By November 27th, the 35th Division and
6th Armored were just West of Puttelange, temporarily in Corps
Reserve, resting and training replacements. In November offensive
covering three weeks we had lost 349 killed, 1549 wounded
and 115 missing. In addition to unknown casualties to the
Germans, we had taken 2,309 prisoners. Still, before the division
were the 11th Panzer and the 17th Panzer Grenadier Divisions.
Immediately to our front were three rivers to cross –
the Maderbach, Saar, and Blies Rivers – the latter being
the German border. Seven miles ahead lay the City of Saarguemines,
an industrial center of 15,000 people with many factory buildings
and bomb shelters.
On December 4th, XII Corps launched an attack by the 80th
and 35th Infantry Divisions and the 6th Armored to take the
Saar River and beyond. On December 8th we crossed the Saar
in assault boats, the expected German counter-attack stopped
by TOT artillery fire and a strike by fighter bombers. On
our right, the 26th Division successfully assaulted Maginot
Line positions and on December 10th, the engineers had twelve
vehicular bridges across the Saar River, in spite of heavy
and continuous German artillery fire.
While the 137th Infantry continued to fight in Saareguemines
and to mop up snipers and by passed pockets of resistance,
the 320th and 134th Regiments fought their way another four
miles to the Blies River, in spite of snow and bitter wind.
Coming over a high hill we looked far down to a fast moving
deep rushing river in flood stage, some 60 feet across, and
up the other bank to an opposite high hill which was much
higher than our side and looked down our throats – occupied
by the enemy, an enemy now fighting for the sacred soil of
their own country. Across the river were the 17th SS Panzer
Grenadiers with the 38th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment, and
the 11th Panzer Division, waiting. On the early morning of
the 12th, the 134th Regiment crossed the river in plywood
boats at Habkirchen. Heavy shelling and counter-attacks almost
doomed the battalion that got across, but with supporting
fire from the West bank, the survivors hung on.
To their right, upstream, the 320th Infantry attacked the
Town of Bilesbruck and on the 13th sent one battalion over
the Blies on a rickety engineer constructed foot bridge and
seized Hill 312 overlooking Habkirchen. The fighting around
Habkirchen cost the 134th Infantry one half of its remaining
combat strength. The determination of the enemy to defend
its own territory resulted in very few prisoners taken in
the entire Blies River operation. Bitter resistance slowed
the 320th Infantry advance from its bridgehead but Reinheim,
Gersheim and Nieder-Gailbach were finally seized in house
to house fighting. The G.I.’s fought their way up the
hill on the East bank and nearly a mile further, on the approaches
to the west wall, known to us as the Siegfried Line. Gen.
Patton had planned to attack it on December 19th. Instead,
everything suddenly came to a halt. On December 16th von Runstedt
launched the huge and surprising German winter offensive.
XII Corps was needed and was relieved by the XV Corps. The
35th Division, now at less than half strength, was relieved
by the 44th Infantry and 87th Infantry Divisions and we loaded
trucks for the icy ride to Metz. Ahead lay the Ardennes!
more in the Ardennes
go back to where you started, in the Rhineland