Saturday, April 25, 2015

Following the 10th Armored (26): To the Danube

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 Tenth processed their 2,000 prisoners from Crailsheim and sent them to the rear. They were given a new battle assignment. They were to shift their attention and combat power toward Heilbronn where the fighting was continuing.

CC A was directed to seize Oehringen while CC B was placed in "reserve" on a two-hour alert.

12 - 15 April
When forces entered Oehringen they were met with fierce resistance. As Nichols reports it,
Nazi fanaticism was slow to die as Wehrmacht and civilians alike resisted with renewed determination.
Heavy and timed artillery bursts were ordered and the efforts prevailed with the town captured on 13 April. When all the units met with the infantry units east of Heilbronn that mission was ended.

Heilbronn, April 1945
16 - 24 April
It was now time to make the move south toward the Danube and Austria. For several days there were obstacles that acted as hidden allies of the enemy. The minefields, roadblocks and blown bridges, says Nichols, "strained the already overworked Tiger engineers' efforts to clear a path for continued advance." By April 18, things began to move and all three Combat Commands became a formidable array of six armored columns. Town after town was captured. On April 19 the terrain of steep hills and deep valleys slowed the advance but later in the day the Tigers again triumphed and forged ahead 17 miles to the Rems River.

The plateau could have been easily defended by the enemy. But the Germans were sure that the Americans would attack from the west and were thus unable to halt the advance from the north.

CC B crossed the river after seizing two bridges while, to the west CC A hit a 40 MPH pace as a result of Tigers who carried a power saw to rip through roadblocks. At Lorch they scared of an enemy plane about to land and an enemy train. The train got up steam and raced away surprised by the Tigers in the town. Movement of all Combat Commands quickly captured more territory. By April 22 all were closing in on the same target of Kircheim and burst ahead to the Danube at Ehingen.

Stuttgart was virtually surrounded. Harassment of the enemy continued. The capture of Kircheim marked the end of German resistance in the area as more than 400 prisoners were taken and, more importantly, the Stuttgart-Munich autobahn was cut. Nichols writes then,
One of the most important days in the Tenth's memorable history was April 22, the day Chamberlain's forces steamrolled to the Danube. By midnight they succeeded in capturing a bridge at Ehingen. Then on April 23 [they] destroyed a German supply column.... On April 24 the Reserve Command sped across the [Danube] and headed for Ulm. At this point the Tigers were further south than any other American unit.... The Third Reich was almost a dead government now, as allied armies to the north were inflicting terrible punishment on the beaten enemy. The Tenth Armored was no poised above the great National Redoubt, an area which the Germans claimed could never be captured by the Americans. However, this claim, along with their hopes for a "thousand Year Reich" died when the Tiger's mailed fist hit them again and for the last time to end the war in the first week of May 1945

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