Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers Operation Nordwind - Jan. 1st, 2003
Posted on 01/01/2003 12:01:39 AM PST by SAMWolf
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Jan 1 - 7, 1945
The campaign star on the European Theater ribbon for the bitter winter combat during December 1944 and January 1945 is titled "Ardennes-Alsace". Over the past 50 years the "Battle of' the Bulge" in the Ardennes region in northern France and Belgium has received as much publicity as Gettysburg. Unfortunately Nordwind, Hitler's last offensive in Alsace which, in spite of 40,000 German and American casualties, is practically unknown. The Army Chief of Military History's World War II 50th Anniversary Commemorative Pamphlet for the battle of Ardennes-Alsace wryly noted in its "Further Reading", which listed extensive sources on the Ardennes fighting, that "fighting in the Alsace region has been sparsely covered" and highlights the book "When Odds Were Even" by Keith Bonn for further information on Nordwind.
The German First Army launched its initial attacks on schedule a few hours before New Year's Day, with Simon's XIII SS Corps pushing south over the Sarre River valley and Petersen's XC and Hoehne's LXXXIX Corps heading in the same general direction through the woods of the Low Vosges. In both cases the leading German echelons began to hit the main American lines about midnight. In the Sarre valley the assault force was met by determined resistance from the 44th and 100th Infantry Division troops, who were well dug in and deployed in depth.
Expecting the major attack in this area, Patch and Haislip had jammed the XV Corps zone with three infantry divisions buttressed by the two regiments of Task Force Harris and-if the theater reserve units are counted-two armored and another infantry division in reserve, with a third armored division arriving. The Germin attack barely made a dent in the beefed-up Allied line. In some cases the SS troopers advanced in suicidal open waves, cursing and screaming at the American infantrymen who refused to be intimidated. The infantry of the 36th Volksgrenadier did little better. Although Simon's forces finally managed to poke a narrow hole, about two miles in depth, at Rimling on the right wing of the 44th Division, the 100th Infantry Division held firm. In the days that followed the Germans saw their small advances continuously eroded by repeated counterattacks from the 44th, 100th, and 63d (TF Harris) Division infantry supported by elements of the French 2d Armored Division. Allied artillery and, when the weather broke, Allied air attacks, together with the bitter cold, also sapped the strength of the attackers.
On 4 January the German high command formally called off the effort. As General Simon, the attacking corps commander, caustically observed, the Sarre assault had shown only that the German soldier still knew how to fight and how to die, but little else. Blaskowitz, with Hitler and von Rundstedt's approval, obviously chose not to throw the German armored reserves into the battle there, as planned, and sought weaker links in the American lines.
During Operation NORDWIND, the last German offensive on the Western Front, three German divisions attempted to encircle and annihilate the 100th Infantry Division. Near Lemberg, on the Division's right, the XC Corps attackers were stopped by the 399th and elements of the 398th Infantry Regiment after three days of ferocious fighting.
On 5 January, after NORDWIND's main effort had failed, Himmler's Army Group Oberrhein finally began its supporting thrusts against the southern flank of Brooks' VI Corps, with the XIV SS Corps launching a cross-Rhine attack north of Strasbourg. Two days later, south of the city, the Nineteenth Army launched Operation SONNENWENDE ('WINTER SOLSTICE'), attacking north, astride the Rhone-Rhine Canal on the northern edge of the German-held Colmar Pocket. These actions opened a three-week battle, whose ferocity rivaled the Ardennes fighting in viciousness if not in scope and threatened the survival of the VI Corps. SONNENWENDE sparked a new crisis for the 6th Army Group, which had too few divisions to defend every threatened area. With Brooks' VI Corps now engaged on both flanks, along the Rhine at Gambsheim and to the northeast along the Low Vosges mountain exits, Devers transferred responsibility for Strasbourg to the French First Army, and de Lattre stretched his forces to cover both the city and the Belfort Gap 75 miles to the south.
But the real danger was just northeast of Strasbourg. There, the XIV SS Corps had punched out a 10-mile bridgehead around the town of Gambsheim, brushing off small counterattacks from Task Force Linden. Patch's Seventh Army, reinforced with the newly arrived 12th Armored Division, tried to drive the Germans from the Gambsheim area, a region laced with canals, streams, and lesser watercourses. To the south de Lattre's 3d Algerian Division defended Strasbourg, while the rest of the French First Army kept the Colmar Pocket tightly ringed. But the fate of Strasbourg and the northern Alsace hinged on the ability of the American VI Corps to secure its besieged flanks.
Having driven several wedges into the Seventh Army, the Germans launched another attack on 7 January. The German XXXIX Panzer Corps, with the 21st Panzer and the 25th Panzergrenadier Divisions, attacked the greatly weakened VI Corps center between the Vosges and Lauterbourg. Quickly gaining ground to the edge of the Haguenau Forest 20 miles north of Strasbourg, the German offensive rolled along the same routes used during the successful attacks of August 1870 under Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke. Moltke's successors, however, made no breakthrough. In the two Alsatian towns of Hatten and Rittershoffen, Patch and Brooks threw in the Seventh Army's last reserve, the 14th Armored Division. Assisted by a mixture of other combat, combat support, and service troops, the division halted the Germans.
While the VI Corps fought for its life in the Haguenau Forest, the enemy renewed attacks on both flanks. During an intense battle between units of the 45th Division and the 6th SS Mountain Division in the Low Vosges, the Germans surrounded an American battalion that had refused to give ground. After a week's fighting by units attempting its relief, only two soldiers managed to escape to friendly lines.
Although gaining ground the enemy had achieved no clear-cut success. Hitler nevertheless committed his last reserves on 16 January, including the 10th SS Panzer and the 7th Parachute Divisions. These forces finally steamrolled a path along the Rhine's west bank toward the XIV SS Corps' Gambsheim bridgehead overrunning one of the green 12th Armored Division's infantry battalions at Herrlisheim and destroying one of its tank battalions nearby. This final foray led Brooks to order a withdrawal on the twenty-first, one that took the Germans by surprise and was completed before the enemy could press his advantage.
Forming a new line along the Zorn, Moder, and Rothback Rivers north of the Marne-Rhine Canal, the VI Corps commander aligned his units into a cohesive defense with his badly damaged but still game armored divisions in reserve. Launching attacks during the night of 24-25 January, the Germans found their slight penetrations eliminated by vigorous counterattacks. Ceasing their assaults permanently, they might have found irony in the Seventh Army's latest acquisition from SHAEF reserves-the "Battling Bastards of Bastogne," the 101st Airborne Division, which arrived on the Alsace front only to find the battle over.
| 'Fighting in the Alsace region has been sparsely covered'
--50th Anniversary Commemorative Pamphlet
U.S. Troops in Kuwait
Ring in New Year
CAMP DOHA, Kuwait - Though the beer and champagne lacked alcohol, U.S. troops in Kuwait still partied, welcoming the New Year in high spirits and taking a break from tensions ahead of a possible war with neighboring Iraq.
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Will do. Thank you
I don't know about the rest of the Yankees but I eat the usual.
Either siscuits and gravy or scrambled eggs, ham and hash browns with white toast. What else is there?
Gotta love this one. Just one more little piece of info that makes me proud to be an American. Unfortunately I'm one of the ones who never knew about Nordwind, but now I do - thanks.