20 January, 2012

20 January 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
20 January, 1945        1115

Wilma, darling –

It has finally stopped snowing and I’m not sorry either. We’ve had a couple of tough days. I haven’t been so bored or fed up for some time now but I’ve gotten so that when I feel that way, I don’t mind as much as I used to. I know it’s temporary; I guess a little sunshine will fix me up fine. From what I read – you’re having a kind of tough winter yourselves and I’ll bet you’re finding that long ride home every night quite an ordeal. It’s easy to understand why you wrote recently that you wished you could share an apartment in Boston with one of the girls. That would really be convenient – but when we’re finally married and living in Salem, darling, neither of us will have to commute and that will suit me fine.

I’ve been pretty busy the past few days with colds etc and at present I’m keeping the Colonel, one of our new majors and half a dozen other officers off duty for one reason or another. This p.m. I’m going back to rear to take care of a few details. I have my MAC officers back there – but I have to check up on some patients. Yesterday our battalion was allotted 5 men and 1 officer to go to Paris on a 72 hr. pass and that doesn’t include traveling time – which means they’ll probably be gone for about 6 days. What a break! We may get more allotments in the future – but I don’t see how I’ll ever get the chance to go – because I have no one to replace me at present.


And by the way – we were given an allotment for 2 men to go home for 30 days. It came out of a clear sky and although it represents an infinitesimal percentage – it is something. Outfits in this Corps with one year overseas duty – were included. It now looks as if our 7 months in England won’t be entirely wasted, because lots of outfits with as much time on the continent as we – had very little time in England. But – there are plenty of divisions here with much more overseas time than we have – so we’ll have to sweat out quite a bit, sweetheart. You wrote me some time ago about applying for rotation when my 18 mos. are up. I think you’ve got something wrong there, dear. It just doesn’t work that way here, and certainly not for medical officers. You may have more dope on it than I have – but that’s the way we know it here. Anyway, we now have 14 solid months to our credit and they can’t take that away from us.

And, sweetheart, I’m going to sign off now despite the brevity of this letter. Believe me, dear, I’d love to write and ramble and tell you how much I love you, long for you and miss you. I don’t want to give you a word picture of the circumstances under which I am writing – but they aren’t good. Most of the fellows have just quit writing until conditions and the situation changes – but I’m going to do my best to get something off to you every day I can.

All for now, dear. My love to the folks, regards to Mary and remember

My love is yours alone, dear
Greg

* TIDBIT *

about the Re-taking of St. Vith
Part 1

The following was extracted from a document called "The Return to St. Vith," prepared by the Research and Evaluation Division of the United States Armored School in Fort Knox, Kentucky, published 25 June 1948. The details are found in the 7th Armored Division's After Action Report for January, 1945.
Among the famous historical examples of indomitable courage and outstanding leadership during WWII, the stand of the 7th Armored Division at St. Vith, Belgium, during the period 17 December to 23 December 1944, has a place high in the annals of military historians. After a gallant stand of six days, the 7th Armored Division on orders relinquished its hard-won ground and then drove into the German line in the vicinity of Manhay, Belgium, whittling at the German Army until relieved on 30 December 1944. At this time, the gallant 7th Armored was fighting with under strength units, for only 70 percent of the combat personnel was effective and medium armor was 56 percent below normal. Von Rundstedt's lightening armored columns were blunted and disorganized as they probed at the 7th Armored's defense, and the methodical German planners found themselves thrown six days behind schedule because of the 7th's stonewall ring of fighting personnel around St. Vith.

Although St. Vith received far less publicity than Bastogne, it was the opinion of many of the German Field Marshals, including Hitler himself, that St. Vith was far more important strategically than Bastogne. The most important fact to consider is that Bastogne could be by-passed and St. Vith could not. Not only to the German High Command was this a paramount issue, but to the Allied Supreme Command as well. For the same reasons that the German Ardennes offensive bogged down when denied this road and rail center, any large Allied counteroffensive to drive the enemy from Belgium soil would bog down unless St. Vith was in friendly hands. The German mission was to deny the Allied Forces the use of the road net, and to "defend to the last round" this all-important town.

January 1945 found the 7th Armored Division as XVIII Airborne Corps reserve in the vicinity of Aywaille, Belgium, preparing for the coming counteroffensive. Replacements in men and material were absorbed by the division at this time, and an intensive training program with emphasis on maintenance and firing was begun. The extreme cold, lack of suitable billets, and icy and hazardous operating conditions caused the division many hardships.

Extensive reconnaissance and analysis of the terrain were made to determine the most effective manner of operation. The poor road net, heavily wooded areas, and rugged terrain dictated the employment of small infantry-tank-engineer teams. Each line infantryman and all key personnel of tank battalions, artillery battalions, the engineer battalion, and the cavalry reconnaissance squadron were equipped with white outer garments to blend with the snow. The tanks of the 7th Armored were the first in the US First Army to be painted white.

On 19 January 1945 the 7th Armored Division had completed all preparations for its attack. The division was poised and ready for the assault. That day the division command post moved to Waimes, and Combat Commands A and B moved into final attack positions in the vicinity of Waimes during that night.

The general plan of attack was to have Combat Command A (CCA) on the left and Combat Command B (CCB) on the right. The division objective at this time was to occupy a frontage of about 10,000 meters extending from the high ground north of St. Vith, and thence to the north and east to the town of Ambleve. On the morning of 20 January 1945 at 0730 the 7th Armored Division began its coordinated attack through the sector held by the 1st and 30th infantry Divisions. The weather had not moderated, being very cold with snow flurries and visibility ranging from fair to poor. Icy conditions and near zero temperatures made movement of tracked vehicles extremely difficult.

Ambulance near Waimes lets 7th Armored Division pass

Task Force W of CCA jumped off at 0730 January for Diedenberg; meeting only light enemy resistance, it occupied Diedenberg by 1030. Task Force R of CCA succeeded in securing the high ground southeast of Diedenberg by 1530, although it met heavy resistance from strong points established in houses located in its zone of action. During the remainder of the day Combat Command A consolidated its positions and made preparations for the attack on Auf der Hart Woods.

Combat Command B was to attack Born with two task forces: Task Force A astride the road from the west and Task Force C from the northwest. However, because of last-minute changes the attack was postponed; Task Force B patrols encountered difficulty in returning from enemy reconnaissance. At 1130 the attack was launched. Task Force B approached Born without serious difficulty, but Task Force C encountered mines and terrain impassable for armor. At 1630 the assault was launched on Born by Task Force B and the infantry of Task Force C. Both forces encountered heavy small-arms fire from the enemy and by 1800 the attack had bogged down.

Brigadier General Bruce C. Clarke, commanding Combat Command B, directed the task forces to reorganize and be prepared to continue the attack on order that night. From 2300 to 2345 an intense artillery preparation was laid on the town, utilizing 13 battalions of division and corps artillery. The attack was again launched, this time encountering severe enemy resistance which included tanks, self-propelled guns, and infantry. Both task forces succeeded in reaching the outskirts of Born at 0132 on 21 January. The remainder of the night was spent consolidating the hard-earned positions. During this day's operation the task forces captured 115 prisoners who were components of the 18th Volks Grenadier and 3rd Parachute Division.

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