Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (24): Beyond 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.

If it's possible to say that a war campaign has become very straightforward, perhaps I could say that about what the Tigers of the 10th Armored and their 80th Medical Battalion were experiencing in late March and Early April. For all practical purposes the force of the German army had been blunted and the Allies were moving at a steady, if not also quick, pace. Nichols describes this period in Chapter 10, "Rhine to the Neckar River" lest one get too overly confident.

In the last days of the Saar-Palatinate fight in which the German 1st and 7th Armies were badly mauled, the Tenth Armored overran Seventh Army boundaries and was traded to General Patch for the latter's Sixth Armored, which was sent to General Patton's United States Third Army. By March 28, the Seventh Army engineers had completed two bridges across the Rhine at Worms and on that date, the Tigers rolled over the pontoons in anticipation of the final clean-up drive that was to carry them to the Austrian and Bavarian Alps in late April of 1945.  Though on the run, the German was machine still packed a lethal punch... In the next, and final six weeks of battle, the enemy was to extract a heavy toll.
April 1 was the completion of six months of rugged combat for the Tenth. They were below par, Nichols says, and was 50% below strength. The 80th Medical, it should be noted, had continued to receive replacements, perhaps an indication of the importance of medical care and, I am sure, other factors.

By 2 April the Tenth had made its HQ in the historic city of Heidelberg. It was a free city and the armored rode in without a problem. The entire populace turned out to cheer the Tigers and laid flowers in their path. It was the day after Easter, 1945.

As can be seen above and at left, Combat Command B (CC B) went around to the south of Heidelberg and by April 3 had met their objective about 23 miles south of Mannheim. They had taken 300 prisoners and continued eastward to the Neckar. They faced more stubborn resistance but by April 4, with CC B mopping up small enemy groups west of the Neckar and south of Heilbronn, the success was clear.

The overall campaign, shown at left, ended with CC B remaining at Heilbronn supporting the 100th Infantry working toward a breakthrough there. Reconnaissance units from CC A ran ahead of the Tenth as it crossed the Neckar brushing aside resistance. They were helping set the stage for the next set of exploits of the Tenth, taking Crailsheim, 70 miles east of Heilbronn.

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