745th Tank Battalion in Support – Hürtgen Forest – the Bloody Triangle

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(Note from Doc Snafu) While searching for images related to the 745th Tank Battalion and the 1st Infantry Division working together during the Hürtgen Forest Campaign, I came to this website and I really like the way the first page started :

    My father, Olin Garner Johnston, served in the 745th Tank Battalion during World War II. He left a copy of the History of the 745th Tank Battalion. I thought it would be a good idea to preserve the content for my three nephews, so they would know more about their grandfather. I scanned the images and text and created Word documents for the pages, which I took to Kinko’s and had them create booklets.

While searching this website, I found another link sending me to the Bangor Public Library and downloaded a copy of the Original History (Printed in Nurnberg 1945) of the 745th Tank Battalion. Before continuing with the 3rdpart of the Study I am working with, Armor support during the Hürtgen Forest Battle, I will add the part of the book relating to Hürtgen bellow.

Following the fall of Aachen, units of the 745-TB remained in defensive positions to the east and northeast of the city until relieved by the 750-TB, attached to Gen Terry Allen’s 104-ID, on November 9 and 10. On these dates our platoons moved with their respective infantry battalions to assembly areas in preparation for an attack through the Hürtgen Forest to the Roer River. From November 10 to 16 all elements of the battalion remained in assembly areas waiting for clear weather so the air corps could soften enemy positions with a saturation bombing preceding the attack. Continued rain, snow, sleet, driving winds and the stickiest, most annoying mud imaginable made life during this period nearly unbearable. All of the platoons were assembled in the woods in expectation of an order to attack, but prospects of clear weather seemed quite distant. The only way in which the men could escape the elements was to prepare log-covered dugouts or log cabins similar to those of the pioneer days. These they built industriously and heated them with ingenious homemade stoves or stoves from bombed-out German homes. Two purposes were accomplished by this work – keeping the men warm while they were working and keeping them dry and warm after their completion.


November 16 was set as D-Day, and the Air Corps’ bombing mission began at 1115 with the combined tank and infantry attack scheduled to get under way at 1245. Division and corps artillery, assisted by 667 rounds by our own assault guns, also contributed to the softening-up process. However, the softening up process evidently was not thorough enough because plenty of Jerries remained in their defensive positions and offered the stiffest opposition met by the battalion since the Normandy beaches. The attack through the Hürtgen Forest in November marked the most discouraging and the most dismal period in the European history of the 745-TB. In addition to the most stubborn resistance by a numerous and well-organized enemy, members of the Battalion were hampered by severe cold weather, rain, snow, mud, and a penetrating wind. The enemy confronted our forces with heavy artillery and mortar fire which was much more effective in the dense forest than it could have been in the open or in towns where walls and buildings could offer some refuge. There simply was no refuge from the artillery in the Hürtgen Forest. The tree bursts making it unsafe anywhere – even in usually substantial foxholes. Casualties were heavy.

Fighting through the deep mud and mire was exhausting and seemingly futile as we fought desperately for every yard of ground gained. Because of the miserable weather it was almost impossible to obtain air support. The Battalion as a whole took its most severe beating of the European phase of the war during that miserable two weeks slaughter. Hürtgen Forest is a name and a battle that never will be forgotten by members of the 745-TB. Because of the constant rains and the poor drainage in the forest, the ground was very soggy which resulted in numerous tanks becoming bogged down. The Maint. Co crews were able to extricate a number of them, but the Maint. Plat. of Service Co performed an excellent job of extricating the remainder and returning them to service within a few hours.

By darkness of November 16, Charlie 745-TB, working with the 26-IR (1-ID), had fought its way to the vicinity of Schevenhutte in spite of heavy artillery, mortar and small arms fire. However, darkness overtook Able and Dog Cos short of their objective of Hamich, and they were forced to dig in for the night amid heavy artillery and mortar fire. On November 17, the 1/16-IR, with the 1st Plat. Able-745, attacked Hamich but failed to reach its objective and was forced to withdraw under heavy artillery fire, the infantry suffering heavy losses. In the meantime, the 2nd Plat. Charlie-745 attacked in support of the 2/26-IR but failed to reach its limited objective because of the intense artillery, mortar and small arms fire.

On the following day the 3/16-IR took over the task of assaulting Hamich, and the 3rd Plat. Able-745 moved into town with four tanks. This number was reduced to two before the day ended as the result of fire fights with German Mark V Panther tanks. In conjunction with the attack on Hamich, a platoon of Able-745 and a platoon of Dog-745 attacked memorable Hill 232 in support of the 2/16-IR. One tank was hit and burned, but the objective was reached. Hill 232 was important because it was the dream type of observation post and held the key to the entire defense line. Possession of both Hamich and Hill 232 was disputable for a couple of days as the enemy threw counter attack after counter attack at the positions, but finally the tremendous losses given the enemy forced him to withdraw to his next defense line. Baker-745, supporting the 18-IR, took over the initiative at this point and moved past Hamich to attack Heistern where the enemy had set up a new defense line. After heavy fighting, half of Heistern fell with the enemy bringing every defense in his command to bear on further advances.

During the night the enemy brought up strong reinforcements and staged a brazen and well supported counterattack before dawn. However, the assault was beaten off and more than 120 prisoners were taken – weakening the enemy to a point where we could successfully attack the remainder of the town and push on beyond it. Tanks of the 3rd Plat. Able Co pushed beyond Heistern to a castle referred to as Point 104 where the German artillery observer called his troops into the cellar and brought down a barrage around the castle. After our infantry’s attack had been stopped, the enemy counter attacked, but this was thrown back. Then, with S/Sgt Leroy F. Rheinberger leading the tank attack across the remaining open area and into the courtyard of the castle, the enemy again retired to their cellar where they taken prisoners by our infantry. Again the erremy threw a determined counter attack of several tanks and two hundred infantry at the castle, but this was repulsed by the devastating artillery fire brought down on the castle. The artillery was directed by Sgt William I. Tucker, Able-745 who was awarded the Battalion’s second Distinguished Service Cross for his part in halting the attack. The artillery fire called by Tucker destroyed three of the enemy’s tanks as well as forcing the infantry to withdraw.

On November 27, the battered 2nd and 3rd Plats Able-745 returned to the CP for reorganization while the 1st Plat. moved to Point 105, outside Langerwehe, with the 1/16-IR. Coordinating with this move, the 3rd Plat Baker-745 moved into Langerwehe with the 18-IR. Here, it was joined by the 2nd Plat Able-745 on the following day. In the meantime, the 3rd Plat Charlie-745 was moving through the most heavily wooded section of the Hürtgen Forest toward Jüngersdorf with the 3/26-IR after some heavy and hard fighting. On the morning of November 28 this unit received two fierce counter attacks, both of which were repulsed. November 29, marked an unfortunate day for the 2nd Plat Charlie-745 but even more so for the 2/26-IR. While attacking the town of Merode through the mud and mire, three tanks of the platoon bogged down and had to be abandoned. Two tanks did manage to push through the mud, but one of them was set afire short of the town by a Panzerfaust or a Panzerchreck and the other overturned and was rendered helpless after being taken under intense artillery fire. The Germans counter attacked the village, cutting off the two companies of dough-boys attempting to defend it and eventually forcing their surrender when they were unable to obtain any ammo supplies.

On December 3, the 1st Plat Able-745 supported the 1/16-IR in a clever move to take the village of Luchem north of Langerwehe and near the Autobahn. After patrols had managed to reach the village, it was planned to attack across the open ground between Langerwehe and Luchem during darkness so they would be mopping up the town before daylight. The plan worked perfectly, the infantry succeeding in getting inside the town before being discovered after which the tanks raced down the highway to support the infantry. All of the houses but ten in town were taken by eight o’clock, but it was not until three o’clock in the afternoon that the stubborn enemy was driven from the last house. The following evening at dusk, just before the battalion was scheduled to be relieved by a battalion of the 18-IR, the Germans launched a large scale counter attack which was repelled by murderous artillery fire and direct fire from our tanks and AT guns.

The 745th Tank Battalion in Support of the 1st Infantry Division

Despite the failure of both the 9-ID and the 28-ID to seize the Roer River dams, the 1-A directed that the VII Corps continue its plans for the major offensive to seize the crossings of the Roer River in the vicinity of Düren. The 1-ID, supported by the 745-TB, was directed to make the main effort in the corps zone by breaking out of the northern corner of the Hürtgen Forest and seizing the crossings north of Düren. At the beginning of the month of November 1944, the 745-TB was disposed in positions around the southern edge of Aachen repairing the damage incurred in the violent fighting for the capture of that city, and hoping for a period of quiet after months of action with the 1st Infantry Division. On November 8, came the cheerless news that the 1-ID was to relieve immediately the 9-ID on the western edge of the Hürtgen Forest, and, as usual, the 745-TB was to support it.

By November 10, the 1-ID had closed in assembly areas stretching from Vicht to Mausbach, and as in past months, elements of the 745-TB were teamed up with old friends in the 1-ID. The battalion headquarters, Able and Dog Cos, were with the 16-IR. Baker Co accompanied the 18-IR and Charlie Co the 26-IR. In the 16-IR, each battalion had a light tank platoon and a medium tank platoon, and throughout the 18 and 26-IRs each battalion had one medium tank platoon only. In addition, the 1-ID had attached to it, the 634-TDB, which was disposed throughout the division in generally the same manner as the tank battalion. To further augment the division, the 47-IR (9-ID) remained in its sector when the 9-ID was relieved and continued to fight under 1-ID command.

Since the days of Normandy, the 745-TB had been constantly attached to the 1-ID. Its veterans had seen almost every type of fighting that men and machines were called upon to face in Europe hedgerow fighting, pursuit across open country, attacks upon fortified positions, and the tedious mopping up operations of city fighting. Sometimes their armored punch seemed to be the spark that kept the 1-ID rolling, and at other times it seemed that the tanks served only to draw fire upon their protecting infantrymen, block their roads, and rip up their telephone lines. The brief period November 16 to December 7 1944, saw examples of all the
above types of fighting compressed into the narrow space of a few miles of village spotted forest on the western edge of Germany.

Combat Operations

With knowledge gained from unhappy experience in previous assaults in the Hürtgen Forest, the 1-A laid careful plans for a new assault that would sweep to the Roer River. Artillery was massed in support from every unit under the 1-A control; plans were laid for a formidable bombing along the whole front by more than 2500 bombers from the USAAF and the RAF, and ground forces were carefully briefed until all was in readiness. D-Day was set for November 15, and for six cold, miserable days the tankers and infantrymen sat and waited. It finally came, wet, cold, and overcast, but at 1100 the weather cleared and the bombing began. It was one of the largest pre-attack bombardments yet employed in front of an army, and the part of it which fell in the 1-ID zone seemed enough to churn the forest and hills into rubble. The towns of Hamich and Gressenich were saturated, and the woods on all sides were splintered and smoking when H-hour came at 1245.

As the smoke of the bombing cleared away, the 16-IR moved out of Schevenhutte toward Hamich with its attached tanks following. Due to terrain obstacles and the limited fields of fire the tanks of Able-745, struggled forward with their assigned infantry battalions without firing. At the same time the 47-IR (9-ID) jumped off from the woods south of Gressenich with that town as their objective. With them were the attached tanks of Able-746, which accompanied the leading elements of the infantry in this pore suitable terrain. The third element of the attack was the 26-ID which attacked northeast through the woods from Schevenhutte with
the mission of seizing the high ridge about one thousand yards away. Charlie-745 was unable to be of much assistance to them in this steep, wooded terrain, but did accompany them, breaking their own trails as they advanced. The rest of the 1-ID remained in positions east of Vicht awaiting developments. Each of the assaulting regiments’ TDs companies from the 634-TDB remained in its attack position.

High above the towns of Gressenich and Hamich, commanding observation into these objectives and all the approaches to them, was the enemy-held Hill 232 which allowed the Germans to rake the whole valley with accurate artillery fire. In addition, in spite of the massive bombing, in the town of Gressenich and Hamich, the enemy soldiers came out of the cellars and foxholes and quickly manned the defenses. The attacking troops were met with heavy fire as soon as they approached their objectives. Able-746 attacking Hamich, lost two of its tanks under the heavy artillery and direct fire which came in on them as soon as the attack jumped off. One of these tanks was the platoon leader’s, and of its crew he was the only man left un-wounded. Under this shelling the infantry attack slowed and finally stopped after reaching the near edge of the town. In Gressenich, almost the same thing happened to the 47-IR, and the 26-IR with its supporting tank company made only a short advance toward its objective.

The following day, November 17, the Army Air Force again bombed in front of the 1-A with tremendous formations, and the 1-ID concentrated seventeen battalions of artillery on Hill 232 before the attack was resumed. This time Able-745 accompanied the leading elements of the 16-ID on the right side of the Schevenhutte – Hamich Road while a platoon from the 634-TDB advanced along the road. Inside Hamich the TDs and the accompanying infantry took one side of the street while Able-745’s tanks and their infantry took the other. The attack reached the center of town before it was halted by a determined enemy counter attack launched from the northeast end of the town. In this first counter attack one tank knocked out an enemy SP Gun at the end of the town’s main street, but a German Mark V Panther moved from behind a house not sixty yards away and shot through the frontal armor of the Able Co’s tank before it could fire again. The infantry worked up close enough to hit the Mark V and it withdrew, apparently undamaged. After darkness fell, the Germans counter attacked again with five tanks and about two hundred infantrymen, firing flares and supported by heavy artillery concentrations. The artillery set fire to one of Able Co’s tanks and one TD and their flames lit the whole area. The 1-IR ordered its men under cover and called in time fire from its own supporting artillery, but this only slowed up the fighting, and made the tank action of both forces more important. One of the Mark Vs groping its way in the darkness only dimly lit by the blazing American tanks, drove within eight yards of another tank from Able Co without seeing it. The gunner soundlessly swung his 75-MM Gun and fired at the Panther at this point blank range destroying it.

Four separate counter attacks were launched within Hamich during the night, and in the mixed up fighting the German and American losses were about equal. One of the Panther tanks fell in a bomb crater during the darkness, giving the Army Air Force credit for another kill although by this time the pilots were safely in their bunks in England. The bazooka teams of the 16-ID also managed to destroy one tank, while Able Co lost two more M-4s to enemy Panzerschreck teams an one of the TDs was set on fire either by mortar fire or hand grenades. Despite the stubborn resistance at every house, and the numerous counter attacks, at daylight on November 19, the 16-ID held most of Hamich and was preparing to move to the northeast and finish clearing the town.

In Gressenich the 47-IR and its supporting tanks from the 746-TB were engaged in a similar action, but with less success. At daylight, November 18, they held only half the town while enemy artillery fire directed from Hill 232 poured in on them. Charlie-745, with the 26-IR continued to have more difficulty with the terrain than with the enemy and was unable to give much support. The infantrymen advanced through the woods leaving what roads and trails there were for the use of the tanks, but the enemy had just expected that and the roads were well defended. A road block and wire, covered by mortar and machine gun fire stopped the advance of the tanks on November 17. There was no way to bypass in the narrow wooded valley and the tanks could only wait until the infantrymen advanced beyond it.

The first two days of the 1-A assault showed that despite the hopes and plans, there would be no easy advances to the Roer, but instead, a continuation of the slow, costly struggle. In the 1-ID zone, the advance continued but even the attacking units had so little room for maneuver that it is understandable that a whole regiment and a portion of the 745-TB were not employed in the first days. On November 19, Able-745’s tanks which had not entered the town opened fire from the woods southeast of Hamich, using HE shells with fuze delay on the houses in the enemy hold part of the town. After fifteen minutes of this firing the white flags began to appear and soon the rest of Hamich was in the hands of the 16-IR. Then, as soon as plans could be made and disseminated, the attack on Hill 232 jumped off from the edge of town. In the words of Lt William K. Sanders, an officer of the 745-TB :

    [… it was the sweetest example of infantry-tank cooperation that I have ever seen. A medium tank platoon of the 745-TB, a light tank platoon of the same battalions and a destroyer platoon from the 634-TDB moved out from Hamich, carrying as many infantrymen from the 2/16-IR as possible on their decks. They advanced up the gradual slopes of Hill 232, firing at the ridge line and likely German positions and observation posts as they moved. There was low underbrush on this part of the hill, but not enough to interfere with tank movement. About halfway up the hill the infantry dismounted and pushed ahead on foot while the tanks continued their fire at the dug in German positions and the ridge line in general. An enemy SP Gun kept the tanks under fire most of the time and an enemy tank knocked out one of the Able-745’s tanks. However, the infantry advanced to the crest of the hill without a loss.

    At this instant, the German artillery opened up on the American tanks, firing high explosives and some large caliber jellied gasoline shells. These shells made intense fires wherever they struck, and to avoid tank losses and to avoid more of this fire on the infantry, the tanks moved back down the hill about two hundred yards to positions out of German observation but where they could still give direct fire support to the infantry on the ridge line.

    On top of the hill the 2/16-IR infantrymen were separated from the Germans by a low embankment about twenty feet wide behind which the Germans were dug in. Here both sides tossed hand grenades at each other, but the tankers could see every German who showed himself to toss a grenade and often fired their 75’s at single Germans, scoring direct hits a few yards in front of their own infantry …]

About this time, late afternoon of November 18, a heavy concentration from our own 3rd Armored Division Artillery fell astride the lines on top of the hill. Fortunately, it caused no casualties among our own men, but the damage to their morale can be easily imagined. At the same time the Germans launched a strong counter attack with about two battalions of infantry supported by tanks. The German tanks remained in place about eight hundred yards to the east and fired direct support for the counter attacking infantry who were partially successful and managed to drive the 2/16-IR from the top of the hill and halfway down the western slope. The hill top changed hands several times during the next two days, but the tanks played no great part in the fighting. After a lull in the fighting on November 19, the 1-ID assault began on November 20. The 16-IR attacked the high ground east of Hamich with six tanks of Able-745, carrying troops and leading the advance. They crossed the open ground on the outskirts of the town, firing their guns at the houses and the ridge line to their front as they went until they reached cover where the infantry dismounted and pushed ahead on foot. A few hundred yards farther east, a German tank attempted to change position in order to fire on the American tanks. One P-47 pilot caught the movement from above and set it burning with rockets.

    [… In several cases we were unable to destroy the enemy tanks firing at us from long range but were able to cause them to move. When they showed themselves by movement, our Air Corps P-47s got there with their deadly 4.5 inch rockets. Whenever the weather was good there were P-47s in the air over us, but much of the work they did was out of our observation, and we learned of it only when we overran tanks and SP Guns that they had destroyed …]

While the 16-IR fought east from Hamich, the 18-IR, supported by Baker-745, moved in to attack Wenau. In the woods to the east, the 26-IRth regiment attacked Schloss Laufenberg, with its Charlie-745’s tanks still hampered by limited fields of fire and narrow muddy trails. One element of this last group moving down the road which branched west toward the objective of the 18-IR, Wenau, lost two tanks to the Panzerfaust fire of unseen Germans. Still further west, the 47-IR, 9-ID, continued the struggle to clear Gressenich. Between November 20 and November 27, the 16-IR and its accompanying tanks advanced painfully through the woods and the muddy fields until its advance was stopped by the fire from German troops of the 3.Fallschirmajäger-Division (Airborne) holed up in Gut Merberich. Interesting use of the tanks took place when a battalion of German infantry held out in Rosslershof Castle and it was planned to use tanks to shoot or smash down the gates through the castle walls. The Germans could not fire effectively from the castle walls except with machine guns and small arms, so six tanks of Able-745 attacked across the muddy, brush covered fields with accompanying infantry, but the tanks bogged down almost immediately. In spite of the hostile fire the platoon leader, Lt J. W. Sullivan, jumped from his tank and aided in placing logs, towing one tank with another, and guiding drivers until the tanks finally reached the castle where in traditional cavalry style they, stormed through the gates with the remaining infantry firing in all directions and forcing the defenders to surrender.

In front of the 18-IR accompanied by Baker-745’s tanks, Schönthal fell, but a strong German counter attack from Langerwehe, recaptured the high ground to the north, Hill 203, and defended it strongly. Further to the east, a depleted regiment of the German 47.Volksgrenadier-Division held out against the attack of the 26-IR and Charlie-745’s tanks until the night of November 24, when it finally withdrew, suffering few losses, and at long last the enemy was driven out of Gressenich by the 47-IR which went on to take Schloss Frenzenberg by November 27.

The Germans apparently attached considerable importance to Hill 203 in the zone of the 18-IR, but it had to be taken before an attack could be launched against Langerwehe so, on November 27, the 18-IR. The enemy had sited AT Guns and MGs in the heavy stone-walled houses that covered the southern approaches to the hill, and they took their toll of the advancing tanks shooting three of them as they moved with the infantry on the narrow road. When the defenders saw the attack launched on Hill 203 they summoned a counter attack by troops of the 2.Fallschirmjäger-Division (Airborne) from Langerwehe, but it moved in behind the hill just as the full fury of the 18-IR’s supporting artillery fire fell and was almost destroyed. The defenses of the hill broke, and close behind the retreating Germans the infantrymen of the 18-IR and their tanks rolled into Langerwehe. Farther to the east on the same day, the 26-IR attacked a town, Jungersdorf which finally allowed the supporting tanks of Charlie-745 to give them worthwhile support. At last their fields of fire for the tanks, and their direct fire added to the heavy, artillery preparation helped the 26-IR to drive the Fallschirmjäger from the 3.Division from the town. However, not all of Charlie-745 fared so well – almost at the sane time that the attack on Jungersdorf was succeeding, the platoon with the 2/26-IR, approaching Merode was having what the, battalion executive, Maj Howell H. Heard, called the sorriest experience of the war.

Merode was approachable by any type of vehicle from the German side but by only one narrow, soggy trail from the American side. Nevertheless it had to be taken for it controlled the main road net in that sector of the forest. When the attack was launched, the Charlie-745’s platoon was to advance down the narrow forest trail and the infantry battalion was to attack through the woods. In advancing down the muddy, tree-lined trail the third tank in the platoon column overturned, completely blocking the trail, cutting of the two tanks be!hind it. Thus the tank attack consisted of two tanks. When they reached the town one of them received a mortar round on its rear deck which set fire to the bedding rolls and the tarpaulin there. The crew decided to go back into the woods to put out the fire and when they withdrew, the other tank pulled out also, and when the infantrymen reached the town they had no tank support.

At this instant the 3.Fallschirmjäger-Division (2.Battalion) counter attached and cut off the two infantry companies in Merode. With their MSR blocked, no tank support, and no hope of reinforcement, they were forced to surrender the following day. There was some feeling that the tankers had failed them in turning back without orders but considering the strength of the German counter attack, this probably made little difference. The stubborn resistance of the enemy had cost the 1-ID heavily, but it cost the defenders even more. 1-A reports that by the end of November the 1-ID and its supporting troops had destroyed the fighting effectiveness of the German 104.Regiment, 47.Volksgrenadier-Division, and 12.Infantry-Division. It is not claimed that these were full strength, first line divisions, but they had been determined, effective fighting forces.

On December 1, the 1-ID line paralleled the Roer River, running from Langerwehe through Jungersdorf to Merode, with no major terrain obstacles in front of them. The Germans held out in Merode, successfully blocking the roads to the northeast. Supporting the defenders of Merode was the artillery of the 3.Fallschirmjäger-Division and the 47.Volksgrenadier-Division, altogether a formidable array when combined with the terrain obstacles on the 1-ID side which limited the attack to foot troops, supported only by what could be hand carried through the woods. In the face of these obstacles the 26-IR regiment made no further attempt to take the town and the 1-ID shifted its attack to the north, in front of the 16-ID regiment and its tanks from Able-745, the enemy had withdrawn from, Gut Merberich when Langerwehe fell, and had retreated into Luchem.

In preparation for the attack on this town the 16-ID lined up all of its tanks both light and medium, and its Able-634’s TDs. The attack jumped off without any artillery preparation, and the tanks reached the edge of the town almost before the Germans knew what was happening. When they did, the inevitable counter attack came from Echtz, but the 1-ID’s artillery, poised waiting, destroyed it before it had crossed the open ground between Echtz and Luchem. With the loss of Luchem, German activity in the 1-ID’s zone almost ceased, and both the forces did little more than patrol their fronts from then until December 1 when the l-ID was relieved by the 9-ID and withdrew to a rest area in Belgium, taking with it the 745-TB as well as the 634-TDB.

Conclusions

The 745th Tank Battalion had behind it months of intimate association with the men of the 1st Infantry Division. The same platoons had accompanied the same infantry battalions day after day across Europe, and their state of training could hardly have been better. At the opening of the battle in the Hürtgen Forest they stood at one hundred percent strength in men and equipment. True there was a sprinkling of green replacements here and there in the tank crews, but not enough to affect the status of the battalion. Altogether there could hardly have been a better unit selected for a test of tanks in support of infantry in the difficult terrain of the Combat Zone. The assistance given by the 745th Tank Battalion to the operations of the 1st Division was not great when measured in terms of strong points taken or enemy destroyed, but when considered in the light of the nullifying effect that they had upon enemy tanks, and the encouragement that their presence gave the division foot soldier their value was far out of proportion to the destruction they wrought. It is plain that the tanks were used whenever there was the slightest chance that they could be of any value, to the extent that at times they were a definite hindrance. The noise they made and the blocking of the trail at Merode certainly contributed to the failure of the assault on that town, but elsewhere, in terrain equally as difficult their assistance ranged from slight to considerable. In the words of Lt Col Wallace J. Nichols, the 745th Tank Battalion commander, in spite of the hilly terrain, woods, limited road net, and mud, the tanks were employed successfully.

The use of tanks in small units preceded by infantry or closely surrounded by them was unquestionably the only practical way in which they could have been employed. Their mobility and armor protection meant nothing on the forest trails, but their machine guns and the fire of their cannon as assault guns were encouragement to the infantry that sometimes carried the attack through. It is true that during the battle the 745th could count more tanks out of action due to terrain difficulties than due to enemy action. The remaining ones proved that regardless of how difficult the terrain may seem, and how little advantage may be taken of the tank’s basic merits, we must have them there first and in greater numbers than the enemy.

Tanks Losses

Mines : 2
Direct Fire Weapons (AT Guns, Tanks, Panzerfausts, Panzerschreck : 5
Artillery or Mortars : 8
Terrain (Mud or Obstacles) : 13



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