7th Armored Division – Combat Command B – (AAR) August 1944 (France)

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Armored Division Tank Recovery Vehicle at Chartres France 1944
Armored Division Tank Recovery Vehicle at Chartres France 1944

lucky-7Headquarters Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division
APO 257, c/o PM NY NY
September 3 1944
Subject : Battle Report
To : Commanding General
7th Armored Division
c/o PM New York, New York

1. In compliance with the Administrative Memorandum #31, Headquarters 7th Armored Division, 21 July 1944 paragraph 2 and request Commanding General 7th Armored Division the following Battle Report is submitted.
2. During the Battle of France, the Combat Command Headquarters has functioned as a tactical headquarters in much of the capacity of the Standard Brigade headquarters.
3. The Combat Command is commanded by Brig Gen John P. Thompson, O-3741, USA.
4. The narrative history of the Combat Command during the Battle of France follows : Combat Command B was initially assembled in tactical bivouac in the vicinity of Lessay, France. The troops making the CCB task force were landed over Omaha Beach and Utah Beach and the complete Combat Command assembled to function tactically Aug 12, 1944 composition as follows :

HQs & HQ Co
23rd Armored Infantry Battalion
31st Tank Battalion
33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Baker Co)
434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion



Combat Command B as constituted moved in single march column via Périers, Saint-Sauveur-Lendelin, Coutances, Gavray, La Haye-Pesnel, Avranches, Saint-Aubin-de-Terregatte, Saint-Georges-de-Reintembault, Louvigné-du-Désert and established their bivouac. Moved from bivouac and marched in single column via Laval, Bonchamp-lès-Laval, La Chapelle-Rainsouin, Châtres-la-Forêt, Evron and bivouacked. The composition of CCB was altered in this position in preparation for an attack to the North East composition as follows :

HQs & HQ Co CCB
31st Tank Battalion
Baker Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
23rd Armored Infantry Battalion
434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
Baker Co, 774th Tank Destroyer Battalion
(attached) 317th Regimental Combat Team (80-ID)

The attack was canceled as well as the attachment of B-774-TDB and 117-RCT (30-ID). The Combat Command was moved from Evron in a single column via Assé-le-Bérenger, Rouessé-Vassé, Crissé, La Ferté-Bernard, Courgenard, Saint-Ulphace, Beaumont-les-Autels, Thiron-Gardais, Happonvilliers, Courville-sur-Eure. Command Post was established when resistance encountered in Courville-sur-Eure. Contact with enemy was made Aug 14 1944. Task force commanded by Lt Col Allison entered Courville-sur-Eure Aug 15 1944 after enemy resistance of infantry and Anti-Tank guns was reduced. All resistance ceased at 0630 Aug 15 1944. Combat Command direction of movement altered to the east axis of advance Courville-sur-Eure, Chartres, Albis, Dourdan, Arpajon.

CCB moved via above route in two (2) Forces under command of Lt Col Allison and Lt Col Erlenbusch. Enemy resistance encountered on the outskirts of small villages surrounding Chartres. Enemy defenses of Chartres consisted of sporadic mine fields, 3000 troops, including one Flak Battalion and scattered AT strong points estimated number of AT guns including calibers of 20-MM and 88-MM AAA. Heavy Mortar (120-MM), machine gun and scattered artillery pieces and rifle fire and bazooka strong points were encountered in the 3 days battle.

Simone Segouin risked her life many times during the secret war against the Nazi occupiers, and became famous the world over when she was pictured wielding a gun in her distinctive shorts and cap. She helped de-rail a train and blow up bridges in and around the city of Chartres, 50 miles south of Paris and was present at the liberation of both cities in 1944, when aged only 18. (Source : Vintage News Daily)

7-AD-009-1

Chartres was in Gaul one of the principal towns of the Carnutes, a Celtic tribe. In the Gallo-Roman period, it was called Autricum, name derived from the river Autura (Eure), and afterwards civitas Carnutum, ‘city of the Carnutes’, from which Chartres got its name. The city was burned by the Normans in 858, and unsuccessfully besieged by them in 911. During the Middle Ages, it was the most important town of the Beauce. It gave its name to a county which was held by the counts of Blois, and the counts of Champagne, and afterwards by the House of Châtillon, a member of which sold it to the Crown in 1286. In 1417, during the ‘Hundred Years’ War, Chartres fell into the hands of the English, from whom it was recovered in 1432. In 1528, it was raised to the rank of a duchy by Francis I. In 1568, during the Wars of Religion, Chartres was unsuccessfully besieged by the Huguenot leader, the Prince of Condé. It was finally taken by the royal troops of Henry IV on 19 April 1591. On Sunday, 27 February 1594, the cathedral of Chartres was the site of the coronation of Henry IV after he converted to the Catholic faith, the only king of France whose coronation ceremony was not performed in Reims.

In 1674, Louis XIV raised Chartres from a duchy to a duchy peerage in favor of his nephew, Duke Philippe II of Orléans. The title of Duke of Chartres was hereditary in the House of Orléans, and given to the eldest son of the Duke of Orléans. In the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War, Chartres was seized by the Germans on 2 October 1870, and continued during the rest of the war to be an important center of operations. In World War II, the city suffered heavy damage by bombing and during the battle of Chartres in August 1944, but its cathedral was spared by an American Army officer who challenged the order to destroy it. On August 16, Col Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr. questioned the necessity of destroying the cathedral and volunteered to go behind enemy lines to find out whether the Germans were using it as an observation post. With his driver, Griffith proceeded to the cathedral and, after searching it all the way up its bell tower, confirmed to Headquarters that it was empty of Germans. The order to destroy the cathedral was withdrawn. Col Griffith was killed in action later on that day in the town of Lèves, 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) north of Chartres. For his heroic action both at Chartres and Lèves, Col Griffith received, posthumously, several decorations awarded by the President of the United States and the US Military, and also from the French government.

Following deep reconnaissance missions in the region by the 3rd Cavalry Group and units of the 1139 Engineer Combat Group, and after heavy fighting in and around the city, Chartres was liberated, on August 18 1944, by the US 5th Infantry Division and the 7th Armored Divisions belonging to the XX Corps of the US 3-A (Patton). (Source : Wikipedia – Chartres

The Battle of Chartres consisted of one coordinated night attack by 2 forces. Force 1 under Lt Col Allison attacking East from North-West side of the town. Force 2 under Lt Col Erlenbusch attacking North-East from the South of the town. The entire attack receiving artillery support from 434-AFAB under Lt Col Dubuisson. Force 1 penetrated enemy defenses with infantry and established a CP within the North-East quarter of the town. Force 2 encountered heavy AT fire in small towns of Lucé and Luisant but penetrated to Chartres but failed to maintain continuity of the attack due to heavy losses and inability of tanks to fight in the very narrow streets of the old town of Chartres.

The infantry of Force 1 remained in the town but Force 2 withdrew to regroup. The second attack of Chartres took place on August 17 with same composition of troops but with additional artillery support from XX Corps Artillery. All efforts were made to spare destruction of historical buildings in the town of Chartres by XX Corps Commanders order. Only point targets were to be engaged under observation. The troops of the CCB encircled Chartres with troops occupying the North-East quarter of town and troops in position North, North-East, South-East, South and Main Supply Route (MSR) running South of the town. Chartres garrison held positions facing the encirclement in depth from high ground outside the city to the buildings in the outer edges of the town. The coordinated attack was successful and apparently resistance was reduced. The fact that Chartres was a report station for disorganized and beaten units and stragglers from the surrounded and battered units on the western front caused the garrison to be reinforced by an estimated 200 – 300 men per 24 hour period. This fact accounted for the severe third attack on August 18, which annihilated the garrison in Chartres.

The Germans lost 1800 killed, wounded and missing; 400 prisoners and all vehicles, weapons, material, airfield with 30 – 40 destroyed fighters, and ammunition dumps destroyed or captured. Some German troops escaped via secret routes to other report stations.

The final composition of CCB was as follows at the conclusion of the Battle of Chartres :

HQs & HQ Co CCB
23rd Armored Infantry Battalion
31st Tank Battalion
Baker Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
38th Armored Infantry Battalion
Baker Co, 77th Medical Battalion

179th Engineer Combat Battalion (less 1 company)
434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
Baker Co, 814 Tank Destroyer Battalio
Supporting XX Corps Artillery

On the night of the Aug 18 1944, CCB regrouped and moved in single column via Chartres.

Orders were received by the Combat Command to move via Chartres – Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais, Dreux, and there to establish bridgehead North of Dreux to protect the supply lines of the XIX Corps. Movement from the area East of Chartres began at 2350 on August 18, in one column with CCB and a company of the 814-TDB. Head of column reached Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais at 0257 on August 19, and closed in bivouac at Cherisy at 0930 on August 19. The 23-AIB and the 31-TB out posted both East and West flanks North of Dreux. Road blocks established in all avenues of approach within our sector. Tight enemy resistance encountered and driven back of Out Post Line. At 0530, August 20, this command took over the bridgehead formally occupied by CCA. Command Post moved West of Cherisy but moved back again to original position after coming under artillery fire. CCB was placed in the XX Corps reserve at 1620 August 21.

Movement to Rambouillet in one column began at 2200 on August 21. At 0700, August 22, in assembly area 2 miles West of Rambouillet with the 774-TDB attached. Orders from XX Corps to move at once via Limours, Courcouronnes, Melun. Left present area at 1535 on August 22, by passed Corbeil-Essonnes to the South and arrived Bondoufle on August 23 at 0025. Received Division Field Order #5. Movement in one column started at 2030 August 23 to Mennecy via Bondoufle, Vert-le-Grand, Vert-le-Petit, Ballancourt-sur-Essonne. Head of column closed in bivouac 1 mile North-West of Mennecy at 1740. Notified by Division to follow CCA across the Seine River, proceed thru the CCA bridgehead, attack and capture that part of Melum of river. Reverted to 7th Armored Division at 2002. At 0200 August 24, Field Order #5 Headquarters CCB given to command. Composition of forces as follows :

Force 1 (Allison) : 23-AIB, Baker 33-AEB, Able 434-AFAB
Force 2 (Erlenbusch) : 31-TB
Combat Command Trps : HQs Co CCB, 434-AFAB (-), 774-TDB (- 1 Co)
Trains : Trains, Baker 77-AMC (Medic), 1 Co 129 Ord

CCB crossed the Seine River into the Combat Command sector while CCR engaged the frontal attack of Melum at 1730 on August 24. CCB received orders to take Melum by dawn. On August 25, attack jumped off at 0200 held up until 0400 by hasty mine fields. Infantry assault passed through tanks and were in Melum at 0715. Troop of the 23-AIB mopped up small pockets of resistance during most of day and out posted town of Melun. Also on August 25, received Division Order to move East in the direction of Tours. The 23-AIB attempted to move through Melun but were held up by 8-CM mortar fire. Attack begun at 0630 artillery concentration was laid down on enemy position East of Melun.

Force 1 proceed axis of advance to Nangis. Force 1 proceed South within our zone cleaning out all enemy before them, coordinating with Force 2. Force 1 ran into an AT gun fire 1 mile East of Melun, 2 half-tracks knocked out but overcame resistance pushed on to vicinity of Châtillon-la-Borde from South and knocked out 4 AT guns. Both forces pushed on to approximately 4 miles East of Nangis. CCB given order to push North to Reims splitting into 3 forces. August 27, head of column moved at dawn to 2 miles East of Vulaine-lès-Provins halted by AT and machine gun fire. Proceeded to move North to bypass Provins. Moved North passed through town of Sézanne and halted in march column 5 miles North of Sézanne. CCB was then divided into 3 forces and to move North on parallel routes.

On August 28, vehicles were gassed and moved out at 0730. Moved along axis of advance Soizy-aux-Bois, Le Petit Morin, Baye, Montmort-Lucy encountering small pockets of resistance. Knocked out 4 AT guns South of the town, entered Epernay at 1800 tanks leading followed by infantry commanded by Lt Col Allison. Tanks got as far as bridge over the Marne River but were halted by heavy AT gun fire and bridge was blown by enemy electric mines. Command held in Epernay until 0700 August 29 moved out of Epernay and crossed Marne on pontoon bridge at Port à Binson. Forces were halted all along the way due to running together of different units and columns. Marched all night arriving in Warmeriville where enemy resistance was encountered. Warning orders were received from Commanding General 7th Armored Division to prepare to move to Verdun. Notified to reconstitute command less CCR and move to assembly area vicinity West of Pontfaverger-Moronvilliers. 1300 Field Order #9 Headquarters 7th Armored Division notified CCB to advance east in multiple columns prepared to reinforce left flank guard of Division.

Seize bridgehead over the Meuse River in route of its advance. Force A under Lt Col Erlenbusch ran out of gas 6 miles West of Monthois at 0600 on August 31. All efforts was being made to supply gas to this force, Force B at Autry, Force C, tail of column Force B. Force C was sent along a northern route to try to obtain crossings of ford at the Aisne River; successful obtaining ford at Vaux-lès-Mouron. After crossing ford 2 blown bridges and mines were encountered East of Vaux-lès-Mouron, reconnaissance was made up and down river, no bridges or fords disclosed and force was withdrawn to vicinity Bouconville. Force B after vigorous reconnaissance located bridge site East of Autry. 2 squads of engineers (Baker 33-AEB) committed to form; bridgehead relieved by infantry at 1645 (Able 23-AIB) Bridge company arrived approximately at 1750. Reconnaissance crossed bridge at 2030 (A/87) 1 platoon on each of 2 routes, 1 platoon reserve. 1 platoon in reserve. Reconnaissance moves quickly as possible to Aire River to reconnoiter for and secure bridges Chatel-Chéhéry. Column A (Erlenbusch) followed reconnaissance across bridge and moved into assembly position on North route. Column C (Johanson) to follow. Column B (Allison) across bridge and go into assembly position on northern route. Reconnaissance disclosed all bridges blown across the Aire River. Columns A and C moved out of respective routes ready to cross river soon as fords or bridges were located by reconnaissance.

No officers or enlisted men distinguished themselves in this command.
Technician 5th Grade Earl D. Applegarth, 35375098 was killed in action 26 August 1944 1½ miles West of Nangis.
For the Commanding General :
(signed) – WILLIAM W. ROSEBRO, JR
Lt Col, Infantry,
Executive Officer

For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Francorchamps 4970
Belgium
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be





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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)

 

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