Thursday, February 26, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (18): Crashing Through the Saar-Moselle Triangle

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.

The Switch Line was an outgrowth of the fortification of the Siegfried Line. It was about two Km wide and consisted of 75 bunkers and over 10 Km of tank barriers like "dragon's teeth. It's purpose was to deny access to the high ground above Trier at the northern end of the Switch.

19-20 February 1945-
The Tenth was marshalled at Perl, about 6 miles south of Nennig on this afternoon. A plan was selected from the three prepared and a sudden directive came down that they were to depart at 0700 the next morning.

The Tenth was not prepared for the suddenness. Large numbers of the Division were on R & R in Paris. But they were located and the Tigers moved out by 1800. They raced 75 miles that night and began the attack at 0700 as scheduled.

21-25 February 1945-
In the course of these few days the 10th Armored would overrun the Saar-Moselle Triangle even through some of the most heavy fortifications in the world. Praise came from many, including General George Patton who termed this battle "one of the war's most audacious operations."

As can be seen in the maps on the left and below, different task forces and Combat Commands carried out the greater plans. In a mere 48 hours, the 10th Armored had blitzed 85 square miles of Germany and working with the 94th Infantry, captured 1200 prisoners and 23 towns. In those 48 hours the stage was set to capture Trier.

The next three days were utilized for that goal.

The successful completion needed a crossing of the Saar. Obstacles were encountered, a new bridgehead had to be established after an earlier one had to be abandoned, apparently due to human error. At 0900 on February 24 the armored infantry battalions assembled at Ayl (lower center of map at left). At 1600 the soldiers, aided by a smokescreen generated by the 81st Chemical Co., began an assault under heavy and continuous fire.

By noon on February 25 all the armored infantry battalions of the Tenth Armored were across the Saar.

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