquarters in the little town of Apach on
 the Moselle River just south of Perl.

17 Dec- At 0330 orders were received attaching the Division
 to VIII Corps of First Army and directing the Division
 to march toward Luxembourg City immediately. By 0630 the column recrossed the Moselle at Thionville. Along
 the route to Luxembourg City the situation became somewhat clarified and the Division was split into two
 major units to perform entirely separate missions.
While CCB moved to the vicinity of Bastogne to reinforce the troops in that area, CCA and the rest of the Division continued almost due north from Luxembourg City to protect the town from the threat of being overrun by the enemy. Everyone began to realize that the Major
 German Drive "was a serious affair indeed." (Note: the 10th Armored Division was the first US unit to be diverted from another mission to reinforce troops in the Bulge)

18 Dec- CCA completed a seventy-five mile march to an area some twenty miles northeast of Luxembourg City in the early morning of the 18th and went into action at once. Their mission - to protect the city. Their plan to carry out this defense -- attack. This attack stopped German advances in Luxembourg.

With CCB, Colonel Roberts led his column into the town of Bastogne late in the afternoon of the 18th. When he dispatched Teams Desobry, Cherry and O'Hare to defensive positions north and east of the town immediately, all hands realized that the situation was even more serious than most of them had suspected.

My wife asked if the legend of Patton speeding north into the Bulge was true. It appears that his 10th Armored definitely accomplished that feat.

Where was my Dad? That is probably an unanswerable question after all these years. Company B collecting company of the 80th Armored Medical Battalion is listed in orders of battle as supporting CCB around Bastogne. CCB is also mentioned as having taken some medics along. So far I have been unable to determine or discover anything more than that.

But taking a look at pictures, movie clips and reading, it is very clear in my mind that no matter where he was along the battle front, it was, at best- hell. A white, fog-bound hell. Snow, cold, the ever present sound of battle- tanks, artillery, small arms. You name it- it was there. If he was in Bastogne proper, the tension and the level of combat would have been unbearable. Nichols, in Impact, the battle story of the 10th, describes that at one point Team Desorby had to retreat 100 yards.

100 yards is the length of a football field. The difference between danger and a place of defense was that small. At Team Cherry's HQ, enemy troops managed to get as close as 5 yards to the building before being "cut down." My mind was filled with the images in the recent WW II movie, Fury. I am getting the feeling that even that image was cleaned-up from what the pure hell must have been like.

I will never be able to understand what Dad went through, how he felt, and how it impacted the rest of his life. I am grateful that I can get this sense of his life all these years after his death. He was one of those citizen soldiers, his own band of brothers, facing the destruction of everything they knew. They fought back- or in my Dad's case- helped bring relief to those who did.

War is hell. Perhaps for those like Red, that may be the hope of grace in a heaven of peace.

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