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BWilson

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Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/15/2016 4:08:34 AM
 Back in 2008, MHO published an article, by Ruud Bruyns, about the German panzer brigades formed in 1944. The article may be read here. [Read More]

 Overwhelmingly, these formations did not have a long existence. Most were disbanded and absorbed into other units within a few months. One of them, though, the 106th, endured for most of the rest of the war. Mr. Bruyns' article mentions that the 106th Brigade was sent to Alsace after a disastrous initial deployment in Lorraine. In this thread, I will bring out further information on the operations of this unit.

 There is no need to rewrite Mr. Bruyns' description of the formation and initial experiences of the brigade, so I will quote it in full here by way of recapitulation.


Quote:
Surprising the enemy, Panzer-Brigade 106

Panzer-Brigade 106 was made up in July 1944 from the remnants of the Panzergrenadier-Division "Feldherrnhalle", which was routed during the Russian offensive in June 1944, and shaped into condition near the eastern city of Danzig. [My note: the unit was organized at the Mielau training center. Mielau is known today as Mława, Poland.] Nobody less than the famous Colonel Dr. Franz Bäke commanded this early unit of the succession of Panzer-Brigades. He was supported by experienced and highly decorated commanders, but the bulk of the troops consisted of inexperienced men and due to lack of fuel there had been little practice with the tanks. The training area could suggest deployment in the East, but in early September the brigade found itself as a reserve in the First Army sector in Lorraine. It was destined for the Lorraine counterattack against Patton's Third Army later that month.

In the beginning of September the frontline in Lorraine was stretching along the river Moselle from Nancy to Thionville. The Americans tried to establish bridgeheads over the river Moselle in weak sectors of the German defence. Their plan was to advance to the industrial area in the Saar. Although the German First Army's line of defence was thin it managed to fend off most of the American probing attempts to cross the river on 5th and 6th of September.

After this little success the commander of the First Army, Colonel-General Otto von Knobelsdorff, felt confident enough for a counterstroke on the stalled American forces. When the headquarters of Hitler gave away Panzer-Brigade 106 for 48 hours, Knobelsdorff had his armoured fist. His plan was to attack the exposed flank of the U.S. 90th Infantry Division north of Thionville. Knobelsdorff and Bäke were both seasoned officers who gained a lot of experience in Russia. They were confident that an armoured blow on the exposed flank and deep infiltration within American ranks would cause enough panic to make their units collapse and run, like the Russians would in similar circumstances.

Panzer-Brigade 106 found itself already in the sector of Luxembourg from the beginning of September. After the arrival of supporting infantry Panzer-Brigade 106 was send into action in the early morning of September 8th. There had been no beforehand reconnaissance, nor did the Germans know the exactly whereabouts of the American positions. Bäke split up his force in two parallel moving armoured columns infiltrating into the Americans position without actually knowing where to strike. The western column began to spread out just as the Americans start to spot the German intruders. Instead of fleeing in confusion when confronted with this German night attack with tanks the Americans rallied and start to counter the threat.

Now the German forces were scattered in the countryside while the Americans began to rally their forces to strike back. The American infantry was armed with numerous kinds of anti-tank weapons and closely supported by divisional tanks and artillery. Scattered American tanks fired upon the column, while infantry was taking positions at road crossings to block German movement. Now the Germans were harassed by tanks and pounded with artillery.

At dawn the net of American forces around the western column started to get tight and escape was impossible. Bäke lost control over his units as they desperately tried to escape from the deadly trap which was closing around them. Villages and dense woods formed an excellent killing ground, because the Americans could knock out the mighty German tanks from close range. The eastern column tried to come to assistance of the western column, but this move was too late as the Americans were alerted and awaiting the attack. The eastern column was ambushed, suffering heavy casualties and the attack was soon broken off.

At the end of its first day of combat Panzer-Brigade 106 was routed and had lost most of its tanks and infantry in the process. At least 750 men were taken prisoner by the Americans and 21 tanks and tank destroyers of the initial 47 were permanently lost, next to more than 60 half-track carriers – it lost three-quarter of its combat effectiveness and actually ceased to exist as a unit capable of any offensive operations.

This case showed the weaknesses in the deployment and the tactics of the Panzer-Brigades. Firstly, the attack was carried out without proper reconnaissance or knowledge about the American positions. Secondly, the Panzer-Brigade was send into battle without clear objectives. These two mistakes were the result of the wrong assumption that a night attack with tanks would surprise the Americans and made them run. This major underestimation of the morale and fighting capabilities of the American forces proved fatal, because the Americans not only had the will but also the means to counter the attack. Besides these mistakes it was not a wise decision to commit inexperienced troops of an untested unit in a night attack against seasoned and well-organised troops.


 A distinct misstep in historiography has developed regarding the operations of the brigade on the following day, 9 September 1944. Working from flawed primary sources (unit war diaries), at least one German historian (Stoves) has asserted that upon withdrawing back into southern Luxembourg, the 106th Brigade encountered and destroyed a "U.S. armored battalion" (US Panzer-Btl), destroying some 26 tanks and eight reconnaissance vehicles. The problem here is twofold. The U.S. Army had no tank battalions, self-propelled tank destroyer battalions, or mechanized cavalry squadrons operating near Dippach, Luxembourg, on 9 September. And U.S. records show no losses of anything approaching these claims for this area on the date given. What the German diaries report remains unknown, but it was certainly not an armored clash on the scale the diaries describe. This case is a textbook example of why historians should consult the records of both sides in order to arrest the tendency of men in combat to ascribe a greater effect to their actions than actually occurred.

 But Panzerbrigade 106 wasn't finished. Further posts in this thread will address its subsequent history.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
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Posts: 1923

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/15/2016 5:08:23 PM

Quote:
"This case is a textbook example of why historians should consult the records of both sides in order to arrest the tendency of men in combat to ascribe a greater effect to their actions than actually occurred."


This should be written big in every history faculty.
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

scoucer
Berlin, Germany
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Posts: 1923

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/15/2016 5:08:27 PM
Dup.
---------------
`Hey don´t the wars come easy and don´t the peace come hard`- Buffy Sainte-Marie

Some swim with the stream. Some swim against the stream. Me - I´m stuck somewhere in the woods and can´t even find the stupid stream.

BWilson

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Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/17/2016 11:34:05 AM
 Following the defeat of Bäke's attack against the U.S. 90th Division, the 106th Panzer Brigade withdrew to the northeast into Luxembourg. Initially, the brigade occupied a blocking position vicinity Neudorf and Sandweiler, Luxembourg (this area is immediately to the south of the Luxembourg international airport). On 11 September 1944, the brigade moved east to a position south of Trier, Germany. Given the losses taken in the attack against the 90th Division, the 106th Panzer Brigade likely had a strength of little more than a reinforced battalion at this point.

 On 14 September, the brigade moved again, this time to the southwest. The 106th Panzer Brigade, such as it was, had been sent south of Metz to reinforce the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division. The route of march brought the brigade to Pournoy-la-Grasse (Großprunach in German documents), via Merzig, Boulay-Moselle (Bolchen), and Courcelles-Chaussy (Kurzel). The brigade's support to the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division was part of planned attacks against the U.S. bridgehead over the Moselle at Dieulouard (referred to in German documentation as the bridgehead at Pont-à-Mousson).

Image: Part of the German Lage West map for 16 September 1944, showing the location of the 106th Panzer Brigade.


 Following is the subordination of Panzerbrigade 106 in September, per Tessin.*

	September 	XIII. SS	 1. Armee	"G"	Westen	Luxemburg


* Georg Tessin, 1899—1985, German archivist and author of multiple volumes documenting the organizational history of German police, SS, and Wehrmacht formations in the 20th century.[Read More]

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Posts: 3309

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/18/2016 2:48:15 AM
 At this point, some operational background is called for. In contrast to the rapid Allied advance over most of France following the breakout from Normandy, the Germans chose to stand and fight in eastern France, along a line roughly following Metz - Moselle River - Vosges Mountains. As the map from the previous post indicates, the Germans had succeeded in forming a solid front anchored on the Metz fortifications and the Moselle.

 The question as to why the Germans chose to make their stand at this point was ultimately one of geopolitical outlook. In the German view of that era, Alace and Lorraine were part of Germany and not occupied lands. Seen in this way, the German organization of a linear defense in this part of France was consistent with their decision, further north, to establish lines of defense on the German border.

 The willingness of the Germans to defend this line put the brakes on U.S. Third Army's intended advance to the Saar industrial region. Although the Germans were unable to defeat the Third Army, the combined effect of logistical difficulties, German troops, terrain, fortifications, and inclement weather was sufficient to transform the Third Army's victorious advance across the breadth of France into a strongly contested situation.

 'Strongly contested situation' is a useful short description of all of the operations associated with the capture of Metz, and serves as well to describe the assault across the Moselle River by the U.S. XII Corps. This was the Dieulouard bridgehead, and the Germans referred to as the bridgehead at Pont-à-Mousson.

Image: Operations of the 80th U.S. Division, September 1944. The 106th Panzer Brigade supported the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division.


Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/19/2016 2:43:28 AM
 Regrets for the changed information in the two comments above this one. I was confused as to which bridgehead the 106th Panzer Brigade sent to attack. The mention of the Arnaville Bridgehead and U.S. XX Corps have been removed.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/19/2016 5:10:25 AM
 The parlous state of the brigade by mid-September is indicated by its tank strength when attached to the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division: five tanks, in a "brigade" that by establishment, was authorized 33 "Panther" tanks. Regardless, German commanders were happy to have any tanks during the chaotic late summer and autumn of 1944. By way of comparison, the U.S. 80th Division during this period had attached a medium tank battalion (702nd) and a self-propelled tank destroyer battalion (610th), which, had they been at establishment strength, would have together counted almost 100 armored fighting vehicles. But the brigade's five tanks weren't the only armored assets available to the Germans:


Quote:
In front of the 80th extended the southern wing of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division, rated by OKW as being capable of limited offensive operations (Kampfwert II), a rating usually given only the best German divisions on the Western Front since virtually none could be graded at this time as capable of sustaining an all-out attack (Kampfwert I). The rifle strength of the 3d Panzer Grenadier Division was still nearly complete, its artillery was good, and in addition it now had a complement of thirty-three assault guns. . .


 With these assets, the Germans attempted to collapse the Dieulouard Bridgehead between 13 and 15 September. Operating from the area of Nomény, the 106th Brigade took part after arriving in the area on 14 September. The German counterattack was unsuccessful; the bridgehead held, and elements of the U.S. 4th Armored Division crossed the Moselle and began pushing east to Château-Salins. Nevertheless, the fighting was difficult:


Quote:
The hard-fought battle of 15 September left its mark on both the combatants. German prisoners taken during the day all told a story of mounting casualties and gradual demoralization. But the six infantry battalions of the 80th Division also showed evidence of decreasing combat effectiveness and lessening morale. The 317th Infantry Regiment, which had assumed the main burden in the fighting since 5 September, was seriously reduced in strength. Casualties among officers and experienced noncommissioned officers had been high throughout the division. Few reinforcements were reaching the firing line, and as losses mounted the available infantry, already overextended, was disposed along a rapidly thinning front. The broken terrain necessitated an isolation of companies and platoons, another factor lowering morale, and this sense of having to fight alone was heightened further by German success in shelling out the American communications. Throughout the bridgehead the troops were fatigued by constant fighting and sleepless from nightly alerts. Finally, the enemy had continued to hold the initiative, striking at his own chosen time and place, while the 80th, lacking reserves, had to depend on a static and linear defense.


 Reacting to the German attacks against the bridgehead, CCA of the 4th Armored Division sent back a battalion of the 80th Division to shore up the bridgehead, but this unit was forced to fight its way back westward by the presence of the 106th Panzer Brigade:


Quote:
The CCA commander immediately dispatched the infantry battalion and the supply trucks of the combat command, loaded with approximately a thousand German prisoners. Company C, 35th Tank Battalion, was sent as convoy. Just before dark the column was brought to a halt by tanks and antitank guns of the 106th Panzer Brigade blocking the highway near Nomény. About this time the American task force met a platoon from the 80th Reconnaissance Troop which was on patrol deep behind the German lines and was finding it difficult to make a return to the 80th Division bridgehead. Maj. C. L. Kimsey, commanding the task force, turned his trucks and prisoners over to the cavalry patrol and sent them back to the south. Then Kimsey led the medium tanks forward to clear the road, and through the night the column of tanks and infantry fought its way toward the west.


 Following the failure of the German push, the 106th Panzer Brigade went on the defense around Landremont. The brigade remained in this area until the evening of 17 September.

Image: Actions in the Dieulouard Bridgehead, 13 to 15 September 1944


Cheers

BW

---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

richto90
Bremerton, WA, USA
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Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/19/2016 2:20:21 PM
Excellent series of posts, but why is it in General Military History instead of World War II History? I nearly missed it.

BWilson

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Posts: 3309

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/19/2016 2:28:13 PM
Hi Rich,

 Glad you saw it. I put it here because it is unit-focused, rather than a "World War II Battle(s)". Please issue corrections as necessary. I'm pulling information from German and U.S. (and ultimately, French) sources; a process prone to misreads and other errors.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

richto90
Bremerton, WA, USA
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Posts: 396

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/20/2016 11:14:12 AM

Quote:
Hi Rich,

 Glad you saw it. I put it here because it is unit-focused, rather than a "World War II Battle(s)". Please issue corrections as necessary. I'm pulling information from German and U.S. (and ultimately, French) sources; a process prone to misreads and other errors.

Cheers

BW
--BWilson


Oh, okay, still seems odd. I'm more familiar with the Maisy battle than the later actions by 106. Panzerbrigade I'm afraid.

BWilson

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Posts: 3309

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/22/2016 4:33:58 AM
 Apparently, the German command was under tremendous pressure south of Metz. As worn-out as the 106th Panzer Brigade was, it was continually employed throughout September as a 'fire brigade'. Following the pause in Landremont, the brigade was moved north into the sector of the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division.

 The U.S. 5th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry had occupied the hamlet of Pournoy-la-Chétive (Kleinprunach)*, not far from the southern ring of the Metz fortifications. The German command determined to recapture Pournoy-la-Chétive, and the bulk of the counterattack force would be the 17th SS Division, with support from the 106th Panzer Brigade. The German attacks mainly erupted from Coin-lès-Cuvry (Kuberneck), just to the north of Pournoy (see map below).

 An aside about popular interpretations of history is at this point in order. One of the inaccurate notions about combat on the Western Front of 1944-45 asserts the Germans were essentially superior in soldiering and were only beaten because of an overwhelming matériel superiority employed by the Western Allies. Like all broad assertions about history, it is in the details where one perceives distortion of truth. While it true at certain points of the campaign the Allies were well-supplied, and, that in periods of good weather, they could gainfully employ withering concentrations of artillery fire as well as tactical air support, such ideal situations were hardly the case for much of the campaign. The three month struggle for Metz and the valley of the Moselle, like the struggles further north for Aachen, the Hürtgen Forest, and the southeastern corner of The Netherlands, are all illustrative of the Allies painfully carving out gains in conditions of logistical shortages, inclement weather, and difficult terrain. Given the parlous state of the German forces in this period, any genuinely overwhelming Allied superiority would have simply brushed the Germans aside and marched triumphantly on Berlin. It is not untruthful to assert the German forces in this period were suffering crippling shortages of personnel and matériel, but it is a lie to claim the only reasons the Allies won any battles was because they had "more of everything". In truth, the Allied forces in this period also suffered from marked problems of infantry replacement shortfalls, distinct shortages of fuel and large-caliber ammunition, as well as a steadily worsening state of maintenance of their vehicles, particularly that of the tracked vehicles.

 Pournoy-la-Chétive is an illustration in miniature of the fiercely contested battles of this point of the campaign. A small settlement, occupied by an American battalion, became the focal point for heavy German counterattacks mounted in up to regimental strength.


Quote:
As the [American] infantry approached Pournoy, marching deliberately and firing as they moved, the enemy guns and mortars took heavy toll. Two of the rifle company commanders were killed (the third had been evacuated at the beginning of the assault). Companies E and F fought their way in and briefly held about a third of the town; in the early evening they were hit by tanks and driven back about three hundred yards from Pournoy, where they halted and dug in. Disorganized by the loss of its officers and shocked by continuous shelling from what seemed to be all points of the compass, one company began to straggle back toward the shelter of le Grand Bois. A few of the veterans sought to hold the new replacements, many of whom were under fire for the first time. Pfc. William A. Catri, from the reserve company, ran forward alone and drove off two of the German tanks with his bazooka. Colonel Carroll, the battalion staff, and the few remaining company officers worked frantically to restore order and reorganize the attack. Finally, in the early evening, the battalion returned to the assault, while the tanks swung to the east of the town and the tank destroyers swung around the west edge. This time the assault was successful. The German troops were driven from the streets and buildings, and Colonel Carroll deployed the battalion, still much disorganized, in an outpost line rimming Pournoy on the north, east, and south. . . . At Pournoy-la-Chétive the front bent back abruptly at a right angle, with elements of the 11th Infantry stretched back to and across the Moselle so as to contain the outer Metz fortifications. This angle was now the key to the 5th Infantry Division position, whether the division held in place or resumed the advance. Against it the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division directed all its available troops and guns, plus the remnants of the 106th Panzer Brigade.



Quote:
All during 21 September the Germans struck blow after blow at the 2d Battalion, forming their assault forces in Coin-lès-Cuvry, about 1,800 yards to the north, and striking in rapid succession around the peripheral defenses with tanks, armored cars, and motor-borne infantry. These attacks were made in considerable strength, one assault force being estimated by the defenders as approximating a regiment. Shells exploded continuously in the American positions. The sound of the German artillery, mortars, and "screaming-meemies" was "a constant roar." A tanker ruefully reported, "We were shelled just once at Pournoy, that was all the time." Men could not leave their cellars or foxholes even to get food and water, for any living thing in the open was cut down. . . . On the night of 23-24 September the 1st Battalion, 10th Infantry, relieved its sister battalion, and subsequently Pournoy was abandoned as the division withdrew to a new main line of resistance back to the west. The battle for Pournoy had had no decisive result or far-reaching effect, but it ranks with Sillegny and the Dornot bridgehead among the most bitterly fought actions in the Lorraine Campaign.


 The 106th Panzer Brigade took part in this struggle for Pournoy until 23 September, at which point it was moved again for further counterattacks.

Map showing 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry positions around Pournoy.



*—Some German sources identify the location as Grossprunach, but that is incorrect. This "other Pournoy" lies a few kilometers ESE of Pournoy-la-Chétive.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/22/2016 6:49:33 AM
 For those interested in military organization, following is a German depiction of the organization of the 106th Panzer Brigade.



Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Posts: 3309

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/25/2016 5:31:22 AM
Image: Portion of the Lage West map for 27 September 1944.


 The final action of the brigade in September 1944 was yet another counterattack. In this action, the brigade, with only eight tanks, was used to shore up the attack of the 559th Volksgrenadier Division. German First Army was attempting recapture Nancy. The first objective was to clear the Forest of Grémecy of American troops. The U.S. troops were two regiments of the 35th Division, a unit of the U.S. XII Corps.

 The 106th Panzer Brigade's part in this battle was brief. The brigade attacked, during 26 and 27 September, with a battalion of the 559th Division, from Chambrey in the direction of Grémecy (see map below). The attack struck elements of the U.S. 137th and 320th Infantry Regiments. After initial success overall, the U.S. XII Corps began a withdrawal of the U.S. 35th Division, but the order was countermanded by General Patton, who directed the 6th Armored Division to attack the German thrust and restore the front. This action was completed successfully. By 28 September, the 106th Panzer Brigade had retired to defensive positions around Coutures, just west of Château-Salins. The battle was one in which the U.S. forces were able to successfully leverage the concentrated fires of corps and division artillery battalions to repeatedly break up German attacks and troop concentrations.

 Thus ended a difficult month for the 106th Panzer Brigade. Manhandled in its first action, the brigade was reduced to little more than a reinforced battalion, and used time and again in the fire brigade role. But it was a role the brigade in its weakened state was hardly capable of fulfilling. The month had been a steep, and casualty-intensive, introduction to combat on the Western Front of 1944.

Image: Actions in the Forest of Grémecy


Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Posts: 3309

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 11/27/2016 7:34:32 AM
Image: Part of Lage West map for 12 October 1944


 By comparison to September, the month of October 1944 was relatively quiet for the 106th Panzer Brigade. The brigade entrained at Léning (Leiningen) during 28 to 29 September, and was transported to the area of Saint Dié - Laval. Stoves' history asserts the brigade engaged in reconnaissance in the area of Laval, but there is no mention of the brigade's activities in the American official history. On October 2, the brigade entrained again and was moved to the Belfort area. With the movement of the 11th Panzer Division to the north, German Nineteenth Army lacked much in the way of armored reserves, and so the 106th Panzer Brigade was sent as reinforcement.

 Stoves' history again mentions brigade activity in the form of defense and counterattacks against French forces in the area of Cornimont (to the SSW of Gérardmer), but whatever this activity was, it merited only minor mention in the French official histories of their I Corps and 2nd Moroccan Division for the period of 11 through 13 October. The French detected the presence of the brigade, noted the sound of tracked vehicle movement, and assessed the armored fighting vehicle strength of the brigade to be some 40 "tanks" (probably including self-propelled tank destroyers and perhaps half-tracks as well). But of combat actions between French forces and the brigade, there is none mentioned in this instance.

 Stoves' history, between 26 and 30 October is likewise hard to confirm. The brigade was moved to an area SE of Raon-l’Étape in response to a penetration by the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division that wedged between the German 16th Volksgrenadier and 21st Panzer Divisions. But while Stoves' history asserts this breach was "cleaned up", the U.S. official history notes the German field army commander was reluctant to engage either the brigade or the 21st Panzer Division in the difficult wooded terrain of that area of the Vosges Mountains. Subsequently, both the 106th Brigade and the 21st Panzer Division were pulled back to avoid unnecessary losses of armored vehicles in the constricting terrain. But if October was a quieter month, November 1944 would prove to be more strenuous.

Image: Part of Lage West map for 28 October 1944


Cheers

BW

---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Posts: 3309

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 12/7/2016 12:05:46 PM
 The deployments of the brigade for the first half of November offer insight into the chaotic nature of German command at the operational echelon on the Western Front. Recalling this "brigade" was in reality little more than a reinforced battalion task force of tanks and half-track-transported infantry, in a period of less than one month, the 106th Panzer Brigade was shuffled around enough such that at various points it served in a defensive role against no less than one French and two American field armies; that is, along practically the entire southern half of the front in northwest Europe!

 These deployments are no less curious when one considers the deployment of German mechanized formations in this region. The southernmost German field army, the 19th, at this point had no Panzer divisions or even Panzergrenadier divisions to serve as a mobile reserve; the army had to make do with the occasional presence of the 106th Brigade and assault gun battalions robbed from infantry divisions to serve as counterattack forces. In contrast, to the north, German 1st Army enjoyed the presence of several mechanized divisions, and even if those divisions were not at full strength, one must seriously question why the German command saw fit to deny the 19th Army the support of even one understrength Panzer brigade.

 This shell game was bound to fail at some point, and the failure occurred during the Allied general offensive in November. Trumping German expectations, French divisions broke through at not one, but two key passes in the Vosges Mountains. The resulting passage of American and French forces through the Saverne and Belfort Gaps savagely hammered the 19th Army, which had no mechanized reserves of any size to call upon. Before the debacle was complete, a German corps had been blown apart and Strasbourg liberated -- a feat that placed the French First Army on the banks of the upper Rhine. The Germans managed to hold a large bridgehead on the western side of the Rhine roughly centered around Colmar -- what was to become known to the Americans as the Colmar Pocket.

 After early November deployments southeast of Metz and south of Saint-Avold (which merited no mention in the U.S. official history, but did include the delivery of 42 additional half-tracks), on 19 November the 106th Panzer Brigade moved to Saarbruecken and entrained for deployment in the area of Mulhouse (Mühlhausen). Triumphant after piercing the Belfort Gap and shredding a German corps, the French I Corps had reached the Rhine and was pushing northward in an attempt to force the Germans completely out of Alsace. North of Mulhouse was a stretch of woodland called the Hardt Forest (Hardtwald).

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Posts: 3309

Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 12/10/2016 8:14:55 AM
 Stoves' history is at this point again at odds with the American official history; in this case, in the matter of dates and location of actions. Stoves states the 106th Panzer Brigade counter-attacked "at the Hardt Forest" on 25 November 1944, but the action apparently took place on 23-24 November, and was east and southeast of Mulhouse, not in the forest. At any rate, Stoves' history only mentions this attack in passing, but the American history notes that the commander of Army Group G, Hermann Balck, issued poorly considered orders that resulted in a circuitous route of march for the brigade and piecemeal commitment that "invited the unit's destruction in detail".

 In such circumstances, it is not surprising the counter-attack did not accomplish anything in its fight against the French 1st Armored Division. The flat terrain favored defensive fires, and French armor and artillery ruled the battlefield. By 25 November, the battle was over. To the north, over the next few days, the Hardt Forest became a killing ground that ripped apart the 1st Moroccan Rifles, but the 106th Brigade played no role in that German victory.

 The failure of the brigade to recapture Mulhouse sealed the doom of a German infantry regiment that the French breakthrough had trapped against the border of Switzerland ... only some 300 troops of this regiment managed to seek internment by the Swiss.

 By the 26th, the brigade had already been redeployed to the north to take up positions around Erstein, on the northern side of the newly formed Colmar Pocket. The American history summarized the attack of 23-24 November as "costly and abortive".

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

BWilson

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Re: Postscript: Panzerbrigade 106 'Feldherrnhalle'
Posted on: 12/11/2016 6:40:16 AM
Image: Partial view of the Lage West map for 29 November 1944.


 Another operation described in Stoves' history that is difficult to interpret is a statement that the brigade mounted a counterattack between Gertswiller (Gertsweiler) and Molsheim between 25 and 28 November. Whatever occurred at this point, the American official history noted only,


Quote:
The 3d Division had entered Molsheim on the 26th and pushed four to five miles further north and south into the vineyards of the Alsatian plains, meeting little resistance.


 What happened next is for the reader refreshing, as both the American official history and Stoves' account largely agree on the course of events. The brigade joined the German defense of Barr. On 28 November, a battalion of the U.S. 411th Infantry and the 48th Tank Battalion (CCA, 14th Armored Division) attacked Barr. The inexperience of the U.S. troops showed as the infantry attacked from one direction and the tanks from another. Pushing into the narrow streets of the town without infantry support, the 48th Tank Battalion was shot up by German armor and infantry firing antitank rockets. Stoves claims the 48th TB lost thirteen medium tanks on the 28th; the American history states that eighteen tanks were lost or abandoned, but that upon successful capture of Barr on the 29th, eight of the lost tanks were recovered in undamaged condition. In any case, the action demonstrates the 106th Brigade had gained experience while, this time, the shoe was on the other foot for the U.S. Army.

 At this point Stoves' account wanders back to vague description. It claims 35 Allied tanks were shot up "north of Sélestat" (Schlettstadt) between 28 and 30 November; unfortunately, it is not clear if this total includes U.S. losses at Barr. For the part of the American official history, sharp combat was noted at a village just south of Barr as well as motivated German resistance in the defense of Sélestat -- but no commentary is made on further tank losses, which one would expect had almost another twenty tanks been subsequently lost. In a manner reminiscent of older Soviet histories, Stoves' account eschews any real detail in favor of mentioning by name a corporal credited with using Panzerfaust rockets to knock out eight enemy tanks.

 Thus, while the Germans in Alsace lost badly during November 1944, the 106th Panzer Brigade ended the month on a triumphant note. It is interesting to speculate how the Allied exploitation of the Saverne or Belfort Gaps might have developed had the Germans had significant mobile forces to mount effective counterattacks, but all mechanized formations of division size were further to the north.

 On edit. The Panzer Lehr Division did attempt an attack southward to stop the advance eastward of the U.S. XV Corps through the Saverne Gap and northern Vosges, but the attack was stopped by the 4th Armored and 44th Divisions. [Read More]

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

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