7th Armored Division – (AAR) – (Germany) – December 1-16 1944

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464-ORD-9A-Geilenkirchen-Dec-1944

Subject : After Action Report, 7th Armored Division
Period 1-16 December, 1944
To : Adjutant General, Washington, 25, DC (Thru Channels)

Situation

After nearly a month of rest, training, and maintenance, the 7th Armored Division was in position astride the Holland – German – Belgian borders in the general vicinity of Heerlen to Geilenkirchen, preparatory to participating in the 9th Army’s drive deeper into Germany. The division itself remained in the XIII Corps reserve although component units were committed under attachment to other divisions. During the first half of the month, the division moved East of the Wurm River and prepared to attack to the East, Northeast, or North. Extensive plans were formulated for the seizure of Brachelen, but all operations beyond the Roer River, were dependent upon the seizure or destruction of the Roer River Dams, South of Düren. In German hands, these dams could be used to flood the entire Roer River Valley, and cut off or destroy any forces therein. Unsuccessful attempts to destroy these dams by aerial bombardment were made each day that the weather permitted, starting on December 3 1944. The combat forces of the division were in Germany awaiting destruction of the dams when, on December 16, the entire division was alerted to move into the area of the VIII Corps of the 1st Army. Early in the morning of December 17, the first elements of the division began the move southward. Upon arrival in the new area, CCB-7-AD, established a defensive line to the East of St Vith. CCA-7-AD, and CCR-7-AD took up positions in the vicinity of Beho and South of Recht, respectively. Little definite information was obtainable about the situation and the movement forward was delayed by the traffic of retreating troops that jammed the roads.

WLA-Palenburg-Oct1944


At St Vith, contact was made with elements of the 106th Infantry Division and CCB of the 9th Armored Division. With the aid of these, and the remnants of other units in the vicinity, a semi-circular defense line to the east of St Vith, was established by the CG of CCB-7AD, Brig Gen Bruce C. Clark. CCA attacked and recaptured Poteau, on Dec 18, and held that town until Dec 23. CCB, withstood continued German attacks to the East of St Vith, until Dec 21 when the enemy broke through the line from the southeast. CCB, withdrew to a new defensive position on the high ground to the West of St Vith. Many units were cut off by the Germans and had to fight their way back through the town.

At 2230, Dec 20, orders were received attaching the division to the XVIII Corps (Airborne). The supply routes from the Division Trains had been cut on Dec 20 resulting in the suspension in the normal flow of supplies until Dec 22, when a consolidated column was brought through by a round-about route. The enemy was reported in positions to the South, Southwest and to the North and northwest. On Dec 22, CCB, was forced to fall back again. CCA, continued to hold Poteau, in the face of attacks of increasing ferocity. The final withdrawal was on Dec 23. It was well panned and well coordinated. The non-essential vehicles had been withdrawn the day before, and with clock-work coordination, the combat commands and attached units passed over the only two bridges remaining across the Salm River, to assembly areas behind the 82nd Airborne Division’s line.

Early on Dec 24, the division was again in action defending the town of Manhay. CCA, was holding the town and had started a withdrawal to another position when a savage German attack of infantry and armor drove CCA from the town with heavy losses. CCB, was committed and launched an unsuccessful attack to retake the town on Dec 25. Positions were consolidated on Dec 26 and the following day, two companies of the 3/517th Parachute Infantry Regiment, attached to CCA, recaptured Manhay. CCA and CCB continued to defend the town until the night of Dec 29-30 when the 7-AD was relieved by the 75th Infantry Division. At the turn of the year the division was in Corps reserve performing maintenance of vehicles and rehabilitation of personnel.

Operations in Germany

December 1944 opened with the 7-AD astride the Holland – German – Belgian border in the vicinity of Geilenkirchen, supporting the 9-A’s drive deeper into Germany. The division was in reserve for the XIII Corps with the mission of supporting the attack of the 84-ID and 102-ID. It was to be prepared to pass through a bridgehead over the Roer River to attack east, northeast or north. The division headquarters was located in Robrock ad the division order of battle was as follows :

Combat Command A
48th Armored Infantry Battalion
A/33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
D/87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mecz)

Combat Command B
23rd Armored Infantry Battalion
31st Tank Battalion
B/33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
B/87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mecz)
D/203d AAA AW Battalion
C/814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
1/B/814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
1/Rcn/814th Tank Destroyer Battalion

Combat Command R
38th Armored Infantry Battalion
40th Tank Battalion
C/33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
Ordnance Detachment
Medical detachment

Division Troops
203d AAA AW Battalion (-)
814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (-)
33d Armored Engineer Battalion (-)
87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mecz)(-)

Division Trains
129th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion (-)
77th Medical Battalion Armored (-)
446th Quartermaster Trucking Company (-)
3967th Quartermaster Troops Transport Company (-)
B/203 AAA AW Battalion

Division Artillery (under XIII Corps control)
434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
A and C 203d AAA AW Battalion

Attached to the division were the 814th Tank Destroyer Bn, 203rd Antiaircraft Artillery Bn (Automatic Weapon), 446th Quartermaster Truck Company and the 3967th Quartermaster Truck Transport Company. Detached from the division were the 17th Tank Battalion (attached to the 102-ID), and the 40th Tank Battalion minus B & D Companies (attached to the 84-ID). CCR, (Col John L. Ryan, Jr.), was in the vicinity of Ubach on Dec 1. The only divisional unit in action under division command was Baker Co of the 40th Tank Bn which was supporting the 84-ID’s operations in the vicinity of Lindern. It was under the control of CCR. Able Co, 40th Tank Bn was holding Lindern with elements of the 84-ID. Baker Co was sent in to reinforce it. Due to enemy artillery concentrations on the supply route, supplies were brought to the two companies by means of the Blue Ball Express, an innovation using the light tanks of Dog Co to bring up trailer loads of rations and ammunition under the cover of darkness.

CCB (Col Bruce C. Clarke), was alerted to move east of the Wurm River and to assemble at Gereonsweiler. The mission was to attack southeast from Lindern, and to seize Linnich by passing through the 84-ID and 102-ID. The 814th Tank Destroyer Bn was to support the attack. However, due to the progress of the infantry divisions, it was not necessary to commit Combat Command B.

CCA (Col Dwight A. Rosebaum), located in the vicinity of Heerlen, was undergoing a training and maintenance program pending operations to the east.

Gereor-Dec-1944-01

On Dec 2, Division Tactical Headquarters was established in Rimburg. CCB moved east of the Wurm River. This placed two combat commands east of that river, prepared for immediate operations to the east, northeast, or north. At 0115, December 2, the elements of the 40-TB which had been attached to the 84-ID, were relieved from such attachment. Baker Co of the 40-TB was then attached to the 84-ID. While prepared to repel any enemy counterattacks, the division units continued with training and maintenance programs. At 1200, December 3, the 17-TB was relieved from attachment to the 102-ID and returned to CCR control.

Proposed operations to the east were dependent upon the destruction of the enemy-held Roer River dam, south of Düren. The enemy was capable of countering an Allied offensive in this area by flooding the Roer River valley. This would result in either destruction of the troops in the flooded region or the cutting of our supply lines. To eliminate this threat, Allied air forces made several attempts to destroy the dam by bombing. The first of the attempts was made on Dec 3. While training and maintenance continued for the division as a whole, various divisional units were in action while under attachment to other commands. Baker Co of the 40-TB was attached to the 84-ID from December 2, 2230 to December 6, 1600. Charlie Co of the 38-AIB was also under attachment to the 84-ID from December 3, 2100 to December 6, 0015. The 48-AIB was attached to the 102-ID from December 5, 1400 to December 9, 2400. The 17-TB was attached to the 84-ID from December 9, 1400 until December 16, 2000.

During the period, detailed plans were made for seizing the town of Brachelen. The town was defended by the 694., 695. and the 696.Infantry-Regiments of the 340.Infantry-Division. The attack was dependent upon the destruction of the Roer River dam which would isolate the town. When the dam was broken it would take from 4 to 5 1/2 hours for the crest of the flood to reach Brachelen, and as the dam could not be bombed before 1000, the attack was to be launched the day after the destruction of the dam. CCB was assigned the job of taking Brachelen. The plan of attack was outlined in Operations Instructions December 11, 0900, known as plan Dagger. CCA was to move east of the Würm River after CCB’s attack. Both combat commands were constituted as follows :

Combat Command A
40th Tank Battalion
48th Armored Infantry Battalion
A Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
A Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
D Troop, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mecz)
(1) Reconnaissance, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
1 Detachment 77th Medical Battalion Armored
1 Detachment 129th Ordnance Battalion

Combat Command B
23d Armored Infantry Battalion
31st Tank Battalion
38th Armored Infantry Battalion
B Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
B Troop, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mecz)
C Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
(1) B Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
(1) Reconnaissance, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
D Co 203d AAA AW Battalion
1 Detachment 77th Medical Battalion Armored
1 Detachment 129th Ordnance Battalion

Combat Command R
C Co, 33d Armored Engineer Battalion

On Dec 10, Colonel Bruce C. Clarke was promoted to Brig Gen, as Commanding General of CCB. At 101000 Dec, CCB was placed in Corps reserve, but at 111500 December, CCB was released and CCA became Corps reserve. Division Main Headquarters moved from Robroek to Heerlen, on Dec 13. The division continued training and maintenance, pending destruction of the Roer River dam and the beginning of the operations Dagger. On Dec 16 (beginning of the German counteroffensive in Belgium), the division was ordered to move south into Belgium.



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