Friday, March 27, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (22): The Race to the Rhine

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.

12 March - 16 March 1945
As mentioned last post, after their work in late February and early March the 10th Armored Division Tigers took a well-deserved rest. Centered in the ancient and once beautiful city of Trier they had the opportunity to see the ancient Roman remains. That came to an end on the 16th when they were sent to be part of the race to the Rhine. As Nichols reports it, the area between the Saar and Rhine Rivers was the Palatinate, Germany's only remaining sizable holdings west of the Rhine. In that region were the two powerful enemy armies of about 100,000 men. To get to the Rhine, Nichols says,
the tigers were to be called upon to deal with an endless series of enemy pillboxes, barbed wire, anti-tank ditches, dragons' teeth, roadblocks and, toughest of all, well-trained German troops.
16 March 1945
CC A led the attack, followed about half an hour later by CC B. By dark that night they had made about a 20 km spearhead. Their objective was St. Wendel.

17 March - 18 March
Both combat commands struck out in a coordinated attack utilizing searchlights to light up the battleground. It was slow going but by dusk on 18 March they were on the outskirts of the objective.

19 March - 20 March
The Germans were driven out of St. Wendel and two of the Task Forces never even stopped. They raced another 20 miles east. By  the 20th it was fast becoming a rout. Next stop would be Kaiserlautern, a major industrial city of about 100,000. To get there, they raced down part of the famed autobahn. They were racing the 80th Infantry Division. The Tigers were there first, but credit was given to the 80th who had done the "dirty work" of mopping up.

After racing through Kaiserlautern CC A continued east toward the Rhine; CC B headed south some 20 miles to sever enemy escape routes.

21 March - 22 March
CC B moved steadily toward its objectives and captured the town of Landau on the 22nd.

23 March
From Nichols:
Forty-eight hours after the capture of Landau, the giant trap set by the Tenth was closed. Against light resistance they streaked out of Landau to set up radio contact with the Fifth French Armored Division. Contact was then made with the Seventh Army…. All during the Tenth’s lightning drive across the Palatinate, the missions of the Division were constantly being changed and each succeeding objective took the Tigers further south. Within gunshot of the Rhine, we found ourselves completely out of the United States Third Army boundary and in the Seventh Army Area.

It is rumored at the time that General Patch of the Sixth Armored Division had wired Patton: Congratulations on completely surrounding the entire United States Seventh Army.” The Tigers were then assigned to the Seventh Army! They were not to return to the Third Army again until the occupation of Southern Bavaria three months later. They were given a brief four-day respite to wait the call to roll across the Rhine. Later in the month, they would spearhead the Seventh Army’s drive all the way to the Bavarian and Austrian Alps.

No comments: