749TH TANK BATTALION
Battle of the Bulge - End of the War
December 16, 1944 - May 9, 1945
After finally taking Rohrbach and Petit Rederching, the 749th began their assault on Bitche and Simserhoff Fort on the Maginot Line. Just as Simserhoff Fort was falling to the Americans, the Germans started their long-awaited counterattack. When the Battle of the Bulge
began, there were some feelings of surprise in the upper command levels of the military. Such was not the case for many units in the field. Large concentrations of troops and armor had been reported quite often in the preceding 3-4 weeks. Reports of long columns of trucks and armor came from both military units and civilians fleeing from German-controlled areas.
The main surge of the Germans occurred north of the position of the 749th, although some German units did attempt a drive toward Strasbourg in an attempt to outflank the Seventh Army and strike through the Saverne Gap.
When the 7th Armored Division was decimated by taking on the German armor face to face at St. Vith, the response of the Allied military to the German offensive changed and was, in fact, quite brilliant. Instead of trying to meet the German offensive head on, the plan was to allow the Germans to create an ever longer horseshoe shaped bulge in the Allied positions while making sure the Allied units on the flanks of the horseshoe were well supplied. Each mile gained in depth by the Germans meant longer supply lines and increased harassment from the lengthening flanks of the horseshoe, which meant that the Germans were forced to use more and more of their resources to guard against attacks on the supply columns. The Germans made a mad dash for an Allied fuel storage facility at Stavelot, where 3 million gallons of gasoline were stored. The 3rd Armored Division and the 30th Infantry Division beat them to the dump and successfully removed all the gasoline within 24 hours.
By December 20th the Germans had increased the depth of the horseshoe to 50 miles and the width to 30 miles. By January 28th they ran out of gas and Allied troops quickly began a counterattack, closing off the ends of the horseshoe and trapping many German units. Estimated American casualties were 81,000 and German 100,000. The 3rd Armored Division alone lost 125 M4 tanks, 38 M5 tanks, 6 M7 self-propelled guns, and 158 half-tracks and armored cars (Source: "Death Traps", by Belton Cooper, Presidio Press, 1998).
On December 20th the 749th (attached to the 44th Infantry Division) was just about finished cleaning up the Simserhof Fort near Bitche, part of the Maginot Line. They then moved 20 miles west to the vicinity of Sarreguemines and began a bloody month of defense against well armed German units. In the middle of January the unit went into a month of reserve for maintenance, training, and regrouping. On 15 February, they attacked east toward Rohrbach, then after one day's fighting, turned and went 40 miles west to join the 70th Infantry Division near Fohbach. For three weeks the vicious battle for Forbach raged on. On some days over 1000 rounds of artillery and mortar fire was placed on the 70th Division and the 749th while house-to-house fighting continued in Stiring-Wendel and Forbach.
New M-4A3E8 Tank, 749th tank Battalion, on collapsed bridge near Grosbliederstroff, February 18, 1945.
The 749th, along with the 71st Regiment of the 44th Infantry Division, were awarded a Presidential Citation for a battle near Rimling, France in the period 31 December - 2 January. The text of the Citation:
"By direction of the President, under the provision of Section IV, Circular No. 333, War Department, 1943, the following named organization is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action:
The SECOND BATTALION, 71ST INFANTRY REGIMENT, is cited for outstanding performance of duty in action against the enemy in eastern France from 31 December 1944 to 2 January 1945. On 31 December 1944 the Second Battalion, 71st infantry, supported by one platoon, Company "A", 749th Tank Battalion and one platoon, Company "A", 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion, held the high ground northwest of Rimling, France, on a 2400 yard front. At 2345, 31 December 1944, the 37th Panzer Grenadier regiment of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division, launched an attack to seize Sarrebourg, France and cut the supply line of the Seventh Army. The enemy had planned to overrun the position by sheer weight as they attacked in dense masses. The initial attack of five companies strength against the right half of the Second Battalion forced Company "F" to withdraw, although the enemy suffered huge casualties as a result of friendly artillery and mortar fire. A penetration of an adjacent unit threatened the supply route and the command post installation. After another unit became involved in the penetration, the Second Battalion, with supporting elements, counterattacked and restored the original positions. The enemy made repeated attacks on 1 January 1945 and again all positions were restored by a counterattack. The Second Battalion, 71st Regiment, at greatly reduced strength, contained eight enemy assaults and inflicted terrific casualties upon the enemy, forcing them to withdraw with their mission uncompleted."
[EDITOR: One of the goals of the German attack at the Battle of the Bulge was
to cut off the Seventh Army, whose supply line ran through Sarrebourg. The
battle described above took place many miles north of Sarrebourg, between
Sarrequemines and Bitche.]
On March 9th the battle for Forbach was over and the Allies, and the 749th, started the final run to Berlin. For the 749th, this drive began near Bitche and the Maginot Line, a place they entered and left several times in December. A place they all called "a real bitch". Now, there was little fight left in the German Army.
The 44th Division received a Commendation signed by Lt. General Devers, Commanding General 6th Army Group, praising its defense against the German 17th SS Panzer Division and two other Infantry Divisions near Sarreguemines, "... forcing the Germans to shift his forces to another area." The entire Seventh Army was given praise in an Order of The Day, Headquarters 6th Army Group, dated 10 February 1945, for " stopping the attack (of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division) in the Ardennes Bulge ... "
Cities: Bitche, Rohrbach, Simserhoff, Siesterthal, Kapellenhoff Farm, Legeret Farm, Kleinmuhl, Hollbach, Fruedenberg, Hottviller, Schorbach, Sarreguemines, Hambach, Siltzheim, Achen, Wittring, Sarreinsming, Woefling, Gros Rederching, Wiesviller, Folpersviller, Remelfing, Frauenberg, Blies-Ebersing, Habkirchen, Bliesbruck, Reinheim, Obergailbach, Moronviller, Brandelfingerhof, Vittersbiurg, Altwiller, Rimling, Rhorbach, Petit Rederching, Bining, Hundling, Farschviller, Bousbach, Bening, Forbach, Stiring-Wendel, Spicheren, Kerbach, Etzling, Grosbliederstroff, Bubingen, Saarbrucken, Hilbesheim, Oberstinzet, Camp de Bitche, Venningen, Pirmasens, Pirmasens, Vinningen, Roppevilier, Eppenbrunn, Walschbronn,Liederscheim, Sarnstall, Altdorf. Lingenfeld, Hochstadt, Westheim, Hochneim, Maintz, Hersfeld, Sontra, Creuzberg, Kellerforst, Mulhausen, Lancensalza, Volkerode, Gebesee, Nerlsdof, Apolda, Schkolen, Kretzachau, Zeitz, Buscha, Altenburg, Frankenau, Monsdorf, Hartmannsdorf, Schonborn, Wensdorf, Hohenstein, Limbach
Distance: 300 miles by 20 March Pirmasens 104 days
Allied Units: 44th Infantry Division (7th Army) - 71st/114th/324th Regiments, 25th Cavalry Squad (4th Armored Division), 100th Infantry Division, 80th Infantry Division, 157th FA Battalion, 693rd FA Battalion, 217th FA Battalion, 781st Tank Battalion, 761st Tank Battalion, 691st TD Battalion, 156 FA Battalion, 493th AFA BN, 494th AFA BN, 495th AFA BN, 776th Tank Battalion, 895th AAA AW Battalion, 693rd FAB, 12th Armored Division, 35th Infantry Division, 70th Infantry Division (7th Army), 42nd Infantry Division (6th Army), 65th Infantry Division (3rd Army), 76th Infantry Division (1st Army), 117th Cav Sq, 66th Infantry Division.
German Units: 35 Panzer Group, 25 Panzer division, 11 Panzer Recon Battalion, 111 Panzer Group Regiment, 257 VolksGroup Division, 347 VolksGroup Division, 457 Group R, 36 Infantry Division, 37 Panzer Group Regiment, 38 Panzer Group Regiment, 17 SS Panzer Grenadier Division, 19 Infantry Division, 2nd Panxer Group Regiments, 21 Panzer Division, 559th VolksGroup Division, 256 VolksGroup Division, 282 Stomach Trouble Battalion, 84 Rocket Gun Regt, 7 Volkswerferbrigade, 17 SS Arty Regt, 17 SSBG Division, 345 Infantry Division, 19 Fus. Co., 59 VGR, BG Klein, 347 Alarm Co., 347 Artillery Regiment, Heavy Battery 113 SS, 13 SS Corps, 6 Assault Gun Battalion, GHQ 1st Army, AT Battalion Gustav, 514 Fort AT Battalion, Alarm Compmay Nichus, 719 Infantry Division, Alarm Company Rumpf, 1125 VGR, 1126 VGR, 1127 VGR, 1-V Werfer Regt., 16th Volks Gr Div., 36th Volks Gr Div.
16 Dec: Continued destruction of Simserhof Fort by combination ... direct fire from tanks, hand placed explosives, welding by engineers and digging in 2 TDs working late hours of period. "A" Co firing 60 AP at pillboxes. "B" Co Cpl Sutherland, Pvt Ruggiero, Pvt Sacre combat exhaustion not evac. "C" Co Cpl Edelson and Pvt Pierce combat exhaustion not evac. Lt Willard Nolin promoted Capt.
17 Dec: More direct tank fire on Simserhof Fort. Two tanks "A" Co fired 70 rds AP and 30 rds HE at tunnel entrance. Medium tank fired 60 rds AP at unit #5 of Simserhof Fort with little damage to pill box. Cpl Moore LWA and evac. "D" Co 1st platoon received mission of entering underground tunnel at Legeret. Idea abandoned.
18 Dec: 100th Infantry Div reported 2 American tanks operated by enemy .... When #9 Ensemble De Simserhof was entered, diesel motor was running and lights were blazing. Phone rang later. At commencement of this period, lights and motor were turned off. Simserhof Fort Units #1, 2, 4 believed destroyed by arty fire. Unit #5 by direct fire from TD's and tanks.. Units #3, 7, 8 many direct hits but no visible penetration. Destruction of Unit #9 by 63 Engineers... 700 lb explosive down elevator air vent. 100th Division has silenced Fort Schiesseck ... except Unit #2. "A" Co 2nd plat with 3rd Bn of 71st at Holbach. Light tank fired 27 rds in support of Inf and Eng without visual damage. Another tank fired 60 rounds AP, 76mm ammo. Tanks at Freudenberg Farm prevented from adv because of tank obstacle 15 yds wide, 6 ft high, extending as far as visual sight. 1 tank hit by arty. 3rd Bn 71st Div seized Freudenberg OP. "B" Co at Enchenberg ... maintenance. Two EM Cpl Kotowicz and Pvt Sermet, combat exhaustion, no evac.
19 Dec: "A" Co ... 3 tanks moved out 0730A...2 of 3 bogged down. 3rd tank fired 20 rds HE. Relieved 0830A. 3 tank crews returned on 3rd tank.
20 Dec: PW states our arty fire on roads feared ... many horses are lost and supplies cannot be brought up. 749th combat efficiency poor. "D" Co 2nd platoon joined "B" Co Enchenberg ... drove 18 miles to Siltzheim and Folpersviller. Time bombs reported Sarreguemines. One 2100 lb explosive was discovered in basement set to explode 2 1/2 days later. Reports that enemy officers dressed in US uniforms with US tags and ID cards.
EDITOR NOTE: This is the first move of the 749th backward in reaction to the Battle of The Bulge which began December 16th. Map locations will be noted with squares instead of ovals.
21 Dec: 100th Infantry Division relieves 44th. 44th to relieve 35th Infantry Division vicinity Sarreguemines. "B" Co atchd 324th Inf ; 1st plat at Reinhein, 2nd plat Habkirchen, 3rd plat and 2nd plat "D" Co at Folperville. 1st plat first to cross German border. "C" Co relieved by 781st Tank Battalion. "D" Co 2nd platoon at Blies Ebersing.
22 Dec: Volksturn in Siltzheim took oath not to Adolf hitler but to Heinrich Himmler. Civilians in same town state soldiers there believed Hitler dead. "A" Co Sarreguemines, "B" Kirchen, "C" Sarreguemines, "D" Remelfing. Sv Co moved from Maierhof to Witterwald.
23 Dec: Escaped US PW's state German soldiers in civilian clothing have small bottles of sulphuric acid carried in matches or cigarette case, to throw into face of captor. "A" Co ... to guard bridges. "B" to support 324th in withdrawal. "C" in support of defense.
25 Dec: Defensive positions improved ... Tanks fired at opportunities ... vicinity Sarrequemines. Ey arty fire ... sometimes heavy. "B" Co EM LWA shrapnel T/5 Renz not evac. "C" Co EM LWA Pvt Covington. "D" Co S/Sgt Tombre LWA not evac, Sv Co Pvt Douglas LWA not evac.
1 Jan: 749th with 44th Infantry Division. Enemy attacked in force ... 2 infantry divisions and Panzer division supported by 20-40 tanks. Average age of (enemy) 165th Regt 38-40 years. "A" Co to Obergailbach/ Moronville to support ... 1 EM not evac and tank plat ldr Lt Herbaly evac battle exhaustion. Lt Hansen found ... battle exhaustion and evac. Pvt Curcio SWA, T/5 Sullivan LWA not evac. Sgt Heric and Cpl Osso LIA not evac. "C" Co 2nd plat to Neunkirch, fired 90 rds direct killing 22 ey. 1st plat 180 rds indirect fire. SWA evac T/5 Cpl Robinson, EM LWA evac Sgt Abney.
2 Jan: 44th Division General Situation: Ey front lines: "U" bond in Blies and Saar River vicinity Sarrequemines extending E to N Fraumberg - 55 yds W Bliesbrucken 1000 yds S Bliesbrucken 2000 yds NE Woelfling - 500 yds N Bellevu Farm - 500 yds S Moronville Farm. Ey units in contact: 14 Co, 165th Inf Regt, 268th Arty Regt, 36th Inf Div. From Div Boundary W of Saargemuend to 1 km W Bliesbrucken. Ey reported digging in Bliesbruckener Wald woods at 1435A. Ey obs constructing wire at 1215A. Heavy guns (at least 215mm) 1580 yds NE Ommercheim. 3 heavy ey guns NE Saarbrucken. 2 105mm btrys and one 150mm btry vic Bebelsheim. Obs during period 3 105mm btry, 1 at 100 yds N Saarquemines, 1 2000 yds N Saarquemines, and 1 1000 yds NE Reinheim. SP gun 1000 yds E Auersmacher. PW states a 119th Inf Assault Div prev rptd by PEy assembled SE Frauemberg, penetrated to 1000 yds SW Bliesbrucken. Wounded PW estimated 25 out of 60 in Co casualties from our artillery. 3 ey walking ... with hands over heads. When they reached our guards ... threw a concussion grenade. "A" Co assisted in withdrawal 2nd Bn. LWA not evac Sgt Pelcher, Pfc Chaffee, Lt Schmidt.
3 Jan: Ey main attack Achen. Heavy ey arty Bliesbruken. 3rd Bn, 71st Inf Div received combined tank and infantry attack ... forced to withdraw about 2 km.
4 Jan: Ey occupies Achen and Gros Recherding. PW says ey wounded in Habkirchen not cared for and some froze to death overnite unattended out in the open. Soldiers fear any kind of wound ... ."A" Co to assist 71st in attack Wittring and Achen. "B" Co fired direct at 500 yds in support of 1st Bn at Le Grand Bois. "C" Co indirect fire. "D" Co continued to guard rear bridges.
5 Jan: 2 US flyers parachuted from B17, were asisted by 2 ey who led them to US lines and surrendered. 749th morale, poor. "A" Co jumped off attack on Gros Rederching. 253rd Inf mounted on tanks. "B" tank recd direct hit by mortar and direct hit by large cal arty. Tank moved 300 yds and stopped. Crew mounted remaining tank and returned ... Sgt Bush LWA
6 Jan: Ey counterattack by 38 Pg Regt, forced our troops to withdraw. "A" Co at Gros Rederching, 3 casualties when tank knocked out, all evac. "C" Co 1 tank knocked out and crew of 5 rptd MIA: Cpl J.E. Jones LWA not evac. Pfc Kutsch MIA vic Gros Rederching. 5 EM MIA Sgt Bishop, Cpl Nahoney, T/5 Webber, Pfc Koia, Pfc R. Smith. "A" Co Pfc Carter battle fatigue, evac. "B" Co 2nd platoon vic Viesing Farm. 2 tanks recd direct hits, 1 shell landing in turret, killing 3 of crew, including plat ldr. KIA 2nd Lt Sauerbrey, Cpl Unzicker, Pvt Orzechowski. Sgt Bush LWA not evac.
8 Jan: Weather: Freezing, icy and heavy snow. "B" Co (attched 397th in 100th Div) enroute 15 miles SE to Bining. Commendation from Lt Col Fann to 749th:
"... Heroic and devoted efforts as you have illustrated ... places you on a pedestal of manhood which history will forever be proud. God bless you all and watch over you."
9 Jan: Ey arty was exceptionally heavy with cal ranging from 105mm to 150. 2nd and 3rd Bns 114th forced to withdraw Bliesbrucken. Ey of unknown strength overrun F Co CP, 397th Regt (100th Div) Rimling; 30 men cutoff. "B" Co 749th and Co of Inf attempting to rescue 30 men. Ist Bn 398th Inf (atchd 397th) advance to 1000 yds N Rohrbach ... heavy casualties from arty fire and direct tank fire vic Rimling. Prepared for withdrawal. "A" Co, morale low. Fired 110 rds 105mm HE under FA control. "B" Co ... tanks recd heavy direct fire Rimling. Tanks to assembly Rohrbach. 3rd plat alerted for move to Guising. "C" Co not committed. "D" Co continued to guard bridges in Div rear.
10 Jan: 397th attempt to rescue 30 men in vain. "B" Co no action. T/5 Smith LWA from shrapnel, evac. "C" Co no action. "A" Co no action.
12 Jan: 749th Tank Battalion reld from 44th Inf Div. Intensive tank training program started under Supervision of Lt Olsen consisting of 24 EM ...
13 Jan: Tank training school temporarily discontinued. "A" Co Vibersviller, "B" Co left Rohrbach in 2 trains to Altwiller. 1st composed of 2nd plat, gas trucks, kitchen truck. 2nd train composed 1st plat and ordn plat plus maint vehs. "C" Co Givrycourt. "D" Co Schwaix.
14-17 Jan: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. Camouflaging tanks with white wash paint.
18 Jan: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. S/Sgt Frederick Eck "B" and S/Sgt James Malloy "A" recd battlefield appointments as 2nd Lt. Continuation of tank training program. Firing range vic Bust.
19-24 Jan: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. Continuation of tank training program. Firing range vic Bust. "B" Co cmdr Lt Leighton. One tank "B" Co to Weisviller ... with mission of destroying bunkers vic Bliesbrucken Woods.
25 Jan: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. Continuation of tank training program. "B" CO tank under command of Sgt Bush ... fire 13 rds HE and 6 rds AP 75mm Mission successful. Tank withdrew before heavy 120mm mortar barrage. Training ... care and feeding of 75mm gun, radio repair, winter hygiene.
26-30 Jan: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. Continuation of tank training program. 2 tanks "A" Co left for Wiesviller to contact 114th Regt.
31 Jan: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. Continuation of tank training program. While practice driving, tank mired in marsh or stream. Tank covered by water above turret, recovery efforts in vain. Bn now 5 tanks short, 43 medium tanks operational and 6 in repair. 17 light tanks operationa and 1 in ordnance.
1 Feb: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. Two tanks "A" alerted to move to Bliesbrucken Woods to destroy 6 bunkers. Bunkers destroyed, 7 PW's, 4 ey dead. Inf did not occupy bunkers complaining of heavy arty but refused to let tanks withdraw. When tanks withdrew, shelling stopped.Conclusion is that tanks must withdraw immediately and Inf must move up and occupy at the instant that tank fire ceased.
2-13 Feb: In Corps reserve on 6 hour alert. Continuation of tank training program. Tank tracks modified to improve movement on ice, snow.
14 Feb: 749th attached 44th Infantry Division. "A" Co to Gros Rederchiing. "B" Co 1st and 3rd plat to Petit Rederching. 2nd Plat to Guising. "C" Co to Sarre-Union. "D" Co to Etting.
15 Feb: Enemy front lines Bliesbrucken, Bellevue Farm, Obergailbach, Epping, Rimling. "A" atchd 71st Infantry Division/114th Regt, attckd Rimling, 2 ths lost to mine fields, no casualties. "B" Co 1st/2nd plat 44thDiv/324th Regt at Bruckenbush Woods. One tank on mine, another tank clutch problem. PWs 120. 3rd plat 44th Div/71st Regt at Rimling. PWs 185.
749th released from 44th Division to 70th Division.
"A" Co left Etting moved to 101st Calvary Group area St Avold via Achen, Hergitzheim, Puttelange.
"B" Co left Rohrbach moved 40 miles west via Bining, Singling, Saralbe, Puttelange to Farschviller.
"C" Co left Weisviller to Hundling via Achen, Herbitzheim, Saralbe, Hambach, Roth, Wousviller
16 Feb: "A" Co attchd 101 Cal Gp, "B" atchd 274th, "C" atch 275th, 276th. Tank troops weary from long hrs of mental and physical strain, drivers constantly going to sleep at controls. One tank ran over culvert landing on turret killing two men, injuring 3rd. T/5 Glen Ayres and William David, KIA vic St Avold.
17 Feb: At Etzling-Kerbach road 500 rds 88mm in 1 1/2 hrs. "B" Co 2nd plat atk Kerbach ... all day fight. 78 Pws. 3rd plat at Behren ... road block. 1 tank disabled by mine. Sgt McClung evac battle exhaustion. "C" Co to Lixing ... many PWs. 1 tank lost in minefield, 1 tank cannon broke down. "D" Co committed at Morsbach.
21 Feb: Ey c/atk in Forsbach, holds 2/3 of town and all of Stiring-Wendel. "B" Co assists in house to house fighting. 249 PWs.
22 Feb: "B" Co 1st plat Stiring-Wendel. 2nd plat with 274th at Kerbach. 1st tank hit mine and others could not pass. 3 EM LWA 3rd plat tank overturned moving to Etzling: Pvt Walker, Pvt Dantsberger, T/4 Stafford. "C" Co ist plat Forsbach. 2nd and 3rd plat Alsting. 1 tank stuck in bog. EM LIA t/4 Keown. EM SIA Pfc Moore. EM LWA Sgt Womack. EM SWA Melendy.
23 Feb: "B" Co 2nd plat atckd thru Gifterwald Forest. 1st plat move to relieve 2nd plat ran into ey c/atk supported by two Mark V tanks. Sgt Byke fired 25 rounds 75mm AP at a range of less than 200 yds into one of these tanks and failed to knock it out. S/Sgt Bush fired 1 rd 76mm AP into same tank and knocked it out. "C" Co 1 atkd Bois de St Arnual Woods. 1 tank withdrew with gun jam. 1 tank hit by AT fire. Another tank withdrew with gun trouble. 2nd plat in woods during night. At 2300 Mark IV tank came down a trail and overran AT gun. Inf cmdr asked Sgt Pringle to fire a bazooka at the tank, claiming all his bazooka teams were wounded or sick. Sgt Pringle said he had his own tank to take care of. Infantryman volunteered and knocked out tank with three shots. A larger German tank Mark V came dwon the trail shooting and towed away knocked out tank. Unknown to tank crews Infantry pulled back during night leaving tanks unprotected. At first light 3 ey bazookas atkd Sgt Pearson's tank which was mired down. Another tank tried to pull him out and it got stuck. Third tank attempts rescue but developed engine trouble. All three tanks abandoned by crews. One casualty LWA Sgt Pearson from shell fragment. In afternoon Sgt Monson's tank knocked out by MARK VI even after Sgt Monson hit the ey tank with 3 rds 76mm AP. Crew abandoned tank, 2 SWA T/5 Ek and Pfc Burnett. Two other tanks had to withdraw due to gun trouble. Only one tank operational.
24 Feb: Unidentified object resembling dirigible passed over zone. 4 tanks support ey c/atk, 3ords 88mm in Forbach. "B" Co Stiring-Wendel, 2 EM LWA Sgt Pfortner and Pvt Smith. "C" Co 1st plat Forbach, EM LWA Cpl Baker. "D" Co Cocheren, LWA Pfc Singer, SV Co.
25 Feb: "A" Co occasional arty fire Grosbliederstroff, EM LWA S/Sgt Mosca, Sgt R.B. Jacson, not evac.
26 Feb: "C" Co Forbach defensive pos, EM LWA S/Sgt Monson, T/4 Zuend.
28 Feb: Battalion now has 29 M443 E8 tanks with 76mm gun with muzzle break and wide tracks, 4 76mm's with narrow track.
3 Mar: "A" Co atchd 63rd Inf Div atkd Bubingen. Smoke laid down
as planned but it blew back on Co. Smoke cleared ey pos first. 6 tanks hit by
AT fire, 3 have burned. 2 complete crews MIA; 6 EM, MIA, Sgt Price, Cpl Mace,
T/5 Faust, Pfc Caldwell, Pfc E.E. Cox, Pfc Leitwein. 4 crew members KIA; 1 KIA
Sgt R.B. Jackson; 6 EM LWA. S/Sgt McLemore, Cpl Lang evac, Pfc Wilkening n/evac,
Pfc Lopez n/evac, Pfc Cherno n/evac, Pfc Bader n/evac. 4 EM SWA evac Cpl
Addis, S/Sgt Mosca, Cpl Osso, T/5 Dujalski. "B" Co 2nd plat at
Stiring-Wendel, heavy arty, LWA n/evac Lt Eck. "C" Co At Forbach,
destroyed 10 MG nests, 4 bazookas. 1 tank knocked out by arty and one by
mines. EM evac Fairchild.
See this URL for more detail about "A" company with the 63rd Infantry Division http://www.63rdinfdiv.com/pictorialhistorypage7.html
There is a reference to the position of "A" Company on the map at the bottom of the page on this URL.
4 Mar: "B" Co Stiring-Wendel, very hvy arty. Took 11 pillboxes, 6 MGs, 41 PWs. EM Sgt Whistler LWA evac. "C" Co Forbach, 5 EM LWA n/evac Pfc Davis, T/4 Galbreath, Pfc Carlo, Cpl T J Cook, Sgt Harting.
5 Mar: Stiring-Wendel - ey arty 1000 rds. 75 rds Forbach. House to house fighting. 900 PWs (Russian, French, Polish, Greek, Serb, Croat, Italian) held by ey in Stiring-Wendel.
6 Mar: Mortar fire Forbach 1400 rds. House to house fighting Stiring-Wendel.
7 Mar: Ey arty 1053 rds. "B" Co Stiring-Wendel. Plt ldr dismounted tank, killed by shrapnel (S/Sgt Bush).
8 - 19 Mar: 749th released from 70th Division, moved 40 miles SE to Hilbeshieim/Hellering (vic Saverne). In Div Res until movement 19 Mar to vic Bitche. "A" Co Liederschiedt, "B" Camp de Bitche, "C" Enchenberg, "D" St Louis. Previous rpts 3 Mar of MIA now reported KIA: T/5 Faust, E E Cox, Sgt Price, Cpl Race, Sgt Bishop, Cpl Nahoney, T/5 Webber, Pfc Smith, Pfc Loia. McFadden LWA vic Forbach.
20 Mar - 9 May: 71st Div 5th Inf with "A" Co patrolled E and NE of Roppevilier and Walshbronn. Relieved by 14th Inf. attchd "B" Co., holding Bitche and Camp de Bitche. Ey continued arty and mortar fire from Seigfried Line. 749th crosses Seigfried Line and Rhine River and moves NE toward Berlin with light and scattered resistance. Attached to 65th and 76th Infantry Divisions.
24 March: 5th Infantry Regiment (of the 71st Infantry Division), attached to Co. "A", 749th Tank Battalion, to move at once to Weingarten and to atk without delay along the axis Weingarten-Westheim-Germersheim. Atk launched at 240500 in conjunction with CCR of 12th Armor Division from direction of Speyer. At 241030 rpts received that both bridges at Germersheim were blown. Atk was halted until further orders. ...... receipt of info that 12th armd div had secured the town. "D" Co 2nd and 3rd pltns left Altdorf 0645A arriving Schwegenheim, joining 5th Regt, 71st Inf Div. Tanks and inf pushed forward to Lingenfeld. Two platoons remained in Lingenfeld, 3rd pltn adv Westheim at 0930A. "A" Co and 1 pltn "D" Co jumped off from Westheim to atk SE approix 1130A .....Inf pinned down by air bursts, and as tanks came to within 50 yds of the woods, 3 88mm AT guns opened fire, completely destroyin 1 M24 light tank of "D" Co at 1200A. 2 men LWA, Sgt Gough, dislocated shoulder and Lt Hayden, bloody nose from concussion. 1 EM, Wilkens, MIA.Pfc Petrillo distinguished himself bt going to aid of wounded infantry ynder heavy SA fire, sniper, and AW fire. Recommended for Silver Star.
25 March: Enemy front lines - none. No enemy activity. Civilians out of food for several days. 749th locations: "A" at Geinsheim, "B" at Dutweiler, "C" at KirrWeiler, "D" Geinsheim. Battalion remained in Corp reserve.Open instruction #50, Headquarters XII Corps, attached 749th to 42nd Infantry Division.
26 March: One enemy solder killed at 0515A while attempting to infiltrate Division CP. Germany troops had been instructed to bury their weapons if capture was imminent. A few enemy were found hiding in the woods. Battalion remained in Corps reserve.
27 March: No enemy activity reported. German officer reported that American plan to break the West Wall (made before the invasion) had fallen into German hands in August 1944. German officers also said that German invasion plans included signs marked A-Z posted around West Wall pill boxes and roads so that supporting artillery could effectively fire at invasion troops. Previous practice gave the artillery accurate firing parameters.
Pirmasens, Vinningen, Walschbronn, Sarnstall
Altdorf - 23 Mar "B" Co 2nd plat meets rifle fire. T/4 Kurz Pfc Wood LWA n/evac.
Westheim - 25 Mar: 3 88mm's open fire destroying 1 tank. LWA Sgt Gough, Lt Hayden
Hochneim, Maintz, Hersfeld, Sontra, Creuzberg, Kellerforst, Mulhausen, Lancensalza, Volkerode
Gebesee - 10 Apr: "A" Co knocked out 10 Mgs, 2 bazookas, 2 Mark IV's, 500 Pws. "C" Lt McProuty LWA Lexeben 7 Mgs, 1 bazooka, 50 PWs
Nerlsdof, Apolda, Schkolen, Kretzachau, Zeitz, Buscha, Altenburg, Frankenau, Monsdorf, Hartmannsdorf
16 Apr: Lt Leighton promoted to Captain. 2nd Lts Bobbett and Rosencrantz promoted to 1st Lt.
Schonborn - 19 Apr: 1 med tk was knocked out from bazooka on gun tube. 3 men evac, LWA Carver and O'Brien.
Wensdorf, Hohenstein, Limbach
Editor: After the battle for Rohrbach, a real battle occurred about 8 miles east at Petit Rederching. East of that, the 749th continued to have a real battle on their hands trying to get to Bitche and Simserhoff Fort on the Maginot line. The daily log reports many groups of enemy tanks popping up all over the place. After Simserhoff Fort finally began to fall, you guys were told to fall back to Sarrequemines in reaction to the onset of the Battle of the Bulge.
Tribbey: The Germans drove us out of Rohrbach three times and they drove us out of Bitche three times. We called it "bitch". We were with the 100th Division then. I've got a card in my wallet. I sent in a dollar after the war and the 100th sent me a card saying I was a valid "son of Bitche". I tell you the Germans were playing industrial strength war up there. Rohrbach was terrible. At Bitche one time our side brought in some old World War I guns - Big Bertha's - to fire at the Germans on the high ground at Bitche.
CAMP DE BITCHE
We were leaving Bitche one night - retreating - and I was on the back of a tank as we gassed up and returned to Rohrbach. A soldier from the 100th came running by. He said "Hey, you from Dayton?" I said yes. "West Side". Yes. He told me his name. so-and-so Harris. I told him I didn't know any Harris by that name, but I did know a Bud Harris. He said "That's me, damn it!" He didn't have a gun with him; they were just hauling their....buns out of there.
As an aside, throughout the war I ran into seven different people I knew in seven different divisions.
After Bitche we - B Company - went to Sarrequemines during the Battle of the Bulge.
Troutman: We had taken part of a town and the Germans had the remaining part. We found a house to stay in. We always slept in a house if we could find one. We were upstairs. Later we discovered 3-4 Germans were downstairs; Frankie Cafero went down there to look for some potatoes. We threatened to throw grenades down there, and they gave up and came out. I think they were hiding there because they didn't want to fight anymore.
Whenever we entered a town, you wouldn't see a soul. As soon as we'd chase the Germans out, the French women would come out and offer us wine and loaves of bread. We'd chase the Germans to the edge of town, stop and drink some of the wine, and give the Germans a head start towards the next town.
We didn't get to see much of the Maginot Line or the Sigfried Line because
the engineers had pretty much leveled them so we could get through easily.
J. Jones: When we had come back for gas and ammo one afternoon, I was crossing the area when Captain Conway ("A" Company) pulled up alongside in a jeep. He said: "Jones, can you take Fort Simserhoff?" I answered that I didn't know, I had not seen it. He stepped out of the jeep and said to go have a look.
By the time I got there the light was getting dim. I could see the fort but not the hole from which a big gun was defending the fort. An infantryman gave me the location of the porthole. Sizing up the situation, I asked for a dozer, a field phone, sandbags, and my tank.
It was dark, but the dozer operator was able to push out a suitable hole for my tank. Sgt Cecil Dilworth was my tank commander. He and the crew arrived shortly. We placed the tank and began sandbagging. I was prepared to spend the night with my assistant gunner. But when I told the rest of the crew to go back and sleep, Sgt. Dilworth said, "You can't send me back." He then proceeded to send my assistant and the other two back. Sgt. Dilworth sat all night in the loader's seat. We talked very little and dozed and waited. Morning came. The side of the fort was in shadows. I kept my gun on the location where I had been told the hole was, and watched for a muzzle blast. None came, and we waited.
Finally, the radio crackled on and a lieutenant colonel identified himself as being from a tank destroyer battalion. I had never met him, but he turned out to be an excellent fire director. I picked up the phone and told him I could not see my target. He told me he could see it. I asked if he would direct my fire. He said he would and I told him to stand by. Sgt. Dilworth had a high explosive in the gun and I let it go. It came back at me and the colonel gave me corrections. As fast as I could fire, Sgt. Dilworth reloaded. On occasion the gun would shake off target, and corrections were immediately given.
After about 50 rounds, the colonel asked the status of my ammo supply. I told him I still had more. To my surprise, he said, "Your friends are waiting to go in." I told him to let me clear my gun and he could have it. Sgt. Dilworth and I opened out hatches and stood up. There was a line of infantry on both sides of the tank. They marched off and went around both sides of the fort and disappeared. After a short wait, the colonel announced that Fort Simserhoff was secure.
Sgt. Dilworth and I got our bedrolls and mess kits and boarded the jeep that Capt. Conway had sent for us. We had been up for a day and a night, so after chow we were unaware of the day's activities.
McFadden: There was one time Rosencrantz asked me to go forward with a few infantrymen to try to find a wounded German in the woods who was crying for help. He sent me because I could speak some German. So I went forward with four infantrymen - two on either side - and all of a sudden I noticed that they were 20 feet behind me. I got them to rejoin me, and then they wanted me to try and find out how many German tanks there might be out in front of me. I asked the German and he said they had all left. I started back towards my tank and then I heard about 4 shots. Our guys had killed him.
Tribbey: Near Saarbrucken the Germans were on the high ground in a coke factory with artillery. We laid down an artillery barrage with 54 different units of artillery and tanks for about 15-20 minutes. It didn't stop them and they came right back at us with their "screaming meemies". Those things would get to you. They were mostly concussion. Some of us were two floors below ground in a building when the Germans hit with about 100 "screaming meemies" . You could feel the building shake from two stories underground. They basically leveled buildings with concussion. Makes you pray a lot. The 12th Armored Division eventually came in to help us.
Troutman: At Sarreguemines we took over the positions which the German artillery had been in. They had made dugouts there. We pulled into those dugouts and sat there for several weeks. We were looking out over a river - I forgot which river, there's another river between the Moselle and the Rhine, maybe the Rohr (Editor: the Sarre River). The expectation was that the Germans would counterattack in that area. The area between the river and where we were was uphill, and heavily mined by the Germans who were there before us. You could look out over the river into Germany about a mile away and see the tank divisions. But they pulled out and headed toward Belgium. Lucky for us.
When we crossed the Rhine River, at Mannheim I believe, there was a champagne factory there. We got a couple of cases of champagne. I don't think any of us remembered when we'd crossed the Rhine River. But we got across somehow.
In one of the little German towns we stopped for the night and looked for a house to sleep in. Every house window had a little white flag in it. We found an older couple, very nice. They talked about their son being drafted into the German Army. They took us upstairs to a bedroom and gave us blankets. The next morning she had baked us a blackberry cobbler. Didn't have any sugar in it. We went out to the tank and found what sugar we had and gave it to them. They hadn't had sugar for some years. They were simply overjoyed at getting the sugar.
McFadden: When we were heading toward Saarbrucken after the Battle of the Bulge had begun, there was a town named Forbach. Harold Bush was my platoon leader, a sergeant. He was in the first tank. I was in the fourth tank as the platoon sergeant. He called me on the radio and asked me to dismount from my tank and come up to his. He wanted to go across a field where he could see some American tanks. But they weren't supposed to be in our combat area. We started across the field and the mortars began to come in very heavy. We were both very slightly wounded but we did manage to get across the field to the other tanks. He opened the radio box on the back of the tank and talked to the tank commander in the tank. I forget what armored division they were in but they realized they were someplace they weren't supposed to be.
We started back across the field and the mortar fire came in even more heavily. We were both hit, but he was hit really bad. I dragged him across the field to our tanks, and there he died in my arms (7 March).
Myers: After I left the field hospital I came back to the unit. They wanted to send me to a general hospital, but I wouldn't go. A little while later, we were on outpost duty or something, watching the 4th Armored Division pass by. I got so cold then, and then I got sick. Sinuses. January or February of 1945. Then I got assigned to the 19th Depot Repo in Paris. I was reassigned to a training battalion in Fontembleau. I was in charge of tank infantry tactics. The first big group I had - called the Paris Rail Battalion - had gotten court-martialed for black market activities. The court ruled that those who volunteered to the front wouldn't have to serve their sentences. Some of the high officers took the jail time instead of going to the front. The ones who agreed to go to the front were sent to our training battalion. After training they were sent to Marseilles to head to the front, but the war ended. They got off scot-free.
Breakbill: One night a Colonel of one of the infantry groups asked if a couple of our tanks could guard a hill; he had a bunch of new recruits from the States. He said that if we heard any firing during the night to lob a few shells out toward the Germans so that his troops would feel more secure. Well, there was a crossroads near the bottom of the hill, and we could hear German tanks moving around down there. When we heard some machine-gun fire down there, I told John Battigaglia - my gunner - to heave a shell out there. When the gun fired, the recoil mechanism broke and the gun went to the rear of the turret and smashed the radio.
In that same incident, we had several tanks that had been blown all to hell. This infantry colonel was green as hell and so were all of his officers. The Colonel sent a message to me that he wanted me to take some tanks out there. I told him there was nothing going on out there but a machine-gun and I wasn't going to take tanks out there. They dragged me out to the command post and the Colonel insisted that we go out there. I told him this is what we'll do. You and I will go out there on foot, and if we find anything that I can do to help those boys, I'll do it. All we saw was a sniper that had one of the Colonel's men pinned down and the medics couldn't get to him. That was all there was to that. Initially I thought I might get a court-martial.
In another incident, we were sitting on a hillside and the Germans were pouring on a lot of artillery and mortar fire. The infantry that was assigned to us were all young recruits. Some of them were dug in behind my tank. A piece of shrapnel hit one of the kids right near the toe and split his foot right up to the ankle. I heard him screaming behind the tank. I got out and went back there. He was in shock - screaming and shaking. I sat down next to him and talked to him. I grabbed one of his hands - I don't know why - and he quieted down almost immediately. I'll never forget it. He started talking about how beautiful a day it was. I eased my hand out of his, and he went right back to shivering and yelling. So I sat there with him until the medics came to get him. I've often wondered what happened to that kid.
I was a Platoon Sgt by that time, so that was later on in the war.
When we crossed the Rhine, there was a big liquor warehouse right on the west bank of the river. My driver Swandance got drunker than a coot; so did everybody else in my tank. I had over 100 bottles of booze in my tank. When we crossed over the pontoon bridge that night - I had to drive because everybody else was liquored up - one of the anchors broke. The river was raging like the Mississippi. Only three of the tanks got over that night; I was the third one. Scary as hell being in German territory until they got that bridge fixed.
After the war was over, our time to go home was based on merit points. I lacked one point of being with the first bunch to go home. They put me into a trucking outfit. When the First Sgt left, they put me in charge. Me and a few friends used those trucks quite often to take little trips here, there, and everywhere.
Szarowich: I was also in Sgt Merritt's tank for a while, during the Battle of the Bulge. We were stationed on one side of some railroad tracks and the Germans were on the other side. We had just gone up front to relieve some other tanks that had been there earlier. When we got there we had to radio our position to our liaison with the infantry. A few minutes later we hear artillery coming in. So we moved. We radioed in our position again, and in a few minutes artillery was coming in again. The Germans must have known our call signs and had copies of our maps. The same thing happened a few more times that day. Finally we moved and went to headquarters to let our liaison know where we were instead of using the radio.
By the way, that was the last time I ever saw Sgt Merritt during the war. He left to go to headquarters and never came back. At one of our reunions he told me that his tank crew had left without him during the night. I don't know why he said that; hell, we wouldn't leave the platoon commander behind.
Editor: Why didn't he come back?
Szarowich: I don't know. I'm guessing battle fatigue. But that's just a
guess. I really don't know. But I know we didn't leave him behind at night.