Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (20): Capture of Trier

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.

From HyperWar
26 Feb - 2 Mar 1945: Trier

As described in The Last Offensive, the capture of Trier was quick and effective. (My Dad's company was probably assigned to Combat Command B (CCB) during this period.)
The morning of 1 March General Morris sent the main body of the combat command northwest to the juncture of the Saar and the Moselle to prevent any Germans remaining in West Wall pillboxes along the Saar from falling back on Trier. ... In late afternoon, as both CCA's task force and CCB continued to run into trouble on the fringes of the city from pillboxes and 88-mm. antiaircraft pieces, Colonel Roberts, CCB's commander, ordered the commander of the 20th Armored Infantry Battalion, Lt. Col. Jack J. Richardson, to enter Trier along a secondary road between the other two attacking forces. Richardson was to head straight for the city's two Moselle bridges.

The night was clear, the moon full, and visibility excellent as Task Force Richardson in early evening started toward Trier. Entering the city before midnight, the task force encountered a German company with four antitank guns, but the surprised Germans surrendered without firing. One of the prisoners revealed that he had been detailed as a runner to notify a demolition team at one of the bridges when the Americans arrived.

Splitting his force, Richardson sent half toward each of the bridges. The northern team found its bridge blown, but the team moving to the ancient Kaiserbruecke, which had stood since the Roman occupation of Trier in the earliest days of the Christian era, reported its bridge intact. Rushing to the bridge himself in a tank, Colonel Richardson found his men under small arms fire from the far bank. Directing .50-caliber machine gun fire from his tank onto the far end of the bridge, Richardson ordered a platoon of infantry and a platoon of tanks to dash across. As the infantrymen complied, a German major and five men ran toward the bridge from the far side with detonating caps and an exploder.

They were too late.

It mattered not whether the delay in blowing the bridge was attributable to concern for the historic monument or to the fact that the German officer was drunk. What mattered was that the 10th Armored Division had a bridge across the Moselle.

By morning contingents of Combat Commands A and B had swept into all parts of the city, and the prisoner bag increased as sleepy-eyed Germans awoke to find American tanks all about them. Task Force Richardson alone took 800 prisoners. A day later, early on 3 March, troops of the 76th Division arrived to establish contact with the armor on the north bank of the Moselle.

The Orscholz Switch, the Saar-Moselle triangle, Trier, and the heavily fortified section of the West Wall around Trier--all were taken. With the success of the operation, the Third Army had torn a gaping hole in the West Wall from Pruem to a point below Saarburg.

Studying the operations map, General Patton could see two new inviting prospects before him. Either he could turn to the southeast and envelop the Saar industrial area, or he could head through the Eifel and up the valley of the Moselle to the Rhine at Koblenz.

In either case, the Germans appeared powerless to stop him.
Two press notices:
March 1 (INS) by Larry Newman- Rampaging tank and infantry fighters of the U. S. Third Army's 10th Armored Division crashed into the historic German city of Trier from three directions and swept ahead to cut off hundreds of Wehrmacht soldiers northeast of Saarburg.
1 March 1945- Official communique
The Tenth Armored "Tiger" Division entered Trier today at 1250 when task forces fought their way into the southern section of this important communications and supply center, which is the oldest city in Germany. Meanwhile, the Tenth Armored also cut the main highway...a mile northeast of Trier. This the main avenue of escape for the enemy to the north and northeast has been cut off. ...Over 800 prisoners were captured today... Total numbers of towns now taken by the Tenth Armored is 54, and the total of prisoners has swelled to 3900. --Nichols
Trier was historic and contains more important Roman ruins than any other place in Northern Europe. Some date to the bridge over the Mosel that dates to around 28 B.C. Nichols in Impact reports that the 10th's combat performance was "eminently successful." He goes on:
Few of us realized at the time that the Tenth Armored had a leading role in one of the three most important phases of the entire war.
In these few days, the 80th Medical Battalion companies saw over 900 admissions, average of over 180 per day. This high level would continue for another week before things quieted down, at least for the most part, for the rest of the month.

The end of the war in Europe is less than 10 weeks away- a "mere" 66 days. They didn't, of course know that. All they knew was that there was still more war ahead.

No comments: