The U.S. Army vs. The Maginot Line
by Bryan J. Dickerson
After having been invaded twice by the Germans in less than fifty years, the
French constructed a system of formidable underground defensive positions to
deter future German invasions and failing that, defend their country from them.
Named for Defense Minister Andre Maginot, the Maginot Line was an astounding
feat of military engineering and fortification that stretched for much of
France's eastern border. Yet the Maginot Line was defeated twice in just four
years. The first defeat occurred in May and June of 1940 as a result of the
inevitable German invasion. However, on this occasion, the Maginot Line was
defeated not by assault but by a massive German mechanized outflanking maneuver
which forced the collapse of the French military, the hasty but miraculous
extrication of British and French forces at Dunkirk, and the surrender of the
French nation. The Germans were able to overrun or capture only a handful of
the smaller Maginot forts and none of the large ones. The majority of Maginot
Line defenders surrendered only after their nation had done so first. Four
years later, the Maginot Line again was defeated. This time, the U.S. Army
overran and captured Maginot Line forts from the Germans in a series of
operations during the fall of 1944 and the spring of 1945. Though the U.S. Army
had little difficulty with the Maginot Line overall, several of the forts posed
a quite challenge to capture. Ultimately the U.S. Army was able to overcome
stiff German resistance, difficult terrain and poor weather to capture these
several still formidable Maginot Line forts.
The Maginot Line In 1944
As originally constructed, the Maginot Line was one of the most powerful and
extensive fortification systems ever built. It consisted of a series of
underground fortresses or ouvrages. These ouvrages consisted of revolving steel
gun turrets, concrete gun casemates and steel fixed armored fighting and
observation positions called cloches. The casemates were up to twelve feet
thick in front and four feet thick in the rear and had minimal exposure above
ground. The turrets and cloches were made of steel up to ten inches thick. The
ouvrages came in two sizes: "petit" or small and "gross" or large. Though both
were armed with infantry weapons, gross ouvrages also mounted anti-tank guns,
and howitzers. Altogether, the line mounted some 339 artillery pieces of
several different types and calibers. Supporting the fighting positions or
blocks were underground barracks, ammunition and supply depots, and medical
facilities. These were connected by underground tunnels. Underground railroad
lines moved troops and supplies to the fighting positions. The Maginot Line was
constructed to take advantage of natural terrain features which served to
further strengthen its defensive capabilities.
The Maginot Line that faced the U.S. Army in the early fall of 1944 was quite
different than the one that faced the German Army in 1940. After capturing the
Maginot Line defenses, the Germans allowed them to become dilapidated. Much of
their heavy weaponry was stripped for use on the Atlantic Wall. Many of the
under-ground facilities were converted into storehouses and in several cases,
factories. Ammunition was in short supply. The Maginot Line was designed to
counter invasions from the east. As a result, it had limited abilities to
defend itself from the rear or west. Resources that could have been used to
strengthen the Maginot Line were sent instead to fortresses in Metz and
Germany's own West Wall border defenses.
The Maginot Line fortifications had a major weakness which the Germans were
unable to overcome: electricity. Though they had some electrical generating
capabilities, the ouvrages were heavily dependent upon outside sources for the
electricity necessary to operate their complex machinery. Unfortunately for the
Germans, the outside generating facilities were located on the wrong side of
the line and there was not enough time to run electricity from Germany. Once
the power supplies were cut-off by advancing American forces, much of the
weaponry, armaments, ventilation equipment and other machinery would be
The German Defenders of the Maginot Line
Army Group G with its 1st Army was tasked with defending the Alsace-Lorraine
region. To accomplish this, 1st Army had the XIII SS Corps and LXXXII Corps.
But the German Army that defended the Maginot Line in 1944 was a shell of the
one that had captured it in 1940. The disastrous routs in Normandy and southern
France had left its divisions greatly understrength. Panzers, artillery and
supplies of all kinds were all in short supply. Only Allied logistical
difficulties had prevented the Germans from being pushed completely back into
Germany. The Luftwaffe was nowhere to be found and Allied aircraft ruled the
Nevertheless, the German Army had several allies in defending the
Alsace-Lorraine region. The first was Allied logistical difficulties. During
their rapid drive across France, the Allies had far outrun their own supply
lines. As late as November, the Allies were still having to truck the majority
of their supplies all the way from the Normandy beaches. The second German ally
was the weather. Extra-ordinarily heavy autumn rains sharply curtailed Allied
air operations and caused massive flooding which often restricted vehicular
movement to roads. The third ally was the Maginot Line itself. Despite their
dilapidated condition, many of the ouvrages remained formidable if properly
German commanders, however, had no intention of using the Maginot Line as their
primary means of stopping the American advance. Due to the experiences of 1940
and the situation in 1944, German commanders had very low opinions of the
Maginot Line. "The defenses of the Maginot Line were of little value to us as
they faced the wrong way, but the underground shelters were useful," Army Group
G's Chief of Staff Major Gen. F. W. von Mellenthin later wrote. 1st Army
commander Gen. Otto von Knobelsdorff found numerous deficiencies with the
Maginot Line defenses in his area which rendered them unsuitable for defense.
Col. Kurt von Einem, Chief of Staff of the XIII SS Corps, declared that "the
fortifica-tions were of significance only as bomb-proof shelters." It was not
uncommon for German commanders to deploy some or most of their troops in
trenches surrounding the fortifications; neither was it uncommon for them to
use trenches instead of the fortifications.
The Germans preferred a mobile defense instead of one based on fortifications.
The defense of Metz was a notable exception. The Germans had a particular
fondness for counter-attacks. Throughout the Lorraine Campaign the Germans
launched frequent counter-attacks whenever they could assemble enough forces
and fuel to do so. Once ejected from a particular Maginot Line ouvrage, the
Germans often launched immediate counter-attacks to re-capture it.
The U.S. Army vs. The Maginot Line
Geography dictated where battles involving the Maginot Line would be fought.
The most significant Maginot Line forts and U.S. assaults upon them occurred in
the section that ran from Longuyon near the Belgian and Luxembourg borders to
the Rhine River near Haguenau. Because it generally followed the French border
from Belgium to Switzerland, the U.S. Army did not strike the Maginot Line
simultaneously along its length but rather piece-meal over a period of several
months. General George S. Patton, Jr.'s Third U.S. Army first began
encountering the Maginot Line in early September but did not fight its toughest
battles against it until December. On Third Army's right, Lt. General Alexander
Patch's Seventh U.S. Army did not come in contact with the Maginot Line until
To capture the Maginot Line, the U.S. Army would employ its vast array of
weaponry and firepower. This included artillery, tanks, tank destroyers,
fighter-bombers, infantry weapons, and explosives. Despite the preponderance of
supporting firepower, ultimately it fell upon foot soldiers and engineers to
capture and destroy the Maginot Line ouvrages.
Third Army's First Battles Against the Maginot Line
Though some of its units first encountered the Maginot Line near the Luxembourg
border in September 1944, Third Army did not fight its first significant battle
to capture the Line's fortifications until mid-November. Near the Moselle River
north-east of Metz, the 90th Infantry Division encountered Fort Hackenberg and
several other Maginot Line ouvrages. Fort Hackenberg was one of the largest and
most powerful of the Maginot Line's ouvrages. Dug into a heavily wooded ridge
some fifty to a hundred meters higher than the surrounding terrain, Fort
Hackenberg had nearly ten kilo-meters of underground tunnels and nineteen
blocks of fortifications. Turrets that revolved 360 degrees gave the blocks
some all-around defensive capabilities.
Opposing the 90th Infantry Division was the 19th Volksgrenadier Division of the
LXXXII Corps. The division was very much under-strength. For example, its 74th
Regiment only had 58 officers and 218 soldiers available to defend its sector.
However, their numerical weakness was offset significantly by the 51 machine
guns and 16 artillery pieces emplaced in Fort Hackenberg's steel and concrete
As part of XX Corps' drive to encircle and isolate the city of Metz, the 90th
Infantry Division assaulted across the Moselle River and advanced along the
Maginot Line in this area. Speed was essential so any combat block not easily
captured was bypassed and left for follow-up forces to capture. To do so,
explosives and flamethrowers were employed. In this m10anner, Maginot ouvrages
Forts Metrich and Billig and the pre-Maginot Fort Koenigsmacker were all
captured by the close of the second day.
Several days later, Fort Hackenberg proved more difficult to capture. Block 8
with its three rapid-fire 75 mm guns pinned down soldiers of the 357th Infantry
Regiment and held up the regiment's advance for nearly a day. The thick
concrete of the casemate resisted fire from tank destroyers and artillery
including 240 mm howitzers and 8-inch guns. That night several M12 155 mm
self-propelled guns were brought up to within 2,000 yards of Block 8. The next
morning, direct fire from the self-propelled guns knocked out the stubborn
block. The advance was resumed and XX Corps ultimately captured Metz.
Third Army's next significant battles with the Maginot Line occurred on 25
November. On that day, four of its divisions captured sections of the line. XX
Corps's 95th Infantry Division captured the Maginot Line defenses east of the
Nied River. Several days prior, XX Corps intelligence officers had predicted
that the Germans would not defend the Maginot Line. They were correct as only a
few small units fought delaying actions. In the vicinity of Ottonville, G
Company of the 379th Infantry Regiment was held up briefly by an ouvrage until
it was knocked out by tank destroyers. American losses were extremely
To the south, XII Corps's 6th Armored and 35th Infantry Divisions overran and
captured Maginot Line defenses near the Maderbach Creek and the town of
Putelange. Heavy rains had turned the fields into seas of mud. The mud
restricted the American tanks to the main roads and severely limited their
support of the infantry tasked with capturing the fortifications. The advance
was slow but not particularly costly because the defenses were not strongly
XII Corps's 80th Infantry Division struck the Maginot Line near Falquemont and
St. Avold. With just a handful of lightly armed petit ouvrages, this sector was
one of the weakest sections of the Maginot Line. The French had originally
intended to flood the area in case of attack. The ouvrages included
Bambiderstroff, Landrefang, Teting Woods, Bambesch, and Quatres Vents.
The area was defended by Generalmajor August Wellm's 36th Volks-grenadier
Division of the XIII SS Corps. The division was under-strength and short on
artillery and anti-tank guns. Not long before, security troops who were
familiar with the operations of the ouvrages' weaponry were replaced by Wellm's
forces who had not had any training in their use. He later described the
Maginot forts as "neither armed nor prepared for defense" and "suitable only as
living quarters for troops." Most of the German defenders used trenches instead
of the ouvrages.
On 25 November, the 80th Infantry Division opened its attack with a five-minute
preparatory artillery barrage. Supported by the 702nd Tank Battalion, and the
610th and 808th Tank Destroyer Battalions, the infantry advanced and captured
eight ouvrages in several hours. Then they repulsed a series of German
counter-attacks. Though the tanks were largely ineffective against the concrete
ouvrages, the tank destroyers' high velocity 90 mm guns were able to penetrate
and knock them out. American losses were light and some 600 Germans were
Third Army's December Battles Against the Maginot Line
In December, both the Third and Seventh U.S. Armies ran into Maginot Line
fortifications directly opposite the German border. Due to geography, the U.S.
forces actually attacked many of the fortifications from the south. Some of the
strongest Maginot fortifications were located in this area. German resistance
stiffened considerably but their primary intent was to delay American forces
while the Westwall was hastily strengthened. As a result, the toughest battles
to capture the Maginot Line were fought at this time.
In the first week of December, XII Corps assaulted the Maginot Line between
Wittring and Bitche. The area was defended by units of the 11th Panzer and the
25th PanzerGrenadier Divisions. Both divisions were well-supported by artillery
and anti-tank guns. The difficult terrain and ever-present mud largely confined
the American tanks to the roads. In a series of costly attacks, the 4th Armored
Division attacked and captured the area near Rohrbach-les-Bitches. The
division's 37th Tank Battalion lost 20 tanks to anti-tank guns and mud during
its unsuccessful attacks upon the village of Singling located within the
Maginot Line. Having been in heavy combat for weeks, the 4th Armored was pulled
out of the line for refitting and was replaced by the fresh 12th Armored
Division. In its first combat operation, the 12th Armored assaulted and
captured the Maginot Line fortifications in this area. At least ten tanks were
knocked out and the commander of the 23rd Tank Battalion Lt. Col. Montgomery
Meigs was killed by enemy fire while leading his tanks.
On the 4th Armored Division's left, the 26th Infantry Division attacked Maginot
Line forts around Wittring and Achen. The attacks were preceded by a thirty
minute barrage fired by corps and division field artillery battalions. Five
squadrons of fighter-bombers from the XIX Tactical Air Command bombed and
strafed the German positions as well. The damage to the fortifi-cations was
minimal but the Germans in the supporting trenches suffered heavy
The division's 104th Infantry Regiment attacked four mutually supporting
ouvrages around Achen. Using small arms, machine guns and white phosphorous
grenades, the Americans quickly induced the German defenders to surrender. The
1st Battalion's commander Major Leon D. Gladding personally led an assault on
one fort. With other soldiers providing cover fire, Gladding single-handedly
knocked out one block with a white phosphorus grenade. Then he captured another
block along with a German officer and his nineteen soldiers who were defending
The 328th Infantry Regiment had a much more difficult time against Forts
Wittring and Grand Bois. The Germans had evacuated most of their troops and
left behind skeleton crews to man the machine guns. Nevertheless, both forts
were still formidable. Fort Wittring was surrounded by combat blocks and Fort
Grand Bois was protected by an extensive barrier of barbed wire. K Company
cleared the blocks by mid-afternoon, but was unable to subdue the main fort.
The fort resisted fire from a tank destroyer and 155 mm howitzers. After dark,
a team of engineers and infantrymen crept up and tried several times to breach
the fort's door with explosives. Finally, one of the explosive charges ignited
the fort's ammunition supply and obliterated its defenders. L Company was
unable to penetrate the barbed wire protecting Fort Grand Bois so they waited
for darkness to cut the wire. That night the German defenders evacuated the
fort and the following morning, the Americans occupied it.
Seventh Army's December Battles Against the Maginot Line
On Third Army's right, the XV Corps of Seventh Army struck the Maginot Line in
and around Bitche. Known as the Ensemble de Bitche, this section was one of the
strongest and most heavily defended sections of the Maginot Line. The area had
been strongly fortified as early as 1714. Over the next three centuries
additional fortifications were added, culminating in the 1930s with the
construction of five massive ouvrages: Simserhof, Schiesseck, Otterbiel, Grand
Hohekirkel, and Freudenberg. Unlike most of the other Maginot defenses, the
Ensemble forts could defend themselves against attacks from the south. In June
1940, the German 257th Infantry Division attacked the Ensemble from the south
but failed to capture any of its defensive works. The Ensemble held out until a
full week after the surrender of the French Army, giving up only after threats
of recriminations against the French people. The task of capturing the
formidable Ensemble de Bitche fell upon the 44th and 100th Infantry
The 71st Infantry Regiment of the 44th Infantry Division was assigned to
capture Fort Simserhof, one of the two most powerful forts in the Ensemble de
Bitche. Situated on a hill north-east of Holbach, Simserhof had eight combat
blocks armed with machine guns, anti-tank guns and artillery. Some of its
weapons were in turrets that revolved 360 degrees. Located about a thousand
yards to the south of the complex were the personnel and ammunition entrances.
From here, all of Simserhof's communications, electrical and ventilation
systems were controlled.
Before undertaking any assault, the 71st Infantry made extensive preparations
to minimize casualties. Intelligence officers queried French civilians for
information about the fortress. Patrols located German positions. Tanks and
tank destroyers were dug-in, and camouflaged to protect them from return fire
while they supported the infantry attacks. Fort Simserhof was subjected to
several days of preparatory bombardments by artillery and fighter-bombers.
Neither was able to do much damage to the thick fortifications but concussions
from exploding artillery shells did knock out some of the fort's weapons.
Artillery and air power alone was not enough to destroy Fort Simserhof; a
multi-step ground operation was needed. First Fort Simserhof was isolated from
supporting defenses by American infantrymen. Next, artillery and tanks
suppressed enemy fire while infantry and engineer teams assaulted the personnel
and ammunition entrances. At this critical time, the ventilation machinery
failed, and the German defenders choked on the smoke from their weapons. The
entrances were destroyed, sealed with explosives and buried by bulldozers.
With Simserhof complex's entrances neutralized, the 44th Infantry Division
resumed its attack on 19 December. The 114th Infantry Regiment attacked
Hottviller and its nearby defenses. The 71st Infantry's 1st and 3rd Battalions
attacked Fort Simserhof's eight blocks. Resistance was virtually non-existent
because the remaining Germans had withdrawn in the early morning hours before
the American attack. In a week of operations to capture Fort Simserhof and the
vicinity, the 71st Infantry suffered about 25 killed and 185 wounded.
On the 44th Infantry Division's right, the 100th Infantry Division assaulted
Forts Schiesseck and Freudenberg as part of its drive to capture Bitche. Fort
Schiesseck had eleven blocks that were constructed of steel-reinforced concrete
and armed with machine guns, anti-tank guns and artillery. Each block was
connected by underground tunnels and many of them were further protected by a
moat. Supporting Schiesseck was Fort Freudenberg which was a single
fortification with thick concrete walls.
The 100th Infantry Division's commander Major Gen. Withers Burress suspected
that the Maginot Line here might be undefended. So he sent the 398th Infantry
Regiment in an immediate attack on Forts Freudenberg and Schiesseck with orders
to halt and await reinforcements if they ran into opposition. The regiment
quickly discovered that the Germans intended to defend the forts, so the attack
To reduce the forts, a massive amount of American firepower was brought to bear
upon them. Altogether, over ten battalions of field artillery including 8-inch
howitzers and a battalion of chemical mortars were used for preparatory
bombardments upon the forts in the two days which preceded the ground attack.
Even two captured German 88 mm guns were used against the forts. Fifty-four P47
fighter-bombers dropped an additional 27 tons of ordnance on the forts.
Despite the preponderance of firepower, only Fort Freudenberg was knocked out.
The massive 8-inch and 240 mm shells were seen bouncing off Fort Schiesseck.
Worse yet, the artillery fire was not driving the Germans away from their guns.
So on the second day, the Americans changed their tactics. They brought the
heavy artillery closer to the recalcitrant fort. M36 tank destroyers with their
90 mm guns and M12 self-propelled guns were used for direct fire against the
The new tactics worked. The direct fire forced most of the Germans deep into
Fort Schiesseck's underground chambers. With artillery shells still falling on
the blocks, infantry and engineer teams rushed forward. Despite heavy small
arms and machine gun fire from the blocks and nearby supporting positions, the
American soldiers stormed into each block. In succession, the elevators and
staircases in the blocks were destroyed with explosives, the entrances were
sealed and the casemates buried by tank-dozers. To effect the destruction of
Fort Schiesseck, U.S. engineers used over 5,000 pounds of explosives.
Surprisingly, American casualties were relatively light considering the
strength of the Maginot forts and the tough German resistance. 3rd Battalion of
the 398th Infantry Regiment lost 16 killed and 120 wounded. The attached
engineers from the 325th Engineer Combat Battalion suffered one man killed and
four wounded. Most of the casualties were from enemy artillery.
Seventh Army's March 1945 Assaults Upon The Maginot Line
Once Fort Schiesseck was captured, the 397th Infantry Regiment was to have
attacked and captured Forts Otterbiel and Grand Hohekirkel. However, the German
counter-offensive in the Ardennes intervened. Most of Third Army was sent north
to counter-attack the Germans' southern flank. Seventh Army was pulled back so
that it could assume much of Third Army's front. Of course in doing so, the
100th Infantry Division had to relinquish Forts Schiesseck and Freudenberg.
Then the Seventh Army had to fight off the Germans' Nordwind counter-offensive
in January 1945.
By March 1945, both German counter-offensives had been decisively repulsed, the
weather had improved, and the American advance resumed. Having given up Forts
Freudenberg and Schiesseck back in December, the 100th Infantry Division now
had to re-capture the forts again and then capture the remaining forts around
Bitche. Attacking these forts a second time did have certain advantages for the
100th Infantry Division. First, they were very familiar with the terrain and
knew the best avenues of approach to the forts. Second and more importantly,
they had thoroughly destroyed the two forts before leaving them. Of course, the
Germans had constructed new entrenchments and layed down thousands of mines in
In making its second attack upon the Maginot Line around Bitche, the 100th
Infantry Division changed its tactics significantly. This time, all three of
the division's regiments would attack abreast. In order to catch the Germans by
surprise, no preparatory artil-lery or mortar bombardment was fired. Both were
to be used only when called for by the attacking infantry. Each regiment would
be supported by tanks, tank destroyers, and 4.2-inch chemical mortars. Through
patrolling and prisoner of war interrogations, the Americans were able to
locate most of the new German defenses and minefields.
Early on the morning of 15 March, the three regiments of the Century Division
commenced their attacks. They encountered large numbers of mines and heavy
German fire. On the division right, the 399th Infantry Regiment quickly seized
the Reyersviller Ridge west of Bitche. In the center, the 398th Infantry
Regiment's 1st Battalion bypassed German resistance and captured key terrain
north and east of Fort Schiesseck. Its 2nd Battalion fought stubborn German
resistance all day but managed to capture Forts Freudenberg and Schiesseck. Due
to the demolition of the Fort Schiesseck the previous December, the Germans
were unable to use it to defend against the regiment's latest attack.
The 397th Infantry Regiment broke through the German lines, advanced upwards of
7,000 meters, and captured high ground in and around Schorbach. In doing so,
the regiment overran the firing positions of the Germans' supporting mortars
and rocket batteries. According to the Century Division staff, the regiment's
actions "caused the entire fortified area to fall like a ripe fruit because its
action eliminated all of the fires of the supporting weapons." The division
halted for the night and prepared to resume the attack the next morning.
At 0600 on 16 March, the Century Division resumed its advance on Bitche. On the
division's north and left flank the 397th Infantry cleared all of the key hills
and ridges north of Bitche and Camp de Bitche. The 399th Infantry drove into
Bitche from the south and west while the 398th Infantry struck from the
northwest. Soon Bitche was cleared of German defenders and liberated. This was
the first time in its history that the fortified town had been captured by
With Bitche liberated, the American infantry pressed onward. 1st Battalion of
the 398th Infantry captured Forts Ramstein, Petite Otterbiel, Grand Otterbiel
and Otterbiel. The forts themselves were only lightly held as the Germans opted
to use field defenses surrounding them. The defenders of one fort were induced
to surrender after several direct hits by a 155 mm self-propelled gun.
Meanwhile 2nd Battalion captured Fort Petite Hohekirkel north-east of Bitche.
Outside Camp de Bitche, 1st Battalion of the 399th Infantry subdued several
defended blocks with the help of several supporting tanks. When 2nd Lt. William
Sullivan, a B Company platoon leader, demanded the occupants of one block to
surrender, the commander of the 2nd Battalion / 225th Volksgrenadier Regiment,
four of his staff officers and over 70 of his officers and men soon complied.
By the end of the day, the Camp de Bitche was also in American hands. In less
than 2 days, the 100th Infantry Division re-captured the Ensemble de Bitche
with light casualties. Then it was relieved for employment elsewhere against
the German West Wall border defenses. The capture of the Ensemble de Bitche was
the last significant battle involving the Maginot Line.
Most of the Maginot Line forts were captured by the U.S. Army with little
or no fighting required. For the most part, the Germans chose not to and/or
were unable to mount an effective defense of the fortifications. However there
were several notable occasions when the Germans had both the means and the will
to mount an effective defense. On these occasions, the thick fortifications
combined with determined defenders made the capture of the Maginot Line forts a
difficult and time-consuming affair for the U.S. Army.
Against the formidable Maginot fortifications and the German defenders, the
U.S. Army employed its preponderance of firepower and proficiencies in the use
of combined arms: artillery, armor, infantry and engineers. No one American
weapon system was able to destroy the Maginot Line forts by itself. Only the
M12 self-propelled gun and the M36 tank destroyer using direct fire were able
to consistently penetrate and knock-out fortifications. The infantry and
engineers captured most of the fortifications but they required firepower
support from the other combat arms. U.S. artillery, armor, infantry and
engineers were most successful when employed together in a coordinated effort.
American commanders quickly realized this and routinely employed their forces
in such a manner. As a result, the U.S. Army ultimately accomplished what the
German Army had been largely unable to do in 1940: capture Maginot Line forts
Show Footnotes and
. For more on the Maginot Line, see Rudolph Chelminski's "The Maginot Line:
Not the Blunder it's made out to be," (Smithsonian Magazine: June 1997); and
Joseph E. Kaufmann and H. W. Kaufman, The Maginot Line: None Shall Pass,
(Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997). For an excellent documentary, see The History
Channel's "Modern Marvels: The Maginot Line," (A&E Television Networks:
. Otto von Knobelsdorff, General der Panzertruppen, "First Army Estimate of
the Situation - 10 Sep 1944," (Germany: U.S. Army, Europe - Historical Division
[Foreign Military Studies Branch], 1947?), pp. 1-4. After the war, U.S. Army
historians conducted hundreds of interviews with captured German officers.
These interviews are kept at the U.S. Military History Institute Library,
Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania [Hereafter cited as USAMHI Library] and also in
National Archives II, College Park, Maryland.; Metz was surrounded by numerous
fortresses that had been constructed in the preceding centuries.; The West
Wall, or Siegfried Line as the Allies called it, was built by the Germans in
response to the Maginot Line. In contrast to the Maginot Line, the West Wall
was thick belts of anti-tank obstacles (Dragon's Teeth) supported by pillboxes
. Ibid., p. 7.; August Karl Wellm, Generalmajor. "The 36th Volksgrenadier
Division 11 Nov - 28 Dec 1944," (Germany: U.S. Army, Europe - Historical
Division [Foreign Military Studies Branch], 1947?), USAMHI Library, pp. 24-7. ;
Kaufmann, p. 68. The sub-stations which supplied the Maginot Line ouvrages are
identified on this page.
. F. W. von Mellenthin, Panzer Battles: A Study of the Employment of Armor
in the Second World War, trans. by H. Betzler, ed. by L. C. F. Turner, (NY:
Ballantine Books, 1956), pp. 371-8. At this time, von Mellenthin had just
become Chief of Staff of Army Group G. In 1940, he had been Chief of Staff of
the 197th Infantry Division which overran and captured several minor Maginot
Line positions.; Knobelsdorff, p. 7.; Kurt von Einem, Colonel. "XIII SS Corps 7
Nov 1944 - 12 Jan 1945," (Neustadt, Germany: U.S. Army, Europe - Historical
Division [Foreign Military Studies Branch], 1947), USAMHI Library, p. 8.; Hugh
M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign. part of the series United States Army in World
War II: The European Theater of Operations. (Washington, DC: GPO, 1997), p.
505. See footnote 20. Chapter One gives an outstanding overview of the
situation in the Alsace-Lorraine at this time.
. Cole, pp. 25-29.
. Von Mellenthin, see footnote 15 on page 385.; Knobelsdorff, p. 7.; von
Einem, p. 8.
. U.S. Army. XX Corps. The Reduction of Fortress Metz - XX Corps Operational
Report 1 September 1944 - 6 December 1944. , USAMHI Library, p. 9. [Hereafter
cited as The Reduction of Fortress Metz]; U.S. Army. 90th Infantry Division.
Operations 90th Infantry Division 1 November - 1 December 1944 . France:
December 1944. Record Group (RG) 407, National Archives and Records
Administration, Archives II, College Park, Maryland, pp. 4, 10-12. [Hereafter
National Archives cited as "NARA" and this document is cited as "90ID AAR".];
Cole, p. 380.; John Colby, War From The Ground Up, (Austin, TX: Nortex P,
1991), pp. 284-85. Colby quotes extensively from a paper written after the war
by the S-3 (Operations Officer) of the 359th Infantry Regiment -- Major (later
Lt. Gen.) Orwin Talbott.; Kaufmann described Hackenberg's pre-war armament on
. Cole, p. 394 .
. 90ID AAR, pp. 14-9.
. Ibid., pp. 26-7.; Cole, p. 413.
. Cole, pp. 504-5. See also footnote 20 on page 505.; George M. Fuermann,
The Ninety-Fifth Infantry Division History, 1918-1946. (Atlanta, GA: Albert
Love, 1947?), n.p. [See Chapter "The Drive to the Saar".]; The Reduction of
Fortress Metz, p. 44.
. Cole, pp. 478-80.
. Cole, p. 451. Kaufmann, pp. 123-5. In June 1940, the Germans were able to
force Bambesch's surrender through the use of the fearsome 88 mm flak guns.
. Wellm, pp. 24-7.; Cole, p. 482.; Max Simon, Generalleutnant. "XIII SS
Corps 16 Nov - 5 Dec 44," (Germany: U.S. Army, Europe - Historical Division
[Foreign Military Studies Branch], 1947], USAMHI Library, p. 4.
. Cole, pp. 481-2.; Wellm, p. 27.; George Dyer, Lt. Col., USA. XII Corps:
Spearhead of Patton's Third Army. (privately published by the XII Corps
Historical Association, 1947), p. 262. Dyer quotes an 80th Infantry Division
history.; Robert T. Murrell, Operational History E.T.O. 80th "Blue Ridge"
Infantry Division, (privately published by the author in 1995), USAMHI Library,
pp.97-100. Murrell served in M Company of the division's 318th Infantry
. U.S. Army. 4th Armored Division. Combat History. Germany: June 1945.,
USAMHI Library. pp. December 44-5 to 44-6.; Cole, pp. 531, 538-9.; Albin F.
Irzyk, Brig. Gen., USA (Ret.). He Rode Up Front For Patton, (Raleigh, NC:
Pentland P, 1996), p. 218. In making his first attack, battalion commander Lt.
Col. Creighton Abrams rashly attacked the village solely with his tanks and
without the use of supporting artillery and infantry.; Capt. V. L. Thorp,
"Personal Combat Action of Lt. Col. M. C. Meigs 23rd Tank Battalion," in Ken
Bradstreet, Hellcats, vol. ii of ii, (Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing, 1990),
USAMHI Library, p. 28.; U.S. Army. 12th Armored Division. Speed is the
Password. (Paris: privately published by the 12th Armored Division, 1945).
USAMHI Library. This was the 12th Armored's first battle. Meigs was awarded the
Silver Star posthumously.
. Cole, pp. 538-9.
. Ibid. Gladding received the Distinguished Service Cross for his gallantry
. U.S. Army. Seventh U.S. Army. Report of Operations. Germany: 1945. USAMHI
Library, pp.482-3. [Hereafter cited as SUSA Report].
. Ibid.; U.S. Army. 44th Infantry Division. History of the 44th Infantry
Division for the Month of December 1944. France: January 1945. RG 407, NARA,
pp. 1-4. [Hereafter cited as 44ID History].; U.S. Army. 44th Infantry Division.
71st Infantry Regiment. Record of Events -- December 1944. France: January
1945. RG 407, NARA, pp. 1-3. [Hereafter cited as 71st Inf History].; U.S. Army.
44th Infantry Division. Division Artillery Headquarters. Report of Action
Against Enemy - December 1944. France: 9 January 1945. RG 407, NARA, pp. 3-5.
. Ibid.; The casualty figures are taken from the S-3 Daily Operations
Reports which accompanied the 71st Infantry's Record of Events.
. SUSA Report, p. 487.; U.S. Army. 100th Infantry Division. Story of the
Century. (Privately published by the division in 1945?), USAMHI Library, pp.
81-2.; U.S. Army. 100th Infantry Division. History of the 100th Infantry
Division 1 December - 31 December 1944. France: January 1945, RG 407, NARA, p.
2. [Hereafter cited as 100ID History.]; U.S. Army. 100th Infantry Division. The
Breaching of the Maginot Line at Bitche. (After Action Report). France: 30
December 1944. RG 407, NARA, p. 1. [Hereafter cited as 100ID AAR.].
. 100ID History, p. 2.
. 100ID AAR, p.3.; SUSA Report, p. 487.; Story of the Century. pp.81-2.
. Ibid.; 100ID History, p. 4.; The 3rd Battalion / 398th Infantry Regiment
was later awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its capture of Fort
. Story of the Century, p.94.; 100ID AAR, p. 10. The latter has slightly
different, but still low, casualty figures.
. 100ID History, p. 4.; Charles B. MacDonald, The Last Offensive. part of
the series United States Army in World War II: The European Theater of
Operations. (Washington, DC: GPO, 1993), pp. 252-5.; Charles Whiting describes
the German Counter-Attack on Seventh Army in his America's Forgotten Army: The
True Story of the U.S. Seventh Army in WWII and the Unknown Battle That Changed
History. (NY: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1999).; See also SUSA Report for
. MacDonald, pp. 252-5.; "Battle of Bitche," Military Review, (October
1946), pp.36-40. This account was written by the staff of the 100th Infantry
Division.; Story of the Century, pp. 125-7.
. Ibid.; U.S. Army. 100th Infantry Division. History of the 100th Infantry
Division for 1 March - 31 March 1945. Germany: April 1945. RG 407, NARA, pp.
Copyright © 2006 Bryan J. Dickerson.
Written by Bryan Dickerson. If you have questions or comments on this article,
please contact Bryan Dickerson at:
About the author:
Bryan J. Dickerson is a military historian specializing in World War Two and a Navy Reserve veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He earned a Masters of Arts in American History from Monmouth University in New Jersey in 1999. He is the former Editor of Cold War Times -
the online newsletter of the Cold War Museum in Virginia.
Published online: 11/09/2006.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.