This short battle account, describe the Personal Experience of Capt Leo V. Thieme during the Liberation and the Combats in Holland. The 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 48th Armored Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division, had just completed a six day motor march as a member of Combat Command A. The move, which was almost continuous, greatly fatigued the men, but despite this fact morale was exceptionally good. Partial reasons for this high state of morale probably could be traced to rumors that the division was going to be given a quiet sector in Holland in view of the many days of tough fighting which it had endured south of Metz, France. After traveling two hundred and sixty miles the motor march terminated in an assembly area at Oploo, Holland, on September 30 1944. On October 1, the units of the Combat Command, which had now been sub-divided into Task Force Brown and Task Force Chappuis, were ready to jump off in the attack on Overloon the next morning. Combat Command A was to attack Overloon from the southwest. This side of the town contained the most wooded area and therefore was decided upon as the beat infantry country. The area was also very flat, enabling the enemy to detect vehicular movement from several miles distance. On October 1, late in the evening, the company commander of Charlie Company (48-AIB), summoned his platoon leaders. He pointed to the city of Overloon on the map and remarked, Here it is, fellows. He then issued each platoon leader a roughly drawn copy of his map, an inadequate one itself.
Overloon was estimated to be garrisoned by a company of German paratroopers (Fallschirmjäger) with some artillery support. Charlie Company was to attack through the woods with the 3rd Platoon on the right and the 1st Platoon on the left. The 2nd Platoon was to be in support. The 3rd Platoon leader picked up the machine gun and mortar squad leaders who ware attached to him for the operation and, in the darkness under a half-track tarpaulin, he oriented his squad leaders on the situation. The 3rd Platoon was to attack with three squads in line and with the supporting squads located to the flank and rear. The squad leaders were ordered to have their squads ready to move out at 0500, which was approximately thirty minutes prior to daybreak. The unit was located about three and one half miles from Overloon.
The next morning, October 2, the 3rd Platoon left its half-tracks in the assembly area and in about fifteen to twenty minutes was in the attack position, which was about 150 yards in rear of the line of departure. Dawn was just beginning to break when the platoon leader signaled the squad leaders to form, a skirmish line. The platoon moved forward toward the woods until the leading elements were within fifty, yards of them. Suddenly all hell broke loose. Enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire raked the area with a hail of bullets. Many men were hit, and to make bad matters worse, enemy artillery, which had previously been registered, began to fall on the attackers. This, along with the small arms fire, inflicted heavy casualties among the members of Charlie Company. The position in which the platoon leader found himself was a very precarious one. The enemy was too close to call for friendly artillery. The enemy fire was too intense to allow maneuver or withdrawal.
The platoon leader called for supporting tanks and, in about fifteen minutes, two came in from the left flank only to be knocked out by enemy anti-tank guns. Then after another call by the platoon leader, two additional tanks came into the third platoon’s position from an approach which was directly in line with the woods. The 3rd Platoon followed the tanks and with accurate fire and grenade tosses eliminated the fanatical enemy, who refused to surrender. Only four POWs were taken. The platoon reorganized on the captured position and prepared for further action. They were soon forced by heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire to withdraw to their previously held positions. Several vicious enemy counter attacks were beaten off and one enemy tank was knocked out. The platoon enjoyed very little rest that night. The jeep which was carrying the four captured prisoners to the rear was wrecked and only one prisoner was in condition to be interrogated. He, however, gave a lot of valuable information. He told of the strength of an attack which was to come and the strength of the fortified position. This information brought much more friendly artillery to the sector in question.
On October 3, two additional counter attacks were repulsed. Supply and evacuation was accomplished after dark. Because of the great number of casualties Able Company, 33rd Engineer Battalion, was put in on the right of Charlie Company’s sector to fight as infantry. During the night the position was continually harassed by enemy artillery and also by tank hunters, who were trying to eliminate the two supporting tanks.
On the morning of October 4, word was received that the 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion would relieve the 48th Armored Infantry Battalion that night. It was learned from prisoners captured during an enemy attack that the positions to the front were constructed so that they would be able to withstand a tremendous amount of artillery fire. These positions had entrances that could not be seen from the front and were mutually supporting. Intelligence gained from the prisoners suggested the use of air. An air strike of twelve P-38’s bombed and strafed the position. The enemy counter attacked immediately following the air attack and before this counter attack was broken up a second air strike was required to help stop the determined enemy. The relief of the Battalion took place that night, Charlie Company had suffered about 40% casualties and its fighting efficiency and morale were at a low ebb.
The foregoing narrative is an excellent example of the price that is often paid when units are committed in an unknown area with little or no information and with no time to make a reconnaissance. These troops had just finished six days on the road and upon arrival at their destination were immediately plunged into attack. A photo mission would have revealed that some installation was facing them and a detailed daylight or night reconnaissance would have certainly shown that something was located close to the line of departure. It would have required only a minimum of time for a company reconnaissance patrol to obtain information which would have revealed that positions covering the line of departure would be able to break up the attack even before it reached the line of departure.
The high number of casualties could have been averted if the company had sent out several patrols and had obtained information which could have helped to prevent the shock of the unexpected fire. The units would have been able to take this and other bits of information and pieced it all together to obtain a more complete picture of the enemy it was facing. An aggressive search for information could have then been continued which would have indicated the adoption, of a more feasible plan of action for the accomplishment of their mission. The failure to use reconnaissance gave the units no basis to use for pursuing any particular course of action and therefore endowed all available courses with too great an element of gambling. With the use of continuous and aggressive reconnaissance this operation could have been converted from a mere chance to a calculated risk.