Officers Advanced Course – Armored School, 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self Propelled), by 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.
(Able Co 628)
Lt John J. Devine Jr (01822679), Argentan, France, Aug 13 1944; T/5 Clyde C. Broom (34386824), Douains, France, Aug 26 1944; Sgt Stanley J. Lada (32071189), Kalterherberg, Belgium, Nov 3 1944; Pfc Samuel A. Augustine (33028869), Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; Cpl Floyd E. Burge (33034922), Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; T/5 Arnold B. Zeigler (34425469), Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; Pvt Leo Tovar (39564912), Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; T/4 Donald F. Beck (36400303), Simmerath, Germany, Jan 30 1945; T/5 Floyd J. Robinson (32046621), Krefeld, Germany, March 3 1945; T/Sgt Nicholas Van Handel (32154633), Krefeld, Germany, March 3 1945; Pvt Thomas W. Bowman (34371375), Osterath, Germany, March 15 1945; T/5 Jesse A. Pannell (34425825), Osterath, Germany, March 15 1945; Sgt Doyle E. Swilley (36014268); Tangermunde, Germany, April 12 1945; Pfc Cecil Wilson (34707801); Osterath, Germany, March 15 1945.
T/4 George F. Morgan (34110685), Argentan, France, Aug 4 1944; Pvt Wellington E. Brundage (36400080), Conde, France, Sept 4 1944; Pfc Edward Mickacinich (33035715), Sedan, France, Sept 6 1944; Sgt John Kalis (36015718), Stockem, Germany, Sept 17 1944; Pfc James A. McClintock, Jr (34386127), Begelbach, Luxembourg, Sept 21 1944; Pfc Mario A. Mastro (33029156), Odrimont, Belgium, Jan 4 1945; T/5 William J. Walters (34386105), Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; T/5 William Mayers (34385822), Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; Pfc Randy B. Carpenter (34425461), Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; Sgt George A. De Lia (33161296), Haute-Bodeux, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; Pvt Charles W. Hill (33161172), Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; Cpl Chester W. Kuta (26016238), Manhay, Belgium, Jan 7 1945; Pfc Theodore Spalte (32065342), Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 4 1945.
(Charlie Co 628)
Pfc Earl V. Ward (34071761), Hommerdingen, Germany, Sept 19 1944; Pvt Willie B. Greene (34371005), Hommerdingen, Germany, Sept 19 1944; Pfc Earl F. Higley (33161282); Horsdorf, Luxembourg, Sept 23 1944; Cpl John A. Hydu (33028902), Horsdorf, Luxembourg, Sept 23 1944; Cpl Casimer A. Wydrzenski (33161329), Hurtgen, Germany, Nov 26 1944; Cpl Herman Harth (20315041), Hurtgen, Germany, Nov 30 1944; Pfc Frank L. Mozina (33161228), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Lt Ben J. Smith (01824384), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Sgt Woodrow W. Woods (34071626), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; T/5 Peter Kowalchik (33161252), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Cpl Henry Goffart (33161233), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Cpl Ashley C. Long (34386198), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Sgt Tames W. Luvender (20317374), Hurtgen, Germany, Dec 6 1944; T/5 Thomas Vender Veen (36400270), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Pfc Joseph G. Yakaitus Jr (31038937), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Sgt Charles A. Leo (35020246), Bergstein, Germany, Dec 6 1944; Pvt John I. J. Lawler (33028880), Hurtgen, Germany, Dec 10 1944; T/5 Louis P. Di Orio (20315035), Hurtgen, Germany, Dec 11 1944; Sgt Martin P. Lally (32084601), Werbomont, Belgium, Jan 7 1945.
Pfc William Nicholson (33161356), Stoekigt, Germany, Sept 15 1944; Pvt John P. Loncaric (33161105), Stockem, Germany, Sept 17 1944; Sgt Gerald W. Joner (39396408), Wallendorf, Germany, Sept 19 1944; Pvt William T. Walden (34370625), Odrimont, Belgium, Jan 4 1945; Pfc Michael H. Welsh (33161359), Neukirchfeld, Germany, March 4 1945.
(Hq Co 628)
T/4 William L. Boswell (34173763), Wallendorf, Germany, Sept 19 1944.
Lt Col William M. Hernandez (0191305), Douains, France, Aug 20 1944.
The 628-TDB (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 5-AD; (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, and finally (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 628-TDB landed in Europe it was attached to the 5-AD. Neither the 628-TDB nor the 5-AD 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 coordination 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 628 was a member, it is necessary to explain that the 5-AD 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 81-TB and the 15-AIB. Baker Co of the Medic Bn, Baker Co of the Engineer Bn, Baker Co of the Ordnance Bn, and Troop B or the Cavalry Recon Squadron were the normal supporting troops, and the 71-AFAB 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 10-TB and the 47-AIB. Its regularly supporting artillery, the 95-AFAB, and its normal supporting companies the C Companies of the Engineers, Ordnance, Medics, and C Troop of the Cavalry. The heavy task force during this operation was commanded by Lt Col Hamburg the CO of the 10-TB and contained the married Able and Charlie Cos, Task force Boyer named for Lt Col Boyer the 47-AIB Commander was the light task force and was made up of the married Baker Cos.
Since CCA was occupied in a different sector protecting the City of Luxembourg, during the period while the 5-AD was on German soil, and did not figure in the Wallendorf operation, its organization is not important and is omitted. The 628-TDB was committed to combat with the 5-AD on August 2 1944, and with them fought through France into Belgium and liberated Luxembourg. During the advance the major actions participated in were at the Falaise-Argentan Gap and the Seine River.
By the end of August 1944, the Allied force on the Continent included : 20 American divisions, 12 British divisions, 3 Canadian divisions, 1 French division, 1 Polish division and 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 September 5 1944, Patton’s 3-A reached Nancy and crossed the Moselle River between that city and Metz. Hodge’s 1-A 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 September 4 1944, Montgomery’s armies entered Anvers (Antwerp). Marseilles had been captured on August 28 and this great port was being rehabilitated.
By September 1, 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.
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 remnants. According to the statistics of the OKW (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) (High Command of the Armed Forces), the Westheer, including the Kriegsmarine (Navy) and the Luftwaffe (Air Force), but including the fortresses, had suffered a total loss of about 500.000 men since June 1. 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-Panzer-Corps had at its disposal only 1 tank fit for action. The LXXIV Army Corps possessed only onegun, 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 5-AD on September 13, were the : 256.SS-Panzer-Regiment, the 5.Fallschirmjäger-Division (elements of), the 130.Panzer-Lehr-Division (elements of) and Miscellaneous Volksturm formations.
Operation – Pre Battle Movements
The US 1-A 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 5-AD indicates the Division had already done some reconnaissance of the Line on its own initiative. At 1815, September 11, a strong patrol from B Troop, 85-CRS, 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 September 12, the 5-AD was directed to conduct recon 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 September 13, the 5-AD 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 112-IR was to break through and seize the high ground east of Bitburg. CCB 5-AD was to assist and cover the advance of CCR 5-AD with artillery support. Able 628 was attached to CCB for this purpose. The rest of the Battalion was attached to CCR.
Elements of the 628-TDB attached to CCR 5-AD moved into position to fire into Germany on September 13. They fired all that afternoon, all the next morning and then about 1300 on September 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 September 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 September 13, the 2nd Platoon Baker 628 in position on hill near Bigelbach, Luxembourg, 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, the 2nd Platoon Charlie 628 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 September 13 also, Baker 628 with a Recon Platoon attached, moved with the 47-AIB into firing positions on high ground east and northeast of Reisdorf (Luxembourg), on direct fire support for the 47-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.
Charlie 628, with the Recon Platoon, still attached to the 10-TB moved to an assembly area five miles east of Gilsdorf (Luxembourg) at 1315. The 1st Platoon of Charlie 628 then moved to Wallendorf, Germany, crossing the Our River, and set up road blocks to protect the main body of CCR 5-AD. The 2nd Platoon of Charlie 628 assisted the 1/112-IR (28-ID) also attached to CCR in the seizing of Reisdorf (Luxembourg) and the establishing of road blocks there. The 3rd Platoon Charlie 628 moved to a position one mile north of Wallendorf (Germany) to guard the right flank of CCR. The Pioneer Platoon of the Recon Co was attached to Charlie 22-AEB (Engineer) for a bridge building mission. Charlie 628 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 of the 5-AD, crossed into Germany on September 15 and at 1700 the Battalion CP was established on Hill 408, one mile east of Freilingen, approximately six miles into Germany.
Operations September 14
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 September 14, CCR 5-AD with the 1/112-IR (28-ID), 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.
Charlie 628, with the Recon Platoon still attached to the 10-TB, moved to an assembly area 5 miles east of Gilsdorf at 1315. The 1st Platoon of Charlie 628 then moved to Wallendorf crossing the Our River and set up road blocks to protect the main body of CCR. The 2nd Platoon of Charlie 628, assisted the 1/112-IR also attached to CCR in the seizing of Reisdrof (Luxembourg) and the establishing of road blocks there. The 4th Platoon of Charlie 628 moved to a position one mile north of Wallendorf, to guard the right flank of CCR. The Pioneer Platoon of the Recon Co, was attached to Charlie 22-AEB for a Bridge Building mission.
Operations September 15
At 0800 September 15, 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 1/112-IR 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. Baker 628 occupied positions to command the approaches to Hill 408. Charlie 628 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 Sepptember 15, the 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 September 16
CCB with Able 628 attached crossed the Our into Germany on the September 16, passed through Wallendorf and stopped for the night at Hommerdingen, with a force still engaged in cleaning out Niedersgegen (2 miles to the rear). Able 628 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 southeast of Wettlingen. The 1/112-IR, attached to CCR, was dug in at Wettlingen. During the day CCR threw back three strong counterattacks at Wettlingen and smashed an armored attack. The 1st and the 3rd Platoons of Baker 628 were in position southeast of Hill 408 and the 2nd Platoon was on Hill 298 near Stockem supporting the 1/112-IR. The 1st and the 2nd Platoons of Charlie 628 in anti-tank defense of Task Force Hamburg wore in positions southeast of Stockem and northeast of Halsdorf, respectively, while the 3rd Platoon provided anti-tank defense for CCR trains near Hommerdingen.
Operations September 17
On September 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 northeast, that the 1/112-IR was receiving enemy machine gun and artillery fire northeast of Wettlingen, that the right tank column was fighting in the vicinity of Stockem, that artillery fire was coming from the north, northeast and east and enemy tanks were to the northeast 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 the 1st and 3rd Platoons of Charlie 628 from positions in the vicinity of Halsdorf and Stockem, and tanks on the high ground northeast of Halsdorf.
Meanwhile, on the unforgettable Hill 298, the 2nd Platoon of Baker 628, under Lt Leon Ronnebaum, was engaged in desperate fighting. This platoon was supporting the 112-IR (28-ID). In close support, the platoon was successful in repulsing several enemy counter attacks attempting to dislodge the TDs 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 Platoon of Baker 628 was recommended for the Presidential Unit Citation and Lt Rennobaum subsequently received the Distinguished Service Cross).
The 1/112, was withdrawn to the vicinity of Stockem. They dug in on the high ground west of town. On September 17, CCB left elements of the married B Companies at Hommerdingen to protect CCR’s rear and moved to the Wallerdorf, Ammeldingen and Niedersgegen area where they were employed destroying pill-boxes and to protect the left flank of the penetration.
Task Force Anderson, less the B Companies 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 September 17, the furthest penetration into Germany had been made.
Operations September 18
No appreciable changes in dispositions or locations took place on September18. 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.
September 19 was the high point in the Battalion’s 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 September 17. At 0400, 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 southwest 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 northeast. The attack was repulsed but CCR continued to receive heavy artillery fire.
The 2/112 going up to relieve the 1/112 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 1/112 Inf having been relieved from CCR was given the mission of protecting the bridge at Wallendorf for the night September 19/20. At 1800 the CO, Division Artillery, was ordered to move all artillery to the west of the German border without delay. At 1830, CCR was ordered to have 2/112 protect its east flank while the remainder of CCR withdrew west of the frontier to a position south of Diekirch. At 1845, the CO, 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, Baker and Charlie 628 had an artilleryman’s field day. The 1st Platoon of Baker 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, TD gunner, knocked out three enemy tanks in quick succession at 1800 yards while Cpl Tomaszewski and Cpl Kiwior knocked out tanks at 3000 and 3200 yards respectively.
Two unidentified enemy tanks were also knocked out by the 2nd Platoon, in addition, this Platoon assisted the tank attached to the 47-AIB, 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 3rd Platoon of Charlie 628, 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 628 received credit for six Mark VI Tiger, one Mark V Panther 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 Septembere 19. At 0800, they reported the enemy working west and northwest from Biesdorf with continuous light and medium enemy artillery fire coming from east and northeast. 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 southeastern 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 Luxembourg to face into Germany and cover the approach lane from the north of Hill 375 located between Ammeldingen and Niedersgegen. Another platoon 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 September 20
CCB was ordered to consolidate its position and prepare to follow CCR on September 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, September 20, was closing in its assembly area south of Gilsdorf (southeast of Diekirch Luxembourg). The 1/112 and the 2/112 protecting the Wallendorf Bridge (Pont de Wallendorf, Luxembourg) 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 Baker 628. Subjected to a heavy fire from the platoon’s .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 112-IR protecting the Wallendorf Bridge. Both the threadway bridge and timber bridge were demolished.
Operations September 21
CB was continuously attacked during the day 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 a Luftwaffe 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 permitted the Army 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 which was executed as planned and by 0400, September 22, CCB had cleared the ford.
Summary of the 628-TDB
The Battle of Wallendorf, one of the first battles of World War II fought on German soil was over. In this engagement the 628-TDB 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) AT defense, (2) Road Blocks, (3) Flank defense, (4) Assault of fortified positions and pillboxes, (5) Direct fire against ground personnel and (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 co-axially 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 Generalmajor Rudolf Christoph Frieherr von Gersdorff who was Chief of Staff of the German VII 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 American 5-AD and the American 28-ID through the West Wall near Wallendorf, mid September 1944, 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 12-AG by Gen Fritz Bayerlein in April 1945. This of course need not in any way reflect on TD’s or TD operations.
For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be
Thank You for your support !
(NB : Published for Good – July 2019)