Defense of the Saare Front
The following extract comes from the Seventh US Army Report of Operations, France and Germany, pp 661 - 665. Reprinted by the Battery Press, 1988.

Defense on the Sarre Front

Holding the west flank, southwest of Saarbruecken, was the 106th Cavalry Group. On 11 February these troops were relieved in their defensive positions by the newly-arrived 101st Cavalry Group. To the right of the cavalry and south of Saarbruecken was the 70th Infantry Division. The infantry units of the division, the 274th, 275th, and 276th Regiments, which had been designated as Task Force Herren, had initially entered the Seventh Army line on the Rhine flank late in December, had been transferred by VI Corps to the Philippsbourg arm of the Bitche salient, where they had been relieved by the 103rd Division in mid  January, at which time they had come under the command of the XV Corps and saarpic1.jpg (29013 bytes)had entered the line on the Sarre front. With the arrival of Major General Allison J. Barnett (left) and his staff on 3 February, the task force was dissolved into the 70th Infantry Division; and the remaining component parts of the division closed in to their respective assembly areas within the next few days.

Adjoining the units of the 70th Division was the 63rd Infantry Division in the Sarreguemines area. The 253rd and 255th Infantry Regiments of the division had first occupied these positions while the third regiment of the division, the 254th Infantry, was being employed in the Colmar operations attached to the 3rd Infantry Division. These regiments which had made up Task Force Harris had been first employed by the Seventh Army on the Rhine Hank north of Strasbourg. On the last day of December two regiments had been transferred to XV Corps to strengthen the lines of the 44th and 100th Divisions on the corps right flank. The third regiment had been saarpic2.jpg (31582 bytes)attached to the 3rd Infantry Division on the Colmar front. On 1 February Task Force Harris was dissolved with its units reverting to the control of the 63rd Infantry Division, commanded by Major General Louis E. Hibbs. (left) On 6 February the division, which had received its artillery and supporting troops, assumed command of its portion of the line. The 44th Division held the sector in the Gros Rederching area, east of the 63rd Division; and on its right was the 100th Division, covering the east flank of the corps in the area west and southwest of Bitche.  

A counter-reconnaissance screen was constantly maintained in the corps sector, east and west of the Sarre River and south of the Maginot Line, by armored elements of the corps. In the latter half of January and early February this protection was furnished by units of the 10th Armored Division following their arrival from the Third Army. As a part of the general reshuffling of forces on the western front to meet German offensive thrusts the 10th Armored Division, saarpic3.jpg (31292 bytes)commanded by Major General W. H. Morris, Jr., (left) had been assigned to Seventh Army to take the place of the 2nd French Armored Division, which was to be passed to the control of the First French Army for Colmar Pocket operations. On 10 February the 12th Armored Division, its work in the Colmar area completed, relieved the 10th Armored in the XV Corps sector and continued the mission of counter-reconnaissance. The 10th Armored Division moved out to Metz for return to Third Army control.

In the defensive lull that followed the failure of the German New Year's offensive all these units on the XV Corps front pursued a comparatively uneventful, triple-phased program of improvement of defenses, training, and periodic raids. Into the corps area on 23 January and out again on 28 January the 35th Infantry Division, less one regimental combat team, had been shifted by SHAEF orders; this division had come from Third Army's XX Corps and had remained with Seventh Army for six days only. Unaffected by these movements of troops on high level decision, front line units of XV Corps strengthened their positions by the installation of tactical and protective wire, mines, and overhead cover for foxholes and emplacements. In January, when the thermometer sometimes dropped as low as 1 degree Fahrenheit, the frozen ground made digging of emplacements particularly difficult; and the 44th Division found it necessary to use explosives to break the ground. In that same divisional sector it was found advisable to use concertina wire almost exclusively for wiring-in the front line positions because of the difficulty of driving pickets into the frozen ground. The battles of the early part of the month, and the incidence of trench foot due to severe weather, had reduced some rifle companies to a strength of 50 to 60 men on the line, making it necessary in some instances to send overhead personnel into the lines as riflemen. In the 114th Infantry of the 44th Division it was necessary to commit the antitank company to hold a portion of the line.

There was an influx of reinforcements at this time, and all units conducted intensive programs of training and battle indoctrination for these new men. Even veteran troops in rear areas found it expedient to do range firing and re-zero their weapons. The 70th Division handled their 2,000 reinforcements in typical fashion. Since most of these men had had but a minimum of infantry experience when they arrived, it was urgent that they receive more training than they would ordinarily gain by merely being assigned to the line and working there with experienced men. A rigorous four-day schedule, therefore, was instituted, which included basic weapons, map reading and use of compass, minor tactics, and field work. To insure teamwork in battle, operating procedures for squads and platoons in combat situations were emphasized.

In accordance with the policy of retaining the initiative during this calm the constant patrolling that was carried on by all units was frequently featured by well-planned raids, sometimes of company strength. These raids were most often sharp, nocturnal thrusts into the enemy-held towns across the line. In the 70th Division raids that were made on Oeting, Lixing, Grosbliederstroff , and Brandenbusch Woods the mission was constant and concise to capture prisoners and kill as many of the enemy as possible.

Immediately to the right of XV Corps in the Low Vosges Mountains south of (below: MG Harry J. Collins) Bitche the same conditions of defending, raiding, and intensive training prevailed. This sector was the west flank of VI Corps; but while the energies of most VI Corps units were being expended in the task of reducing the German bridgehead north of Strasbourg, its groups in the Bitche area had the identical mission held by XV Corps defensive line. Until 16 February the 45th Infantry Division maintained this portion of the VI Corps front. On that day the 45th saarpic4.jpg (46675 bytes)Division was relieved by the 42nd Infantry Division, whose infantry regiments, the 222nd, 232nd and 242nd had initially joined Seventh Army as Task or Force Linden for Rhine flank defense. After having absorbed the initial blows of the German Gambsheim bridgehead and after having fought against enemy thrusts in the Hatten-Rittershoffen sector under the command of the 79th Division, these units had been withdrawn from the line by the Seventh Army. An army directive issued on 6 February ordered a comprehensive training program for the 42nd Division, which was to remain in army reserve, according to plan, until about 16 February. At that time the 42nd Infantry Division, under the command of Major General Harry J. Collins and reunited with its non-infantry components, entered the VI Corps line as the 45th Division reverted to army reserve. The 42nd Division continued the defense of the Bitche sector into March.

The period of static defense, the time of holding to positions, emerging from them occasionally to strike violently and fleetingly in a sudden raid, and then returning to the original line, lasted little more than a month. Mid-February came, and the XV Corps was ready to attack once more.

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