The Capture of Saarbrucken
The following section is from the US Seventh Army Report of Operations, Battery Press, 1988, pp 715 - 718.

The Capture of Saarbruecken

At the opening of the 15 March offensive XXI Corps on the left flank of the Seventh Army had been poised for an assault on the Saarland. Its specific mission was to capture Saarbrueeken, Neunkirchen, and St. Wendel, then to advance northeast to the Rhine. The 70th Division had been given the objective Saarbrueeken, industrial heart of the Saar region, while the 63rd Division to its right was to penetrate the Siegfried Line.

At 0100 hours on 15 March the assault began. The 63rd Division jumped off to uncover the Siegfried defenses, while the 12th Armored Division was alerted to pour through any opening and exploit to the north and northeast. On the corps left flank the 70th Division and the 101st Cavalry Group were to hold the enemy in place, patrol across the Sarre River, and cross if possible. The rapid advance of the 63rd Division, when it came after three days of pounding the line, necessitated the use of the cavalry group as flank protection; and the 70th Division took over its sector. The Third Army, meanwhile, was making great progress in its push east. On 17 March the 12th Armored Division was detached from the XXI Corps and was attached to the XX Corps of the Third Army. Two days later Combat Command A of the 6th Armored Division was attached to the 63rd Division to take over the armored mission.

The 70th Division was situated south of Saarbruecken and engaged in preparatory action at the opening of the offensive. German counter attacks delayed the planned assault. At 1510 hours on 15 March five battalions of American artillery began firing a 20 minute preparation. The fire was lifted for ten minutes and another 20 minute preparation was fired. Smoke signals shifted the fire 600 yards to the north and another 20 minute preparation was fired. The lst Battalion of the 274th Infantry, supported by two platoons of tanks and a platoon of tank destroyers, started an advance at 1610 hours towards fortifications in the area south of Saarbruecken. The terrain offered little cover and concealment. All approaches were covered by interlocking bands of fire from enemy pillboxes and bunkers. After several hundred yards were won, the advance was halted.

For the next few days there was vigorous patrolling of the southern bank of the Sarre. Division artillery and tank destroyers fired hundreds of missions and expended 5,000 rounds neutralizing enemy gun batteries. Bunkers and pillboxes were subjected to intense high-explosive armor-piercing shell fire. On 18 March word was received from XXI Corps Headquarters that Third Army had penetrated far into the rear of the Saar region and was at St. Wendel. The division was put on the alert for an enemy withdrawal.

The 70th Division was instructed that on 19 March it was to attack and establish a bridgehead over the Sarre River and to be prepared to exploit to the north or to reduce Saarbruecken. For the crossing of the Sarre River all available fire power was brought to bear on the enemy. The 433rd Anti-Aircraft Battalion had 40mm anti-aircraft guns and M51 anti-aircraft machine guns used as ground support weapons which helped to neutralize pillboxes. All visible pillboxes were engaged and buttoned up. The assault met with immediate enemy resistance. Machine guns were fired from the apertures in the pillboxes, and enemy mortars and artillery covered the approaches. However, aerial observers reported that enemy troops and civilians were withdrawing. Large motor convoys moving eastward were observed deep in the Saar region. Bridges were being demolished. At 2230 hours on 19 March a patrol from the 276th Infantry crossed the Sarre River without opposition in the vicinity of Hostenbach on the extreme army west flank. There were extensive minefields on the opposite bank, and an anti-mine platoon was sent to clear a path. Pillboxes were found empty. At noon on 20 March the 276th Infantry began an advance upon Saarbruecken, the 2nd Battalion moving through St. Arnual, while the Ist and 3rd Battalions moved along the main Forbach-Saarbruecken highway into the city. By 1800 hours the 275th Infantry had established itself on the south bank of the Sarre River and in Saarbruecken. No opposition other than ground obstacles was encountered. The city fell without the loss of one American soldier. East of Saarbruecken, in the meantime, the 63rd Infantry Division had on D-Day secured advantageous positions for the assault on the Siegfried Line. In the attack which began at 0100 hours on 15 March the 253rd Infantry had seized Pechingen, the 254th Infantry had taken Eschringen and Ensheim. The advance had been made against enemy artillery and mortar fire and anti-personnel mines. The division plan now was to uncover the main Siegfried defenses, to drive for Hassel, and to turn to the left to assist the 70th Division if help was needed in the capture of Saarbruecken. During the next two days, 16 and 17 March, the division maintained pressure against the Siegfried Line in its zone and withstood heavy counterattacks by tank-supported enemy infantry, while final preparations were made by division engineer troops to blow apart enemy fortifications. By this time XXI Corps was in the process of completing its mission in the Seventh Army March offensive.

siegfried_line.jpg (38730 bytes)

SIEGFRIED LINE NORTH OF ENSHEIM IN THE TOWN OF HECKENDAHLHEIM

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