26th Infantry Division (1/328) Bezange-la-Petite – France – Nov 8 1944

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This short account, Operations of the 1st Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment, 26th Infantry Division, at Bezange-la-Petite, France, on November 8 1944, is an example of what can be accomplished when sufficient time is available and adequate use is made of all reconnaissance facilities. During the night of October 26 to 27 1944, the 1st Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment of the 26th Infantry Division, relieved the 1st Battalion, 104th Infantry and assumed a defensive role. The position in which the Battalion now found itself was alien to its members. Their positions were on the reverse slopes of Hill 253 and Ridge Y. The weather at the time was extremely wet and cold. Snow had transformed the area into a huge bog which made vehicular travel off the roads almost an impossibility. The condition of the countryside and the constant rain and snow made reconnaissance hazardous and considerably limited observation. Patrols, however, were sent out every night and secured much valuable information. The Battalion commander also took numerous visual reconnaissance parties forward to a vantage point on Ridge Y to determine the best routes for the impending attack. On November 4, the Battalion CO, discussed his tentative plan for the attack with his company commanders and then took them on an aerial reconnaissance of the area in L-4 planes of the division artillery. Following this aerial reconnaissance the Battalion CO issued his attack order. The next three days were spent in further reconnaissance, orientation, and coordination with adjacent and supporting units. The enemy’s main defense consisted of mutually supporting strong points on Hill 265, Hill 253, and the woods around the French village of Bezange-le-Petite.


The approaches to Hill 265, Hill 255, and the roads leading into the village of Bezange-la-Petite were mined. The woods and vineyards around the village were thoroughly booby-trapped. The position, which was occupied by a reinforced battalion of the German 11.Panzer-Division, was well set up and camouflaged and had withstood attacks by the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, the 2nd Cavalry Group, and the 104th Infantry Regiment. At 0500, on November 8 1944, Division, Corps, and Army artillery began firing the one-hour preparation which proceeded the attack. Thirty thousand rounds of artillery were fired during the first forty-five minutes, at which time Able and Baker (1/328) Companies moved up and replaced Charlie Company on the line of departure.

As everything was being firmed up on the front lines, things began to happen in the battalion’s rear. The 791st Tank Battalion, in its attempt to move from its assembly area, became confused and disorganized. Firing took place and there was much confusion and milling around in the darkness. The 791-TB was finally reorganized and its Baker Company brought forward to the village of Réchicourt (55230 Spincourt, France). It encountered mud and mines in this attempt to join Able and Baker Companies of the 328-IR. This resulted in the tanks not arriving in time to participate in the attack.

Finally, the attack jumped off at 0600, and by 0750, Able Company had advanced through heavy artillery and mortar fire and had cleared Hill 265 and Hill X. The attack was a complete tactical surprise to the Germans. They had believed that it was impossible for an attack of any magnitude to be launched at this time due to the weather. Able Company then began a reorganization which was hampered by enemy artillery and later by an enemy counterattack. The counterattack, which consisted of approximately seventy-five Germans, was stopped by heavy rifle fire from Able Company and the enemy withdrew into the village of Bezange-la-Petite. Able Company resumed the attack on the village at 0800. The advance was slow. It developed into an infantry rifleman fire fight through woods until a German fortified position based on the the brick wall of a cemetery was encountered. Able Company had a great deal of trouble cracking this position but finally cleared it by tossing numerous grenades over the cemetery wall.

The attack was then quickly reorganized with the 1st platoon attacking the left half of the town, the 2nd platoon taking the right half, and the 3rd platoon mopping up after the two lead platoons. With the aid of supporting fires the remainder of the village was quickly taken. The 1st and 2nd platoons then moved up on the higher ground and occupied it at 1000. Baker Company moved off from the line of departure at the same time as Able Company. With the help of artillery supporting fires of the regiment and much hard fighting, the Baker Company captured Hill 255 at 0800 and was ordered to await further orders. B Company remained on the hill, despite enemy artillery fire, ready in event of counterattack.

At 1100, the objectives assigned the 1/328-IR, had been taken. It was now time, in accordance with the original plan, for the 2nd Cavalry Group to come into the picture for the exploitation phase of the operation.

Sources

(1) History of the 328th Infantry Regiment (Major Hilton)
(2) History of 26th Infantry Division (TIS Library)
(3) Patton and his Third Army (TIS Library)
(4) Personal Experience of Major 0. L. Hilton, Jr., Infantry

Discussion

The actions of the 1st Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment in this attack portray an excellent example of aggressive and continuous reconnaissance to provide up-to-date battlefield information. They had the necessary time available and they used it to advantage. Patrols were active in finding the information needed. The use of visual reconnaissance helped familiarize unit leaders with the ground over which they would operate. The issuance of a tentative attack order by the Battalion commander and the taking of company commanders on an aerial reconnaissance was unique. This method was excellent as it enabled them to make their plans fit the terrain with much less chance of error.

This maximum use of all reconnaissance methods available gave this unit that extra factor that the unsuccessful units just didn’t possess. It gave them the confidence that accompanies an encounter with the known as compared with the fear and lack of assurance when confronted with the unknown. A confident, aggressive attitude is definitely a great advantage to all concerned in any endeavor a,n& particularly in battle. The omission of prior reconnaissance by the tank company, their lack of knowledge of the terrain and traffic ability of the soil of the area over which they were to operate, rendered them useless in their mission of supporting the attack. The attack, although very successful without tank support, could have been greatly aided by their employment.



 

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