628th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Belgium, December 1944

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Report : Employment of 4 TD Bns in the ETO
Officers Advanced Course – Armored School

628th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self Propelled)

Maj William F. Jackson, Maj John E. Wales III, Maj Marshall B. Garth, Maj John A. Rankin, Maj Alfred L. Dibelia, Maj Robert Hall, Capt George F. Sawyer, Capt Robert L. Perley, Capt James L. Higgins

Preface

Preparing a research report on tank destroyers proved to be a more interesting task than most members of the Committee anticipated. The announcement of the subject cast some doubt upon the worth of a report on a now obsolete weapon of war, but not for long. The splendid achievements of tank destroyer units in action, the outstanding esprit of officers and men in these units under all conditions of combat, and the ingenuity and bravery they combined to stop the most feared menace of the battlefield in World War II created admiration for them and professional interest in their methods. It is hoped that this report adequately describes the courage and tenacity with which they fought and the skillful techniques they employed in outmaneuvering and outfighting their armored foe.

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628th TD Battalion – Casualties

  • T/4 George F. Morgan (34110685) B Company
    DOW : Argentan, France, Aug 4 1944
  • 2nd Lt John J. Devine Jr (01822679) A Company
    DOW : Argentan, France, Aug 13 1944
  • Lt Col William M. Hernandez (0191305)
    KIA : Douains, France, Aug 20 1944
  • T/5 Clyde C. Broom (34386824) A Company
    DOW : Douains, France, Aug 26 1944
  • Pvt Wellington E. Brundage (36400080) B Company
    KIA : Conde, France, Sept 4 1944
  • Pfc Edward Mickacinich (33035715) B Company
    KIA : Sedan, France, Sept 6 1944
  • Pfc William Nicholson (33161356) Rcn Company
    KIA : Stoekigt, Germany, Sept 15 1944
  • Sgt John Kalis (36015718) B Company
    KIA : Stockem, Germany, Sept 17 1944
  • Pvt John P. Loncaric (33161105) Rcn Company
    DOW : Stockem, Germany, Sept 17 1944
  • Pfc Earl V. Ward (34071761) C Company
    KIA : Hommerdingen, Germany, Sept 19 1944
  • Pvt Willie B. Greene (34371005) C Company
    KIA : Hommerdingen, Germany, Sept 19 1944
  • Sgt Gerald W. Joner (39396408) Rcn Company
    KIA : Wallendorf, Germany, Sept 19 1944
  • T/4 William L. Boswell – (34173763) Hq Company
    KAI : Wallendorf, Germany – Sept 19 1944
  • Pfc James A. McClintock, Jr (34386127) B Company
    KIA : Begelbach, Luxembourg, Sept 21 1944
  • Pfc Earl F. Higley (33161282) C Company
    KIA : Horsdorf, Luxembourg, Sept 23 1944
  • Cpl John A. Hydu (33028902) C Company
    KIA : Horsdorf, Luxembourg, Sept 23 1944
  • Sgt Stanley J. Lada (32071189) A Company
    DOW : Kalterherberg, Belgium, Nov 3 1944
  • Cpl Casimer A. Wydrzenski (33161329) C Company
    KIA : Hurtgen, Germany, Nov 26 1944
  • Cpl Herman Harth (20315041) C Company
    KIA Hurtgen, Germany, Nov 30 1944
  • Pfc Frank L. Mozina (33161228) C Company
    KIA : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • 1st Lt Ben J. Smith (01824384) C Company
    KIA : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • Sgt Woodrow W. Woods (34071626) C Company
    KIA : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • T/5 Peter Kowalchik (33161252) C Company
    DOW : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • Cpl Henry Goffart (33161233) C Company
    KIA : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • Cpl Ashley C. Long (34386198) C Company
    KIA : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • Sgt Tames W. Luvender (20317374) C Company
    KIA : Hurtgen, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • T/5 Thomas Vender Veen (36400270) C Company
    KIA : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • Pfc Joseph G. Yakaitus Jr (31038937) C Company
    DOW : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • Sgt Charles A. Leo (35020246) C Company
    KIA : Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944
  • Pvt John I. J. Lawler (33028880) C Company
    DOW : Hurtgen, Germany, Dec 10 1944
  • T/5 Louis P. Di Orio (20315035) C Company
    KIA : Hurtgen, Germany, Dec 11 1944
  • Pfc Mario A. Mastro (33029156) B Company
    DOW : Odrimont, Belgium, Jan 4 1945
  • Pvt William T. Walden (34370625) Rcn Company
    DOW : Odrimont, Belgium, Jan 4 1945
  • T/5 William J. Walters (34386105) B Company
    KIA : Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Pfc Samual A. Augustine (33028869) A Company
    KIA : Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • T/5 William Mayers (34385822) B Company
    KIA : Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Cpl Floyd E. Burge (33034922) A Company
    KIA : Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Pfc Randy B. Carpenter (34425461) B Company
    KIA : Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Sgt George A. De Lia (33161296) B Company
    KIA : Haute-Bodeux, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Pvt Charles W. Hill (33161172) B Company
    KIA : Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • T/5 Arnold B. Zeigler (34425469) A Company
    KIA : Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Cpl Chester W. Kuta (26016238) B Company
    KIA : Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Sgt Martin P. Lally (32084601) C Company
    KIA : Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • Pfc Theodore Spalte (32065342) B Company
    KIA : Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 4 1945
  • Pvt Leo Tovar (39564912) A Company
    KIA : Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945
  • T/4 Donald F. Beck (36400303) A Company
    KIA : Simmerath, Germany, Jan 30 1945
  • T/5 Floyd J. Robinson (32046621) A Company
    KIA : Krefeld, Germany, March 3 1945
  • T/Sgt Nicholas Van Handel (32154633) A Company
    KIA : Krefeld, Germany, March 3 1945
  • Pvt Thomas W. Bowman (34371375) A Company
    KIA : Osterath, Germany, March 15 1945
  • T/5 Jesse A. Pannell (34425825) A Company
    KIA : Osterath, Germany, March 15 1945
  • Sgt Doyle E. Swilley (36014268) A Company
    KIA : Tangermunde, Germany, April 12 1945
  • Pfc Michael H. Welsh (33161359) Rcn Company
    KIA : Neukirchfeld, Germany, March 4 1945
  • Pfc Cecil Wilson (34707801) A Company
    KIA : Osterath, Germany, March 15 1945

Because tank destroyer units were employed as small elements attached to major combat organizations, reports of their activities have been found difficult to trace. Organizations to which they were attached sometimes failed to mention these subordinate attached units in after action reports, and parent tank destroyer battalions were unaware, at times, of the scope of combat activities in which their companies and platoons took part. Considering this, and the fact that tank destroyer organizations provided only a comparatively small group of combat units, it is not surprising that after action reports on their activities are few in number and are not prepared with as much attention to detail as those of, for example, an Infantry Division or a Corps Headquarters.

There is additional reason for the shortage of reports from tank destroyer companies and platoons. They were often separated from parent organizations for days and weeks at a time. Individuals interviewed in connection with this study agree this was a deterrent to preparing more than casual records. With no complaint intended, it is an observation of the Committee that combat records of battalion-size units are few in number and sketchily prepared. This is apparently a result of the disinclination, on the part of line officers, to spend time preparing reports, and a lack of appreciation, in terms of improved combat efficiency, of the various purposes for which after action reports are used. In the direction of correcting this situation and assisting battalion staffs in simplifying their work of recording, the standard form of report used by lower echelons of the British Army could be examined as a method of preparing paperwork with no more than reasonable pangs of authorship.

After some time was spent on research and interview, seeming conflicts of fact made it desirable to analyze the slim stock of available documents pertaining to tank destroyers and to determine their validity.

It was decided that all could be more closely scrutinized. For instance, more than one after action report listed, with understandable pride, the elimination of three or more German Tiger tanks in a day’s operation. However, Division and Corps staff officers who were at the scene of action declare no enemy tanks of this type were near the areas described in post combat records. One ironically suggested Tiger tanks must have been the most prolific item of German war production, considering the vast numbers knocked out in after action reports.

Committee members have noted that well planned offensive operations were invariably recorded with greater preciseness than defensive actions. German accounts, particularly in the Ardennes Offensive, gave a more accurate picture, a check of eye witnesses reveals, than reports from United States units on the defensive.

The Committee received invaluable assistance in the preparation of the report from former members of the four tank destroyer battalions. Without their aid it would not have been possible to approach any semblance of accuracy in presenting the details of combat which are condensed in an after action report and, of necessity, lost in the condensation. For their kindness and cooperation, the Committee expresses its appreciation and thanks to

  • Lt Col James W. Bidwell, former CO of the 704th TD Battalion, now stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky;
  • Lt Col Stanley Dettmer, former CO of the 823d TD Battalion, now residing at San Anselm, California;
  • Lt Col William A. Hamberg, CO of the 10th Tank Battalion, 5th Armored Division, now stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky;
  • Lt Col Ashby I. Lohse, former operations officer of the 823d TD Battalion, now living in Tucson, Arizona;
  • Maj Edward R. Garton, executive officer of the 644th TD Battalion,now at The Armored School, Fort Knox, Kentucky;
  • Maj Crosby P. Miller, S-3 of the 704th TD Battalion, now at the Armored School, Fort Knox;
  • Capt Bruce A. Crissinger, a former Commander of the 823d TD Battalion, now a resident at Greensburg, Pennsylvania;
  • Capt James Leach, CO B Company, 37th Tank Battalion, and on duty at Fort knox, Kentucky;
  • Capt Edwin Leiper, CO of the 3d Plat, C Company, 704th TD Battalion, now a resident of Indianapolis, Indiana;
  • Capt T. L. Raney, CO of the lst Rcn Platoon, 823d TD Battalion, now stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland;
  • Lt John E. Barron, CO of the 1st Plat, C Company, 823d TD Battalion, now residing in El Paso, Texas;
  • Lt Ellis McInnis, CO of a platoon of C Company, 823d TD Battalion, now living in Odessa, Texas;
  • Lt Leon L. Neel, CO 1st Plat, B Company, 823d TD Battalion, now residing in Thomasville, Georgia;
  • Lt Thomas Springfield, CO 1st Plat, A Company, 823d TD Battalion, now living in Dodge City, Kansas

Introduction

The motivating impulse for this report dates back to the European Campaigns of 1940, when the French Army surrendered to swift-moving German divisions whose success rested primarily on the speed, firepower and shock action of tanks supported by planes, when remnants of the British Expeditionary Force prepared airplane and tank obstacles throughout the British Isles and regrouped for the last ditch battle of England, and when, in the United States, the majority of military thought was centered on a method by which the terrifyingly successful tank-air combination could be stopped.

One of the outcomes of those urgent times was the formation of tank destroyer units as a part of the United States Army and their use, particularly during the later European Campaigns of 1944-1945, in the greatest combined-arms offensive in history. That tank destroyer units never fulfilled the master role for which they were intended is a quirk of circumstance plus the introduction of other ingenious devices contrived to combat tanks.

The original subject assigned this committee for research and report was “The Operation of the Tank Destroyer Battalion” The topic covers a wide field, which fortunately was narrowed with the announcement of the scope as “A study of the employment of the tank destroyer battalion in the European Theater, with conclusions and recommendations”, with limiting dates extending from June of 1944 to May of 1945.

Confined within reasonable bounds, the title assumed more workable proportions, though it was still considered too general when committee members initiated individual research. After a morethorough look at source material it was determined the best output of the committee’s efforts would be achieved if the subject was restricted to operations of four outstanding tank destroyer battalions. Thus the subject was chosen. Research concerning tank destroyer operations has revealed an interesting and important field for further investigation. It is suggested that the overall subject, “The Operation of the Tank Destroyer Battalion”, could be the basis for a group of studies aimed at a more complete picture of combat operations involving tank destroyers versus tanks.

The subject is important because of its possible effect on current antitank doctrine. Tank Destroyers entered and emerged from World War II as the center of a doctrinal controversy. Conceived in haste, they were designated “Tank Chasers”, before birth, by the French; “Antitank Regiments”, by the British; “Self-propelled Artillery”, by the Russians; and “Tank Destroyers” by our forces. They had common characteristics as well as a common purpose. All were team operated, super velocity, low trajectory weapons, self propelled or towed, suitable for employment on direct fire missions against tanks, primarily German tanks. The argument which centered on tanks replacing tank destroyers in an antitank role entered the theoretical phase in this country as tank armament was improved to exceed that of existing tank destroyer weapons.

Major factors in the difference of opinion were the tank’s heavier vehicle, armor and weapons weight, with loss of mobility, as against a lighter, thin skinned, more agile and heavier armed anti-tank vehicle. This controversial side issue is not a part of the report, though it well might be. The facts of combat operations, high-lighted during the period June 1944 to May 1945, were an important influence on the decision which eliminated tank destroyers from US Army organization in 1946. Although some aspects of the study were not immediately obvious to the researcher, one feature of tank destroyer employment was quickly noted. This was the wide variety of combat assignments,outside the scope of antitank combat, in which tank destroyer organizations participated.

Many missions were considered, by those insubordinate command of the units, to be beyond the sphere of organizational training or equipment. Surprisingly, the unorthodox missions were quite successful from an overall viewpoint and added to the versatile reputation of the anti-tankers.

This report is not concerned with the application of principles to a combat situation facing a commander, harassed by the problem of taking an objective with the means at hand. However, the statements of tank destroyer unit officers that they were rarely able to utilize the potential of their weapons and personnel because of restrictions imposed by unusual missions and attachments, directed by higher authority, is of interest.

The purpose of this report is to present a series of illustrative general actions hinging on the assignment of tank destroyer units in two well recognized role as :

  • Supporting a major organization and its subordinate elements on the offensive
  • providing the same support when the larger element is in a defensive situation

The combined actions will show the various methods of employment of tank destroyers by major unit cammanders

  • the adherence to or departure from tank destroyer doctrine extant at the time of employment
  • a comparison of unit actions with the objective of highlighting successful features of operation

The four battalions selected for illustration are the

  • 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion
  • 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion
  • 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion
  • 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion

Although they were shifted within Corps, the battalions spent the majority of combat time attached to the following divisions

  • 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 5th Armored Division
  • 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division
  • 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 4th Armored Division
  • 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, 30th Infantry Division

The first part of the report is concerned with background material, the organization of units for combat, types of equipment used during the period of operations and a brief of doctrine governing the training and contemplated employment of tank destroyers in the combined arms fighting team. Following background data, operations of the four tank destroyer battalions are described in separate chapters, with another section devoted to comment by selected tank destroyer unit commanders and the final chapter devoted to conclusions and recommendations.

General Missions and Organization
Tank Destroyer Units

This chapter is devoted to a general discussion of the technical material on the employment of tank destroyer units. It contains information on the missions for which tank destroyer units were trained, the contemplated principles of employment and methods of employment. The chapter also includes organizational charts prepared and later modified during World War II by the Tank Destroyer School at Camp Hood, Texas. As with other special organizations of the armed forces, tank destroyers were given a specific goal to achieve. This goal, or primary mission, was the destruction of hostile tanks by direct gunfire.

It is of interest to note that even the wording of direct gun fire implies an aggressive as well as an offensive role

When approaching the subject of tank destroyer use, it is of importance to differentiate between antitank and tank destroyer units. Unquestionably the two elements have a great deal in common and are closely related. However, they are also quite different.

[flv width=”660″ height=”400″]http://www.eucmh.com/movie/M10TD-01.flv[/flv]

Antitank units are set up and equipped to be used in relatively fixed roles. Even when the larger units of which they form a part are on the offensive, their role is primarily defensive. Antitank units function generally by successively setting up defenses of certain critical areas such as avenues of approach of possible armored counterattack. When they do not succeed in stopping an attack, their purpose is to disrupt, delay and canalise hostile armored forces, thus creating conditions favorable for counter attack by highly mobile reserves. Here is where tank destroyers enter the picture.

[…] Tank Destroyers are the highly mobile element in operations against armored forces. In contrast to Antitank units, their role is purely offensive, even when supporting large-scale defensive operations. Because of their characteristics, Tank Destroyers are not bound up with positions and places on the ground. In fact […] to bind their operations down to places takes much of the power out of their wallop. Tank Destroyers are organized and equipped to strike and strike hard at tanks with great fire power and great maneuverability. Their function is not to deny the use of certain terrain feature to tanks but to seek out and destroy the tanks themselves.

Suitable secondary missions for tank destroyer units are

  • 1 – To reinforce or supplement the fire of artillery units with direct or indirect fire
  • 2 – To destroy pill boxes and permanent defensive works
  • 3 – To support landing operations
  • 4 – To defend beaches against waterborne attack
  • 5 – To be used on roving gun and roving battery missions(more applicable to self-propelled units)

With regard to the use of tank destroyers on secondary missions, the field manual on employment has the following to say :

[…] Employment of tank destroyers on secondary missions is a command decision. When ammunition requirements for reinforcing artillery missions exceed the supply facilities of the units, higher headquarters assumes the responsibility of supplying the additional ammunition required. Except in an emergency, the organic ammunition loads of tank destroyer units should remain intact for primary missions […]
[…] Most secondary missions require the use of high explosive ammunition. Since the trajectory of anti-tank guns is too flat for the execution of many missions, reduced charges are often referable […]

In order to use tank destroyer to their best advantage, and to gain the maximum possible results from their favorable characteristics, a commander would be governed in tank destroyer action by application of the following principles

  • 1 – The seeking of information of hostile tanks by continuous reconnaissance
  • 2 – The movement to firing positions so as to intercept hostile tanks by arriving sufficiently in advance of the tanks to permit proper emplacement and concealment of tank destroyers. Tank destroyers ambush, hostile tanks, but do not charge nor chase them
  • 3 – Holding ground and not firing until tanks get within as close range as possible
  • 4 – Occupying forward positions from which to pursue with drawing tanks by fire
  • 5 – Using every practicable measure to secure concealment. This is necessary because tank destroyers are vulnerable to hostile tank, antitank and artillery fire
  • 6 – Digging in towed guns whenever time permits
  • 7 – Digging in and camouflaging tank destroyers in feature less terrain

It is important that tank destroyers be used aggressively. Their mobility permits them to be concentrated rapidly in an advantageous position. Stealth and deception are predominate factors. Tank destroyers are not capable of independent action; they should be used in close operation with other troops. The organization of tank destroyer units was a subject of much discussion and the usual controversy, but was finally decided and established as brought out in Field Manual 16-5.

[a.] Tank destroyer units are organized as battalions, groups, and brigades. The battalion is both a tactical and administrative unit. Groups and brigades are organized only as tactical units. There are two types of battalions, classified according to their equipment as self-propelled (SP) and self towed (ST).
[b.] The self-propelled battalion consists of a head-quarters and headquarters company, a reconnaissance company, three gun companies, and a medical detachment. Each gun company has three platoons of four self-propelled guns each – a total of 36 guns within the battalion.
[c.] The towed battalion is similar to the self-propelled battalion except that it is equipped with towed guns and has no reconnaissance company. Two reconnaissance platoons are included in the headquarters company.
[d.] Group : The group consists of a headquarters and headquarters company and two or more battalions.
[e.] Brigade : The brigade is composed of a head-quarters and headquarters company and two or more groups.

As to methods of employment, tank destroyer units certainly have flexibility and maneuverability beyond the scope of most armored elements. They can be employed to attack the head, flanks, or the rear of a hostile armored formation. These points may be hit simultaneously, or successively, engaging one while maneuvering to hit another. The choice of method is largely influenced by the relative size of the elements involved. A tank destroyer battalion should be able to attack a hostile task company at three points simultaneously. If the terrain is favorable it might be possible to attack a hostile tank battalion at three points. Tank destroyers should be kept in concealed positions well to the rear initially. Their mobility will permit their use in mass in particular areas anywhere over a wide zone. Tank destroyers use the concept of surprise attack in mass. Therefore, they should hold out small or no reserves, initially employing their maximum fire power and shifting it continuously to again and maintain the maximum tactical advantage.

An outline distributed by the Tank Destroyer School at Camp Hood, Texas, compared the employment of tank destroyer units to that of the man backing up the line in football, […] he stays well back until he sees where the play is coming and then hits it with every-thing he has […]

Summary
Personnel
– Officers 5
– Enlisted Men 120

Weapons
– Gun 75-MM SP
– Gun Machine Cal .50 M-2
– Gun Machine Light Cal .30
– Pistol Cal .45
– Rifle Cal .30 M-1
– Carbine Cal .30 M-1
– Launcher Rocket AT M-9
– Mortar 81-MM M-1

Combat Echelon

Gun Company (SP)
Tank Destroyer Battalion (SP)
Tank Destroyer
Headquarters Company

Commander’s Party

Command Post

Motor Maintenance Section

Gun Platoon
Platoon Headquarters & Security Section
Gun Section Gun Section

628th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self Propelled)
Introduction and Buildup General

The 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion (SP) was selected for study in the preparation of this report on tank destroyer operations in the European Theater of Operations after a careful consideration of factors, situations and missions; the more important of which are areas follows

  • 1 – This unit was employed extensively in the primary tank destroyer role
  • 2 – A self propelled unit, it worked throughout combat on the European Continent, except for one brief period, with an armored unit, the 5th Armored Division
  • 3 – In the Battle of Wallendorf (Germany), the battle selected for detailed study, this tank destroyer battalion was employed with an armored division in the penetration of a heavily fortified position; the Siegfried Line
  • 4 – Also in the Battle of Wallendorf, this battalion was heavily engaged in repelling armored attacks
  • 5 – In addition to the above listed roles this battalion was employed in just about every manner to which it could be adapted, for example; reinforcing artillery, as assault guns, against personnel in the open, as road blocks, and to provide flank protection.

On August 5 1944, only a few days after the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion landed in Europe it was attached to the 5th Armored Division. Neither the Battalion nor the 5th Armored Division had been committed to combat. Thus a team that was to work together through most of the European Campaign was formed. It is of course important that a team remain intact if the ultimate in cooperation and coordinations to be achieved. This permanent attachment was, therefore, very desirable and led to understandings that could only have been bettered if the units had trained together.

In order to understand the operating procedure of this team, of which the 628th was a member, it is necessary to explain that the 5th Armored Division employed “married companies” to make up tank-infantry teams.

One tank battalion and one infantry battalion were assigned to each combat command, but the cooperation between tanks and infantry was to go further than that. The A tank companies and A infantry companies were paired off. Likewise paired were the B and C tank and infantry companies. Within the companies each infantry platoon of five squad half-tracks was paired with a platoon of five medium tanks. Within the platoons each medium tank crew of five men was paired with its own infantry squad of 12 men. The final result of the marriage was a Sherman tank, a half-track and 17 men who were to eat, sleep and fight together.

It was also customary to attach a platoon of tank destroyers to a married company. CCB’s tank-infantry teams were made up from the 81st Tank Bn and the 15th Armored Infantry Bn. The B Co of the Medic Bn, B Co of the Engineer Bn, B Co of the Ordnance Bn, and Troop B or the Cavalry Rcn Squadron were the normal supporting troops, and the 71st Armored Field Artillery Bn was normally in direct support. It normally fought as two task forces; one heavy, containing two “married companies”, and one light, containing one “married company”. Each task force bore the name of its commander. During the Wallendorf operation the commanders were Lt Col Anderson and Lt Col Wintermute.

CCR’s two units were the 10th Tank Bn and the 47th Armored Infantry Bn. Its regularly supporting artillery the 95th Armored Field Artillery Bn and its normal supporting companies the C Companies of the Engineers, Ordnance and Medics and C Troop of the Cavalry. The heavy task force during this operation was commanded by Lt Col Hamburg the CO of the 10th Tank Battalion and contained the married A and C Cos, Task force Boyer named for Lt Col Boyer the 47th Armored Infantry Battalion Commander was the light task force and was made up of the married B Cos.

Since CCA was occupied in a different sector protecting the City of Luxemburg, during the period while the 5th Armored Division was on German soil, and did not figure in the Wallendorf operation, its organization is not important and is omitted. The 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion was committed to combat with the 5th Armored Division on Aug 2 1944, and with them fought through France into Belgium and liberated Luxemburg. During the advance the major actions participated in were at the Falaise-Argentan Gap and the Seine River.

Friendly Situation

By the end of Aug 1944, the Allied force on the Continent included

  • 20 American divisions
  • 12 British divisions
  • 3 Canadian divisions
  • 1 French division
  • 1 Polish division
  • the necessary supporting troops

Against a defeated and demoralized enemy they were advancing rapidly. Due to limited port facilities and conditions of the railroads in France it was impossible to support the armies as the supply lines lengthened indefinitely. There was bound to be a time when the rapid advance would of necessity stop, if not due to enemy resistance, then because the supply lines had been stretched to their elastic limits.

All along the front we pressed forward in hot pursuit of the fleeing enemy. In 4 days the British spearheads, paralleled by equally forceful American advances on the right, covered 195 miles, one of the many fine feats of marching by our formations in the great pursuit across France.
By Sept 5 1944, Patton’s Third Army reached Nancy and crossed the Moselle River between that city and Metz.
Hodge’s 1st Army came up against the Siegfried Line defenses by the thirteenth of the month and was shortly thereafter to begin the struggle for Aachen. Pushed back against the borders of the homeland, the German defenses showed definite signs of stiffening.
On Sept 4 1944, Montgomery’s armies entered Anvers (Antwerp). Marseilles had been captured on Aug 28 and this great port was being rehabilitated.

Enemy Situation

By Sept 1 1944, no organized front existed. The remnants of the German formations were fighting unorganized rear guard actions in an attempt to fall back into Germany and gain the protection of the Westwall. In the meantime the Germans were making a desperate belated attempt to prepare the defenses of the Siegfried Line, Labor battalions and Volksturm (home guard) troops were being employed along with crippled units that had withdrawn from the battle of France.

Early in Sept 1944, when the German Armed Forces in the West during their withdrawal through France and Belgium approached the German frontier, the bulk of the formations could be designated only as romanants. According to the statistics of the O.K.W. (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) (High Command of the Armed Forces), the Westheer, including the Kriegsmarine (Navy) and the Luftwaffe (Air Forces), but including the fortresses, had suffered a total loss of about 500,000 men since Jun 1 1944.
Principally as a result of the absolute air supremacy of the Allies, the losses in material were even more conspicuous. As an example, it may be mentioned that the 1. SS Pz Corps had at its disposal only 1 tank fit for action. The LXXIV Army Corps possessed only one gun, which was in full fighting order. All formations were heavily intermixed, so that there were divisions consisting of men belonging to a variety of units of every branch of arms.
During the entire withdrawal to the German frontier, the controlling organs, however, had remained intact. The army, corps, divisional, as well as the bulk of the regimental and battalion staffs were in working order and had on hand more or less strong cadres of the troop formations.

The main German forces opposing the 5th Armored Division on Sept 13 1944 were the :

  • 256. S Panzer Regiment
  • 5. Fallschirmjäger Division (elements of)
  • 130. Panzer Lehr Division (elements of)
  • Miscellaneous Volksturm formations

Opeartions – Pre Battle Movements

The US 1st Army planned to make its entry into Germany with a main thrust in the vicinity of Aachen. To assist in the execution of this thrust V Corps, to the south, consisting of the 4th Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Division, and the 5th Armored Division attacked the much taunted Westwall.

Combat Command Reserve, (CCR-5-AD) was ordered to cross the Our River and penetrate the Siegfried Line in the vicinity of Wallendorf.

The following quotation from the unit history of the 5th Armored Division indicates the Division had already done some reconnaissance of the Line on its own initiative.

At 1815, Sept 11 1944, a strong patrol from B Troop, 85th Cavalry Rcn Sq crossed the Our River into Germany and made history. Word flashed back to division, to army, to the world that the first Americans were fighting on German soil.
For the next three days patrols probed the Siegfried Line and found it manned by small lightly armed forces. The enemy began building up his strength, however, and the steep hills, mud and defiles threatened to make movement difficult for the tanks.

This action proved to be correct for :

On the 12 of Sept the 5th Armored Division was directed to conduct reconnaissance to the Siegfried Line, demonstrate to its front and be prepared to breakthrough the German defenses in the general area Wallendorf – Echternach to secure objectives in Germany.
By Corps order on Sept 13, the 5th Armd Div was told to reconnoiter and demonstrate against the Siegfried Line in its sector. If the Line was not held in force one Combat Command with one Battalion of the 112th Infantry Regiment was to break through and seize the high ground east of Bitburg.
Combat Command B (CCB-5-AD) was to assist and cover the advance of CCR (CCR-5-AD) with artillery support. A Company (628th TD Bn) was attached to CCB for this purpose. The rest of the Battalion was attached to CCR.

Operations Sept 13 1944

Elements of the 628th TD Battalion attached to CCR-5-AD moved into position to fire into Germany on Sept 13 1944. They fired all that afternoon, all the next morning and then about 1300, Sept 14, crossed into Germany. An interesting observation made by members of the CCR task forces was that in all the time during the two days of firing the enemy did not fire in return.

On Sep 13 the action, as is shown in the following quotations, consisted primarily of moving into positions and firing into the enemy pill-boxes.

[…] A demonstration against enemy fortifications of the Siegfried Line with tanks, tank destroyers and artillery fire was ordered by Corps and was carried out beginning at 1500, 13 September […]
[…] CCR-5-AD delivered direct tank and artillery fire on enemy pill boxes between Ammeldingen/Our and Gentingen. No enemy fire was returned […]
[…] On Sep 13 1944, 2d Plat, B Co (628th TD)in position on hill near Bigelbach, Luxemburg, used direct fire methods at 2000 yards range on German pillboxes and other enemy targets in the vicinity of Wallendorf and Biesdorf. On the same day 2d Plat, C Co moved across the Moselle River and fired on enemy pill boxes northeast of Hoesdorf, over the border into Germany. Direct fire methods were used and six pill boxed were knocked out, after which the platoon returned to the bivouac area […]
[…] On Sep 13 also, B Co (628th) with Rcn Plat attached, moved with the 47th Armd Inf Bn into firing positions on high ground east and northeast of Reisdorf (Luxemburg), on direct fire support for the 47th AIB, attacked fortifications of the Siegfried Line northeast of Wallendorf […]
[…] 3 inch (76.2-MM) gun direct fire from massed M-10s was employed against the permanent fortifications of the Siegfried Line. It was observed that normal AP shells had little effect against concrete, especially when covered with earth […]
[…] C Co with Rcn Plat, still attached to the 10th TB moved to an assembly area five miles east of Gilsdorf (LU) at 1315. 1st Plat, C Co then moved to Wallendorf, Germany, crossing the Our River, and set up road blocks to protect the main body of CCR-5-AD. 2d Plat, C Co assisted 1st Bn, 112th IR, 28th ID also attached to CCR in the seizing of Reisdorf (LU) and the establishing of road blocks there, 3d Plat C Co moved to a position one mile north of Wallendorf (DE) to guard the right flank of CCR. Pioneer Plat, Rcn Co, was attached to C Co 22d Armored Engineer Battalion for a bridge building mission. C Co was in Germany and to Maj Burgess, then Captain, got the honors of being the first man in the Battalion to set foot on German Soil. The remainder of the Battalion except a company working with CCB-5-AD, crossed into Germany on Sep 15 1944 and at 1700 the Battalion CP was established on Hill 408, one mile east of Freilingen, approximately six miles into Germany […]

Operations Sept 14 1944
Since there was no large caliber fire being returned from the enemy positions the task forces decided to cross the Our River and go into position preparatory to crossing the Gay Bach the next morning.

[…] At 1130, Sept 14 1944, CCR-5-AD with the 1st Bn 212th Infantry, attacked to breakthrough in the vicinity of Wallendorf. The infantry preceded by the armor crossed the Our River at 1330. Crossing by ford since the bridge had been destroyed by the Germans before our forces reached the river […]
[…] Progress was slow due to automatic weapons and small arms fire. A hard rain also slowed the movement […]
[…] The advance continued and at 1825 the bulk of the CCR forces were across the river and on the high ground […]
[…] C Co, 628th TD Bn, with Rcn Plat still attached to the 10th Tank Battalion, moved to an assembly area 5 miles east of Gilsdorf at 1315. 1st Plat C Co then moved to Wallendorf crossing the Our River and set up road blocks to protect the main body of CCR. 2nd Plat C Co, assisted 1st Bn 112th Inf Regt, 28th Inf Div also attached to CCR in the seizing of Reisdrof (LU) and the establishing of road blocks there. 4th Plat C Co moved to a position one mile north of Wallendorf, to guard the right flank of CCR. Pioneer Plat Rcn Co, was attached to C Co 22d Armored Engineer Battalion for a Bridge Building mission.

Operations Sept 15 1944

At 0800, Sep 15 1944, CCR resumed the attack, Fog and low clouds made visibility very poor. Some enemy tanks had moved in front of the combat command during the night. The advance against heavy resistance consisting of the enemy tanks and some 88-MM guns continued and by noon elements had moved into Hommerdingen. Soon thereafter the 1/112th Inf was in Biesdorf. The forward momentum continued and by night Task Force Hamburg had advanced through Enzen and Stockem to Bettingen. Task Force Boyer was occupying Hill 408, which was about a thousand yards north of Frielingen and commanded the area.
B Co, 628 TD Bn occupied positions to command the approaches to Hill 408. C Co 628th had moved through the fog to attack Hommerdingen and Kruchten. Part of the company provided flank protection for Task Force Hamburg and the remainder of the company established road blocks to protect CCR Hqs. On the evening Sep 15, V Corps ordered CCB released to division control to assist in the continuation of the division attack to seize the objective in the vicinity of Bitburg.

Operations Sept 16 1944

CCB with A Co, 628th attached crossed the Our into Germany on the 16 of December, passed through Wallendorf and stopped for the night at Hommerdingen, with a force still engaged in cleaning out Niedersgegen (2 miles to the rear).
A Co, 628th went into direct and indirect artillery positions protecting the CCR lines of communication.
CCR had continued its attack but at 1500 was still up against heavy enemy resistance and had made no advance during the day. At 2145 they reported that the enemy was counter-attacking five hundred yards south-east of Wettlingen.
The 1st Bn 112th Inf, attached to CCR was dug in at Wettlingen. During the day CCR threw back three strong counterattacks at Wettlingen and smashed an armored attack.
1st and 3rd Plat of B Co, 628th were in position south-east of Hill 408 and 2nd Plat was on Hill 298 near Stockem supporting 1st Bn 112th Inf.
The 1st and 2nd Plat of C Co in anti-tank defense of Task Force Hamburg wore in positions south-east of Stockem and north-east of Halsdorf, respectivly, whith the 3rd Plat provided anti-tank defense for CCR trains near Hommerdingen.

Operations Sept 17 1944

On Sept 17, enemy small arms mortar and artillery fire increased in intensity in all areas. At 0745 CCR reported that its artillery was firing on enemy tanks to the north-east, that the 1st Bn 112th Inf was receiving enemy machine gun and artillery fire north-east of Wettlingen, that the right tank column was fighting in the vicinity of Stockem, that artillery fire was coming from the north, north-east and east and enemy tanks were to the north-east and east. At 0830 CCR reported the fifth enemy counter-attack repulsed, that a total of eight enemy tanks were knocked out. The enemy attacks were supportod by at least forty tanks.
The enemy counter-attacks against Task Force Hamburg, the right tank column of CCR, in and around Halsdorf and Stockem were launched from the vicinity of Wettlingen and were made by tanks accompanied by infantry. Artillery fire which was placed on the attacking forces separated the infantry from the tanks. The tank attack was then broken up by tank destroyers of 1st and 3d Plat of C Co 628th TD Bn from positions in the vicinity of Halsdorf and Stockem, and tanks on the high ground north-east of Halsdorf.
Meanwhile […] on the unforgettable Hill 298 the 2nd Plat (B Co 628th) under Lt Leon Ronnebaum, was engaged in desperate fighting. This platoon was supporting the 112th Regt of the 28th Inf Div […] In close support of the foot sloggers, the platoon was successful in repulsing several enemy counter-attacks attempting to dislodge the Tank Destroyers from their excellent firing positions, Sgt Thomas R. Kearney and Sgt John Kalis had fired all their ammunition and accounted for many enemy dead and wounded. Pvt Grizzle and Pfc Masters accounted for a good many casualties among the attacking force. After three destroyers were hit and damaged by enemy fire and the remaining forces were just about out of ammunition Lt Rennobaum gave the order to withdraw.
For this brave show of arms, the 2nd Plat was recommended for the Presidential Unit Citation and Lt Rennobaum subsequently received tho Distinguished Service Cross.
1st Bn, 112th Inf, was withdrawn to the vicinity of Stockem. They dug in on the high ground west of town. On Sept 17, CCB left elements of the married B Cos at Hommerdingen to protect CCR’s rear and moved to the Wallerdorf Ammeldingen Niedersgegen area where they were employed destroying pill-boxes and to protect the left flank of the penetration. Task Force Anderson, loss the B Cos elements occupied Hill 375 between Niedersgegen and Ammeldingen which commanded the terrain in that sector. Task Force Wintermute continued to hold Niedergegen.
By the night of Sept 17, the furthest penetration into Germany had been made.

Operations Sept 18 1944

[…] No appreciable changes in dispositions or locations took place on 18 Sept […]
[…] CCR with Task Force Hamburg in the vicinity of Halsdorf and Stockem, and Task Force Boyer on Hill 408 were subjected to artillery fire, but sustained no major attacks […]
CCB continued to destroy pillboxes and to drive the enemy from Niedersgegen, Reisdorf and from around the bridge site at Wallendorf (…]
[…] The Germans reoccupied these localities nightly by infiltration […]

Operations Sept 19 1944

]…] Ninteenth of September was the high point in the Battalion’s (628th TD Bn) combat history in so far as knocking out enemy tanks during any single 24 hours period is concerned. Missions and positions had remained approximately the same as on Sept 17 […]
At 0400, Sept 19, CCR reported enemy vehicles moving in its sector and placed artillery concentration on them. Considerable movement of enemy tanks was reported in the vicinity of Mettendorf […]
[…] At 0740 the positions of CCR were being heavily shelled by enemy artillery […]
[…] At 0800 the enemy launched a two-pronged tank and infantry attack on CCR, moving southeast and south-west from Mettendorf. Eighteen enemy Mark IV tanks are known to have been knocked out by CCR in repelling this attack […]
[…] At 0910 CCR reported its CP had moved to Hommerdingen to avoid enemy artillery fire […]
CCR was attacked at 1325 from the north-east.The attack was repulsed but CCR continued to receive heavy artillery fire […]
[…] The 2d Bn, 112th Inf going up to relieve the 1st Bn with CCR had been halted by fire north of Reisdorf. CCB was ordered to send a force to relieve the pressure on them so they could continue. This pressure was neutralized by CCB at 1600 […]
[…] The 1st Bn, 112th Inf having been relieved from CCR was given the mission of protecting the bridge at Wallendorf for the night Sept 19/20 […]
[…] At 1800 the Commanding Officer, Division Artillery, was ordered to move all artillery to the west of the German border without delay […]
[…] At 1830 CCR was ordered to have 2d Bn, 112th Inf protect its East flank while the remainder of CCR withdrew west of the frontier to a position south of Diekirch […]
[…] At 1845 Commanding Officer, Division Artillery, was given a fire line and ordered to lay heavy fire east of the line to cover the withdrawal of CCR […]
[…]
Prior to the CCR withdrawal both, B and C Cos of the TDs had an artilleryman’s field day, 1st Plat B Co with Lt Jones commanding, while in position north of Freilingen, protecting the left flank of CCR knocked out six Mark VI tanks attempting to approach their position from the vicinity of Huttingen, by direct fire at range’s from 1500 to 3600 yards […]
[…] Cpl Rice, Tank Destroyer gunner, knocked out three enemy tanks in quick succession at 1800 yards while Cpl Tomaszewski and Cpl Kiwior knocked out tanks at 3600 and 3200 yards respectively […]
[…] Two unidentified enemy tanks were also knocked out by the 2d Plat, in addition, this Plat assisted the tank attached to the 47th Armd Inf, in knocking out an additional five enemy tanks of undetermined designation, while Cpl Giacomino knocked out two other enemy tanks but was unable to identify the tanks due to enemy fire […]
[…] The 3d Plat, C Co, with Lt Feldman commanding, established CP and firing positions on the revers slope of a Hill 1500 yards north of Hommersdingen, Germany […]
[…] Considerable enemy movement was observed in the vicinity of Huttingen and brought under fire at ranges from 1000 to 2000 yards which resulted in one enemy Mark V tank definitely knocked out and observed hits scored on six Mark VI’s and one other Mark V which the enemy either recovered or else completed the destruction [….]
[…] This in one twenty-four hour period. The Bn received credit for six Mark VI’s, one Mark V and four unidentified tanks destroyed; six Mark VI’s and one Mark V probably destroyed and assisted in the destruction of five unidentified tanks […]

The sector held by CCB was also heavily attacked on the 19th. At 0800 they reported the enemy working west and north-west from Biesdorf with continuous light and medium enemy artillery fire coming from east and north-east. They had cleared the enemy out of Biesdorf by 1037, but at 1030 enemy infantry attacked and took the bridge at Wallendorf. It was held for only a short time for by 1250 they had been forced to withdraw to the south-eastern edge of Wallendorf.

At 1225 CCB repulsed an attack by enemy tanks from the north. One platoon of the TD company with CCB was sent back into Luxemburg to face into Germany and cover the approach lane from the north of Hill 375 located between Ammeldingen and Niedersgegen. Another TD was driven up on top of Hill 375 from where it poured direct fire into the town of Biedersgegen in support of Task Force Wintermute.

Enemy fire continued to increase in intensity forcing movement of the Tank Force Anderson CP to a new saucer-like location on Hill 375, where they organized a tight defense. Task Force Wintemute and the “married” B Cos were ordered to cover the route of march of CCR in its withdrawal.

Operations Sept 20 1944

CCB was ordered to consolidate its position and prepare to follow CCR on Sept 20. Orders were, however, received from Corps at 2005 that CCB would not be withdrawn west of the German border except on Corps order.

CCR successfully completed its withdrawal from Germany and at 0500, Sept 20, was closing in its assembly area south of Gilsdorf (south-east of Diekirch Lux). The 1st and 2d Bns, 112th Inf protecting the Wallendorf Bridge (Wallendorf-Pont Lux) were subjected to heavy artillery and mortar fire and enemy attacks, but retained possession of the bridge throughout the day. CCB continued to be subjected to enemy attack and intensive artillery fire.

[…] A column of eighty Werhmacht troops, marching along the river road from Gentingen south toward Ammeldingen was caught in the open by the TD platoon from B Co of the 628th. Subjected to a heavy fire from the plat’ .50 cal machine guns and three inch cannons, only one of the German soldiers managed to crawl away.
Niedersgegen was lost to the enemy and the attempt to retake it was unsuccessful. During the night the enemy infiltrated through the elements of the 112th Inf protecting the Wallendorf Bridge. Both the threadway bridge and timber bridge were demolished.

Operations Sept 21 1944

CB was continuously attacked during the 21st by both infantry and tanks, and was subjected to hostile artillery fire that grew in intensity as the day grew old. To add to their difficulties heavy fog prevented observation of enemy activities and enabled the Germans to infiltrate into CCB positions before they were detected.

[…]By now the Germans had moved an Air Force infantry division into Biesdorf, along with elements of five other divisions, a regiment of medium field artillery and five battalions of assorted artillery […]
[…] A tank brigade had been badly beaten by CCR but the remnants were still thrown into the fight to hurl the Americans from German soil […]

During the afternoon the fog lifted and permitrd the Air Force to fly. This gave CCB temporary relief, but as the afternoon passed and the planes had to return to their bases the German artillery again opened up. At 1930 CCB was ordered by dropped message to withdraw west of the river beginning at 2130. CCR was ordered to cover the withdrawal and to maintain forces along the river at Wallendorf. The Division Artillery was to deliver heavy fire to cover the withdrawal.

The withdrawal was executed as planned and by 0400 Sept 22, CCB had cleared the ford.

Summary of the 628th Activities

The Battle of Wallendorf, one of the first battles of World War II fought on German soil was over. In this engagement the 628th TD Battalion had been put to a sever test, for it had operated in just about every role that could be assigned the TDs. During this assault on the Siegfried Line the battalion employed its M-10 Tank Destroyers in the following ways :

  • (1) Anti-tank defense
  • (2) Road blocks
  • (3) Flank defense
  • (4) Assault of fortified positions and pill-boxes
  • (5) Direct fire against ground personnel
  • (6) Reinforcing Field Artillery

Several lessons concerning the TD’s and their employment were further proven. For example :

(1) The TDs could best be employed by attaching companies to major commands of the supported unit, because the Germans continued to employ their tanks piece-meal in delaying actions as dug-in guns, and in such numbers as not to warrant the use of an entire TD battalion against them

(2) None of the HE (Hight Explosive), AP (Armor Piercing), APC (Armor Piercing Capped ) or APCBT (Armor Piercing Capped Ballistic & Tracer) APCT-BF (Armor Piercing Capped & Tracer & Base Fuse) for 3-inch types of ammunition could satisfactorily penetrate the concrete fortifications of the Siegfried Line. However, when used against the steel doors of the fortifications the APCT-BF ammunition would make a satisfactory penetration and often blow the door open


(3) The much vaunted German Tiger Tank (Mark VI)could be knocked out by the 3-inch gun by a direct frontal shot even at ranges up to 1500 yards

(4) The .50 caliber MG (Browning) on the mount provided on the M-10 destroyer was inadequate, particularly for firing against ground troops. A ring mount or coaxially mounted .50 cal MG would be highly desirable

(5) Manually operated turrets were not satisfactory in cold weather. Even when the lightest lubricants were used it was almost impossible to turn the turret. Another deficiency that existed and was costly in this battle but which was borne out more strongly in later operations was that most of the casualties sustained by the TDs resulted from the lack of an armored covering over the turret

An interesting light is thrown on this battle by the statement of Gen Maj Frhr Von Gersdorff who was Chief of Staff of the Seventh German Army.

When questioned in November 1945 and asked if he recalled any action where the American troops were thought to have blundered badly he replied : It is my opinion that the thrust the 5th American Armored Div and the 28th Inf Div through the West Wall near Wallendorf, mid September 44, was neither planned nor executed skillfully. Admittedly the terrain presented special difficulties in that it restricted tank attacks to certain directions so that it would have been necessary to use strong forces. The objective of the operation is not known to me, but I presume it was an attempt to breach the West Wall in the First attack and to thrust forward up to the Rhine River.

Strategically this drive represented a grave danger for the German command but its execution was weak and inefficient and there fore we were able to contain and later eliminate by comparatively weak German forces. This enterprise caused the Americans heavy losses and greatly improved the morale of the German troops who had suffered a series of defeats previously. For the first time once again it had been possible to defeat the American troops who were superior in every respect. The steady increasing feeling of inferiority on the German side was reduced substantially by this fighting, thus the operation was disadvantageous to the American command in every respect, even if it was meant to be only a scouting raid or an attempt.

For particulars I refer to the report presented to the Twelfth Army Group by Gen Fritz Bayerlein in April 1945. This of course need not in any way reflect on TD’s or TD operations.

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