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[79th Infantry Division Patch]   The Cross of Lorraine Division: The Story of the 79th
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[The Cross of Lorraine Division: The Story of the 79th Infantry Division]
"The Cross of Lorraine Division: The Story of the 79th" is a small booklet covering the history of the 79th Infantry Division. This booklet is one of the series of G.I. Stories published by the Stars & Stripes in Paris in 1944-1945.

This is one of a series of G.I. Stories of the Ground. Air and Service Forces in the European Theater of Operations, to be issued by the Stars and Stripes, a publication of the Information and Education Division, Special and Information Services, ETOUSA... Major General I.T. Wyche, commanding the 79th Infantry Division, lent his cooperation to the preparation of the pamphlet, and basic material was supplied to the editors by his staff.

HE story of the 79th Division is fact, not fiction. The accomplishments set forth here are sufficient evidence that the individuals of the division realized and accepted their several responsibilities. To our dear comrades who gave their all to bring about these great deeds let us do homage by renewing with even greater vigor our determination to close with the enemy and exterminate him.

I.T. Wyche
Major General, Commanding

The Story Of The 79th Infantry Division

N Oct. 25, 1944, the G-2 report of the Nazi 361st Volksgrenadier Div. addressed the following warning note to its subordinate units:

The 79th Division is said to have fought particularly well in Normandy, and is considered as one of the best attack divisions in the U.S. Army.

That grudging compliment could not have been more timely. As of Oct. 25 the 79th Inf. Div. was well past its 125th day of consecutive combat in France. Behind it was a record replete with records in itself, certified for permanent military annals by the unanimous praise of the various headquarters under which the division has operated.

This was the division of two outstanding "firsts:" first to enter Cherbourg, via Fort du Roule, enemy-styled "impregnable" fortress guarding approaches to this strategic port city; first across the Seine in the Allied drive on Paris. This was the division that swept through France like an avenging flame, from the Atlantic to the Seine, from the Belgian border to the Vosges foothills.

This was the division with a combat itinerary like a railroad time table: Cherbourg, La Haye du Puits, Lessay, Fougeres, Laval, Le Mans, La Mele sur Sarthe, Avranches, Nogent le Roi, Mantes-Gassicourt, St. Amand, Howardries, Reims, Joinville, Neufchateau, Charmes, Luneville and way stations.

This was the division that by sheer guts and a fighting devotion to duty had ousted a desperate foe from the hell that was Foret de Parroy.

This was the famed Fighting 79th—the Cross of Lorraine Division—back at the task it had thought completed 26 years ago.

HE division's advance party reached France on D plus 6 and two days later its combat and service units were landed at Utah Beach, where spasmodic enemy shelling and bombing dispelled the last, lingering doubt that the current action was anything more than another dry run. It was here that T/5 Harry Rybiski, of Hq. Co., 315th Inf. Regt., was struck a glancing blow by a stray shell fragment, and thus became the first 79th man to receive a Purple Heart in World War II.

For the second time the Cross of Lorraine Division was on French soil—but there the comparison stopped. These soldiers had behind them a wealth of pre-combat experience, plus the last word in equipment. Some had been with the division since its activation at Camp Pickett, Va., on June 15, 1942. They had undergone the toughening of Tennessee maneuvers, a three-month hitch in the grueling California-Arizona Maneuver Area and a winter's training at wind-swept Camp Phillips, Kan. They had arrived in England well before D-Day. Mentally and physically they were fit for combat in all possible ways.

Cross of Lorraine at Montfaucon

URSUANT to instructions contained in General Orders 95 and 101, War Department, dated July 18 and Aug. 3, 1917, there was organized and activated at Camp Meade, Md., the 79th Inf. Div. The men who filled its ranks were largely easterners—from Pennsylvania, Maryland, District of Columbia, West Virginia, New York and Rhode Island. Training, such as it was, reflected the urgency of the Allied situation. Six weeks' basic training was the rule, although a few fortunate exceptions could boast of as much as 18 weeks. A cadreman of the original 79th recalled, with pardonable bitterness, that "back in 1917 all we had to work with was a rifle and a bayonet and a few hand grenades—and, if we were lucky, an occasional machine gun or two."

On Sept. 2, 1918, Gen. Pershing called a conference of the Allied High Command at Marshal Foch's headquarters. Its mood was decidedly pessimistic. For four bitter, bloody years the hard-pressed Allies had attacked again and again, only to fall back with disheartening regularity. Each time they retired to ready a fresh assault, the German line was strengthened, and the foe's defense-in-depth strategy assumed fresh vigor. After the conference, Gen. Pershing admitted that "no one present expressed the opinion that the final victory could be won in 1918. In fact, it was believed by the French High Command that the Meuse-Argonne attack could not be pushed much beyond Montfaucon before the arrival of winter would force a cessation."

Montfaucon—the falcon's mountain! The very name bespoke towering peaks and inaccessible heights. From its formidable summit the enemy controlled the entire Meuse-Argonne sector, strategically the most important on the Western Front. There had been no major action in this sector since the German assaults on Verdun in 1916 and the French counterattacks in 1917. The enemy had used the year of quiet to strengthen his already strong defenses. Preliminary Allied moves against the summit were stopped in their tracks. Then, in the chill, grey light of dawn Sept. 26, 1918, another unit—the untried 79th—moved into the jump-off spot.

Under the cover of thunderous artillery, men of the Cross of Lorraine moved from the deceptively shallow valley of the Meuse against the awesome height of Montfaucon. Inch by inch they slugged their way up the sheer face of the crest, battling with a fresh fury that the enemy had never known. For 30 terrible hours they pushed and fought and bled and died—and they captured Montfaucon.

The German tide from that hour was measured in defeats. Men of the 79th had turned that tide—had kept it turned. From Montfaucon they punched and slashed and hacked their way through fiercely contested German lines and strongpoints. They captured Nantillois. They stormed Borne du Cornouiller, the famous "Hill 378." On Nov. 9, they enveloped Danvillier, Crepion, Wavrille, Giberoy, Etraye and Moirey. On Nov. 10 they occupied Hills 328 and 329. On Nov. 11, under cover of dense fog, they were inching slowly but inexorably up the western slopes of the final German stronghold in the sector when the order came to cease firing. The armistice had been signed.

Division Commander Maj. Gen. Joseph E. Kuhn said simply that "they have done the impossible." And, indeed, they had. Short on training, long on fighting spirit, they had wrested overwhelming victory from the cream of the Kaiser's warriors. They had gouged a salient into the German lines deeper than at any point on the entire Western Front. They had broken a deadlock in the greatest human conflict the world had ever known.

This was the magnificent heritage of the men of the new 79th. This was the fighting spirit, steeped in bloody combat and immortal victory, inherent in the men who landed on Utah Beach on June 14, 1944.

The Campaigns in Normandy

"We took that rock pile step by step," said the Pfc, "and every step was a grunt."

ONTHS before D-Day, Allied tacticians realized that without the port of Cherbourg and the peninsula at its back, no invading force could hope to withstand the Nazi counterattacks that must certainly come. To VII Corps, First Army, was given the tremendous assignment of seizing the peninsula. For the task it had the 79th, 4th, 9th and 90th Inf. Divs., the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divs. Urgency of Corps' mission was further emphasized by extremely unfavorable weather. For several successive days, landing men and supplies on the rain and wind-swept beaches was almost impossible. Even on fair days, facilities at the beaches were taxed to capacity. The word was passed around from brass to buck private: "Cherbourg must be taken at all costs!"

The Allied front extended inland from Quineville: the 4th Div. on the right, striking up the coast toward Montebourg; the 90th on the 4th's left; the 9th, pointed across the peninsula, sending out feelers toward Barneville; the airborne units, driving as a team to the south and southwest. When the 9th pounded into Barneville, the first Allied line across the peninsula was established.

Then came the plans that committed the 79th to action. It would relieve the 90th and spearhead a three-pronged drive up the peninsula to Cherbourg.

North of the Barneville-Valognes gridline the peninsula is hilly, gradually increasing in height toward the coast. South of the line the country is flat with widespread marshes at the mouth of the several small streams criss-crossing the area. And then there are the hedgerows—those countless, centuries-old mounds of earth, stone and underbrush, bordering all cultivated fields, orchards and roads, and utilized with desperate ingenuity by the hard-pressed enemy. Augmenting these formidable natural defenses were scores of strongpoints, emplacements and concrete pillboxes. Each field was a miniature battlefield. Ask any doughfoot who helped carry the hod in Normandy what he thinks of hedgerow fighting. One thoughtful 79th GI described it as "decidedly un-American."

H-Hour for the division was 0500, June 19. Initial objective was the high ground west and northwest of Valognes. Once this was in American hands, the Valognes-Cherbourg highway and feeder roads would be closed to the enemy, severing his last overland supply. The 313th Inf. jumped off on schedule from Golleville-Biniville. The 315th followed shortly. The 314th remained in division reserve.

Contact as almost instantaneous. Observed one GI: "It's just like Tennessee maneuvers—only with live ammo." No one laughed. Division artillery backed up the regiment with heartening accuracy, and the 90th's 915th FA Bn. for a time loaned its fire to the initial kickoff. Enemy resistance, at first little more than spasmodic small arms fire and occasional artillery bursts, soon swelled into the fierce concentration that was to subside only with Cherbourg's capitulation.

Despite determined resistance 1st Bn., 313th, was on its objective at Bois de la Brique by 1400 and the remaining units soon followed suit. The 314th, at 1920, was moved from division reserve into the attack. Its objective, Croix Jacob, was reached at 0415 next day.

This was the division's first day of combat in World War II. It was good: a vicious enemy counterattack covering four hours had been repelled with heavy Kraut losses. All 79th units had reached their objectives, most of them ahead of schedule. Officers and men, side by side in combat, noted a new and lasting rebirth of mutual respect and confidence.

Next objective was the high ground south of Cherbourg. Using the Cherbourg-Valognes road as an axis, the 313th carried the brunt of this new attack from the division's right boundary. It was a slow and painful process. As regiments neared Cherbourg's outer ring of defenses, resistance became even more desperate. The 304th Engr. Bn. worked side by side with the foot troops, blasted through hedgerows, built roads under fire when the enemy's grip on the conventional routes could not be loosened.

During the night of June 21-22 repeated broadcasts urged Nazis in Cherbourg to surrender. The Allied ultimatum expired at noon on the 22nd, and at 1240 the Air Force unleashed a tremendous 80-minute aerial bombardment of German positions within the city's defense perimeter. On the morning of June 25 victory was tantalizingly near: patrols of the 313th penetrated the outskirts of Cherbourg to pick up valuable information. The 314th, under terrific pressure, was scaling Fort du Roule. The 315th, after widespread mopping up, had taken the strategic town of Hardinvast.

But Fort du Roule, as many doughfeet had predicted, was the kernel of this tough nut. Perched at the northwest end of a high ridge commanding the city, it had been sufficiently armed and supplied to enable a defending force to hold out indefinitely.

During the siege of the fort, T/Sgt. (then Cpl.) John D. Kelly, Co. E, 314th, won for the division its first DSC. His platoon was inching up the fortress face when it was pinned down by Kraut machine gun fire from a deeply entrenched strongpoint on the slope below the peak. The area was almost bare of natural cover. In a few moments casualties skyrocketed. The DSC citation takes up the story:

* * * Kelly volunteered to try to knock out the strongpoint. Arming himself with a pole charge about 10 feet long, with 15 pounds of TNT affixed, he climbed the slope under a withering blast of machine gun fire and placed the charge at the strongpoint's base. The subsequent blast was ineffective, and again, alone and unhesitatingly, he braved the slope to repeat the operation. This second blast blew off the ends of the enemy guns. Corporal Kelly then climbed the slope a third time to place a pole charge at the strongpoint's rear entrance. When this had been blown open he hurled hand grenades inside the position, forcing survivors of the enemy gun crews to come out and surrender.* * *

Sgt. Kelly and Brig. Gen. Frank U. Greer, assistant division commander, who, with Col. Warren G. Robinson, 314th Inf. CO, mounted the fort to drop TNT down a ventilator, were only three of the many officers and men who made outstanding heroism the order of the day at Fort du Roule.

Although the 2nd Bn., 314th, had previously captured one strongpoint and a motor pool, complete with enemy materiel, the first white flag did not appear on the fort until 1145, June 25. This, it developed, was the act of only one part of the fort—the others chose to fight on. The 1st Bn. supported the 2nd as fighting reached the toe-to-toe stage, and the 3rd Bn. finally was moved up from regimental reserve to neutralize scattered resistance. Fighting raged until 2148 when Generalleutnant von Schlieben, "der Deutsche Festungkommandant von Cherbourg," capitulated. Even then, there was some resistance. Von Schlieben, with typical Nazi callousness, stubbornly refused to issue a blanket "cease firing" order.

Meanwhile, the 313th was smashing through Cherbourg on a house-to-house basis. Sniper fire was persistent. Four heavy concrete pillboxes threatened the entire advance. A concentration of small arms, mortar and anti-tank fire from the 1st Bn. battered them into surrender. (Later that day these guns were manned by GIs, turned against Fort du Roule.) Well ahead of schedule, the regiment reached its beach objectives and started mopping up. Simultaneously, the 314th's 1st and 3rd Bns., having left the 2nd to hold Fort du Roule, advanced through another sector of the battle-torn city.

The 315th swept into Cherbourg from Hardinvast, mopped up a large area. Near the city, persuasive arguments of the 315th's polylingual CO, Col. Bernard B. McMahon, aired via a portable GI public address system, produced scores of prisoners.

Cherbourg surrendered June 26. More than 6000 prisoners were captured. Vast supplies of equipment and materiel were seized intact. First city of any size or importance liberated in France, its citizens were grateful. Snipers' bullets still ricocheting overhead, civilians packed the streets to welcome "les liberateurs." But the holiday was brief. On June 27 the 4th Inf. Div. moved into Cherbourg and the 79th turned south.

"You were the chaps at La Hay du Puits, weren't you?" the British liaison officer said. "We heard you had a piece of cake over there—and a bloody piece of cake it was!"

HE Allies held Cherbourg and the Carentan Peninsula's northern tip, but the campaign in Normandy was far from completed. The enemy held tenaciously to a line through Carentan and St. Lo, eastward to Caen on the Orne Estuary. Despite Allied air superiority, enemy supplies moved from the interior of France to this line via the roadnet south of La Haye du Puits, the 79th's next objective.

Enemy defense preparations for the small but vital city were, to quote a literary company commander, "the epitome of diabolical cunning." Northern (Allied) approaches to the city were heavily mined. Hedgerows bordering roads were honeycombed with automatic weapons and light artillery pieces, augmented by an occasional dug in tank. Snipers operated with maddening efficiency. The city proper bristled with concrete gun emplacements, pillboxes, tank traps, trenches and barbed wire entanglements. Beyond the city mortar and artillery lobbed HE and fragmentation over the heads of defenders into the path of attackers. The Wehrmacht had been ordered by Hitler to fight to the last man.

The 79th kicked off from the line it had been holding at the mouth of the Ollonde River. Sparked by artillery support, the regiments made immediate contact in the first of the enemy's seemingly endless hedgerow defenses. Many of these "suicide" units were bypassed in the initial rush, and by dark of the first day (July 3) the 315th with the 79th Recon. Trp. surged half-way to the initial objective.

Next day Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley visited the division CP near Les Fosses, kibitzed Div Arty's Fourth of July serenade on enemy positions. That afternoon the division's drive clicked with a rhythm that elicited warmest praise from both visitors.

Especially effective was the 314th. At 1810 the 79th was ordered to ease pressure on the 82nd A/B Div. on the left by occupying the end of an enemy-held ridge west of Hill 95. This mission was given to 3rd Bn. At 2100 the mission was completed.

Bucking a thunderous enemy artillery barrage, the 315th kicked off for "Bloody Hill" near Montgardon commanding La Haye du Puits. Comparable enemy artillery harassed a task force of 313th's Co. K and attached 749th Tank Bn.'s Co. A that had skirted enemy positions to take and hold several bridges nearby. On the sunken road that led from the north to La Haye du Puits, the 2nd Bn., 314th, moved slowly forward under even heavier artillery concentration.

Then Div Arty. unveiled what GI-witnesses hailed as "the prettiest damned precision artillery in this man's war." Lt. Col. James B. "Kannonball" Kraft's 312th FA Bn. "paced" Lt. Col. Olin E. "Tiger" Teague's 1st Bn., 314th, to the very rim of the city's defenses. A German artillery OP in the city's cathedral lingered too long. A 312th burst through the steeple, and 79th doughfeet entering the town hours later found the Heinie artillery observers still sprawled where they had fallen into the public square.

Co. K, 314th, made a reconnaissance in force into La Haye du Puits and gained control of the railway station. Those who followed it swore that "Off Limits" signs, the paint still wet, blossomed in the station hours before the last Kraut hollered "uncle!"

On July 8 elements of the 28th Inf. Regt., 8th Div., relieved the 314th's 2nd Bn. Third Bn. and the 28th attempted to push forward, but progress was slow. First Bn., meanwhile, supported by the 749th Tank and 813th TD Bns., began the final assault on La Haye du Puits. Five hours and 40 minutes later, Col. Teague reported the town taken. La Haye du Puits belonged to the 79th.

Mopping up "Bloody Hill" was the division's final chore in the La Haye sector. There, Maj. Gen. I.T. Wyche, division commander, graphically displayed the caliber of leadership the 79th has enjoyed since activation. On one of his daily visits to the front, he found a platoon pinned to the slope. There was little or no cover and an understandable degree of disorganization prevailed. Repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire, Gen. Wyche regrouped the men and led them a distance of two hedgerows to a position where they were enabled to knock out the strongpoint. At the peak of action he struggled in front of the battle line to help evacuate a wounded infantry scout.

"His only complaint was that he could not go back and kill more Germans."

HE enemy conceded La Haye du Puits, but it was a grudging concession. Highways south and east were infested with his mines. Last ditch combat units manned crossroads and villages. Then rain slowed the Allied advance, curtailed Allied air operations and afforded the enemy valuable time. Three times a 313th task force stormed the tiny village of Le Bot before the enemy withdrew. The regimental objective—the Hierville-Angoville area—fell only after friendly aircraft mistakenly bombed the towns.

So many resistance pockets were encountered that the attached 749th Tank and the 813th TD Bns. were constantly forward to support foot troops. This was the situation when the 79th received orders to defend the north bank of the Ay River. The remainder of VIII Corps would continue the attack against the river front.

South of the Ay the enemy took a break while his attackers moved gingerly through the liberally-sown minefields covering the far shore. While inclement weather grounded Allied air power, he rushed up badly needed men and supplies from Lessay and St. Lo. He blew the Ay's bridges. He dug in his 88's and mortars. He even launched series of minor counterattacks to test American strength beyond the river.

Pfc Frederick F. Richardson, Co. F, 315th, and his BAR wrecked two such enemy counterattacks, resulting in 20 prisoners and 40 enemy killed and wounded. Richardson's company was holding a line along the narrow river near a dynamited bridge. He set up his BAR in the window of a stone house about 200 yards from the bridge site. While the house rocked under direct mortar hits, Richardson stuck to his post from late afternoon of one day until early evening of the next.

Time after time the enemy crossed the wrecked bridge to storm the house. Each time the sharp chatter of the BAR took its toll. There were two interruptions. On the second afternoon the enemy was granted a three-hour truce to evacuate dead and wounded from the BAR's field of fire. Shortly after, one German officer and 19 enlisted men—survivors of a force that had tried to exterminate the one-man nuisance—broke out a white flag. Richardson left his window long enough to see his prisoners taken, then resumed his vigil. End of the story is contained in the battalion commander's report:

"After having his leg cut off completely by a mortar shell which burst just outside the window, Pfc Richardson amazed the medical officers who cared for him by his coolness and good condition. Fully conscious, his only complaint was that he could not go back and kill more Germans."

On July 26, VIII Corps unveiled "Operation ——." The 79th's plan of attack called for the 314th to follow the 28th across the river after the 8th Div. had secured the high ground southeast of Lessay. Driving with an intensity the enemy was powerless to withstand, Corps units smashed across the Ay, and the German rout in Normandy shifted into high gear.

Through France to Paris

"They're saying we won't see Paris after all," the buck corporal said, with a wry grin. "Now I know how Moses felt about the Promised Land."

HE 79th had slugged its way through Fougeres, Laval, Le Mans. It had bridged the Sarthe River in its swing north to help close the famous Falaise "pocket." Motorized, moving like an armored column, it was clicking along in the vanguard of the Allied thrust toward Versailles and Paris. Then headquarters beckoned with a change of orders: the 79th would seize the high ground south of the Seine and west of Paris through the industrial city of Mantes-Gassicourt. Paris, which many had thought the end of the line, became just another way station on the division's combat itinerary.

From the western heights commanding the Seine River valley, Mantes-Gassicourt looked like a dead city. The Air Force had battered this prime Nazi supply center relentlessly, leaving rubble smouldering in the late summer haze. Roads to and from the city were glutted with wrecked enemy supply vehicles. When the Air Forces stopped, artillery resumed.

The 79th Recon Trp. knifed in and out of the city. Combining its quest for information with on-the-spot, hit-and-run missions, it destroyed four enemy gasoline trucks. The enemy was moving from the city to make large scale defense preparations in the "natural loop" of the Seine, northeast of Mantes-Gassicourt.

On the morning of Aug. 19, a 314th task force pushed into the city, reported it clear. Meanwhile patrols of the 313th mopped up wooded areas and prodded the vicinity of Rolleboise, to the north. The dams bridging the Seine had been blown, but a catwalk across one still was passable for foot troops.

In pitch dark and driving rain, the 1st and 2nd Bns., 313th, began moving across the river supported by Cos. A and C, 304th Engr. Bn. with assault boats and rafts. By dawn, the entire regiment was dug in on the far shore of The Loop. Throughout the day, the engineer battalion worked tirelessly under sporadic enemy artillery and aerial fire to ferry across division vehicles. Corps engineers began installation of a 40-ton treadway bridge. But with the bridge came the Luftwaffe.

It was difficult to recognize this Luftwaffe as the same one that had contented itself before with an occasional bed-check. Rain and shine, high ceiling and low, it paid repeated (but unsuccessful) visits to the bridge site. Div Arty and attached ack-ack waxed fat. At first three enemy planes were shot down; then six; then eleven. At the nearby division PW cage glum-faced prisoners had a ringside seat for the one-sided engagements. One crippled ME-109 careened so low over the cage that the pilot's agonized face was clearly visible. The plane limped on for another mile, lost altitude steadily, crashed in flames. A Luftwaffe pilot who had walked away from his own crash that very morning turned a hopeful countenance to an interrogator. "That was a Schpitfire, wasn't it?" he asked prayerfully.

But neither the revived Luftwaffe nor the first Nebelwerfer fire the division had experienced since Cherbourg could stop the 79th. By day foot troops harried the desperate enemy. By day and night artillery thundered. In a one night firing session alone Div Arty and attached units threw a record 4600 rounds of 105mm. and 1048 rounds of 155mm. Several near-hysterical Huns walked into the division's lines next day begging for relief from "your terrible automatic artillery." These prisoners testified that German intelligence had identified the 79th as an airborne unit—landed by parachute and glider in The Loop!

For five thunderous days the enemy battered at the lone division holding The Loop. Each counterattack was spurned with staggering losses for the enemy. Lee McCardell, Sun Papers correspondent on the scene, described the division's position as "a stubby finger, sticking into enemy territory. * * * It was sort of a Bunker Hill proposition, as the (79th) soldiers described it afterwards. They had placed machine guns behind the walls in which they had made embrasures. Sitting at their gun positions, calmly smoking as they watched the desperate Germans advance, they held their fire until they could almost see the whites of their eyes." A news commentator in the States lauded the then unidentified 79th as "the burr under Germany's saddle."

Col. Sterling Wood, 313th CO, counted 39 enemy dead in an area not more than 50 yards square. "I've never seen anything like it in any other engagement in this war—and we've had some pretty stiff ones," he declared.

On Aug. 27 the enemy uncorked his Sunday punch—a full-dress counterattack featuring everything from small arms to flamethrowers. Infantry and artillery met the assault head-on, stopped it cold. Next day the 79th was on the final objective.

After customary mopping-up operations, the division passed to XIX Corps. Behind it, safely in Allied hands, was the Seine Loop, by far the most strategic bridgehead in ETO. The enemy's vaunted 18th GAF Division, pride of his Paris defenses, had been battered to bits. On the heights overlooking Mantes-Gassicourt moved burial squads, mute testimony to the awesome efficiency of Div Arty and attached artillery.

Beyond The Loop, Paris was free.

Lightning Smash into Belgium

"This is believed to be one of the fastest opposed advances of comparable distance by an infantry division in warfare."

ECENTLY added to the 79th's glorious annals was the following letter, written to Maj. Gen. I.T. Wyche, division commander, by Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett, commanding XIX Corps:

"On 28 August 1944, the 79th Infantry Division joined this Corps. At that time it had already established a bridgehead and was astride the Seine River. The Corps was ordered to advance and in 72 hours the division covered a total of 180 miles, crossing the Somme River and numerous smaller streams and closing in perfect order on its objectives in Belgium.

"During this period the Division fought numerous engagements, destroyed much enemy equipment and took many prisoners. This is believed to be one of the fastest opposed advances of comparable distance by an infantry division in warfare. It is desired to commend you, your officers and men on this splendid achievement. The Commanding General, First United States Army, Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges, concurs in the commendation."

Between the lines of that lasting tribute lies the 304th Engr. Bn.'s contribution to the lightning smash into Belgium. Bridges across the Somme and those "numerous smaller streams" had been wrecked by the retreating enemy. The battalion replaced those bridges—once with steel and timber collected and fashioned on the spot—and continued to keep pace with the regiments.

N Sept. 8 the German Nineteenth Army was in full flight before the relentless prodding of U.S. Seventh Army. But the enemy had planned his retreat with painstaking care. His route, north and northeast, aimed at the natural line formed by the Moselle River and the hilly, wooded terrain of that section. Anticipating a possible thrust from Third Army, he held grimly to towns flanking the main road from Chatillon-sur-Seine to Neufchateau, then east to Charmes and the river.

On the Belgian border, its chore completed, the 79th reverted to XV Corps to help smash the newly created defensive line. Tempo of this new division thrust was reminiscent of the drive into Belgium. Reims, Charmes, Epinal, Poussay, Joinville and St. Dizier were some of the more prominent names that flashed by in the regiments' swift advances. On one day the 79th advanced 50 miles, established a regimental combat team near Charmes. Next day it had a battalion east of the Moselle. Contact with the enemy was maintained without difficulty, but only on rare occasions did he pause to fight.

While the rest of the division struck at strongly organized German positions at Poussay and Ambacourt, the 315th was 30 miles to the west, besieging the enemy-held city of Neufchateau. Under Lt. Col. John H. McAleer the regimental combat team stormed the city with a fighting zest and buoyancy that made even battle-hardened GIs sit up and take notice. "What's on the other side of that town?" asked a wondering officer: "Brooklyn?"

With capitulation of Poussay, Ambacourt and Neufchateau, the enemy turned again toward the Rhine. His casualties in this campaign, not yet completely known, approached astronomical figures. Known definitely, however, was the fact that he was minus the famous 16th Div. According to XV Corps, the 79th had "played a principal part" in the "annihilation" of this veteran Nazi unit.

"Compared with this operation, Fort du Roule was a picnic."

HE enemy continued to retreat; his delaying actions became increasingly frequent; the intensity of his resistance reached new peaks. Each town, however small, was relinquished only after the most bitter fighting. At Chatenois, hard pressed by the 79th, the enemy turned his ack-ack on assaulting foot troops. At Rouvres-la-Chetive attached tank destroyers were called up to help force his reluctant withdrawal. At Xermamenil he threw 14 tanks of the 21st Panzer Div. and supporting infantry into the breech, only to fall back under the relentless hammering of the 313th. At the Mortagne River crossing he counter-attacked with two tanks and an infantry company, but the attached 773rd TD Bn. destroyed both tanks and 1st Bn., 314th, mopped up his infantry.

The enemy sensed that his last hope rested on the natural barriers of the outer defense perimeter of Germany proper. At his back were the Meurthe River, the Foret de Parroy, the Vosges foothills and the Rhine. These were to be the sites of his last-ditch stand.

"We climbed Fort du Roule, and we crossed the Meurthe River," said Lt. Col. Ernest R. Purvis, CO, 3rd Bn., 314th. "If we had to do one of the two over, we'd take Fort du Roule every time. Compared with this operation, Fort du Roule was a picnic."

The 3rd Bn. made contact with the enemy's Meurthe River line at Frambois where a German force larger than a battalion held the river proper and a comparable force was in "active reserve" in a wooded strip just beyond the river valley. Emplaced machine guns and dug-in tanks bracketed the river's breast-deep fords and blown bridge sites with a murderous fire. Battalion non-coms even now refer to the Frambois action as "Little D-Day." When the smoke of battle lifted two days later, the Meurthe River line was no more; in the wooded strip beyond, the 3rd Bn. was mopping up.

The 79th stormed into the city of Luneville, and the enemy turned again—this time to familiar haunts. In World War I he had found a haven in the Forest of Parroy; here in World War II he elected to make another stand. Third Army chose a line extending from Donnelay to Baccarat as one of several American objectives to stymie the enemy's withdrawal, but to XV Corps went the task of clearing Foret de Parroy. Again Corps beckoned the 79th, and again it spearheaded the attack.

The 79th Recon. Trp. and 106th Cavalry Gp. unleashed the first of dozens of audacious swoops into the forest proper—a clutter of centuries-old trees and clotted underbrush. The recon troop's initial patrol struck east from Sionviller and penetrated the woods about one kilometer. It pinpointed a road block, mine fields, and came away under heavy enemy fire. Patrols from the 313th and 314th spotted additional enemy positions between the Vezouse River and the forest. More than 30 enemy artillery positions, checked by sound and flash OPs, were immediately counterbatteried by 79th and Corps Artillery. On all sides were evidences of dug-in enemy defenses, some dating back to the last war.

Regiments started on schedule what was to prove a tedious and bloody task. Fighting was house to house in Le Mans and Neufchateau—in Parroy, it was tree to tree.

The enemy was dug in. Occasionally he ventured out. On Sept. 29 the 315th and Co. C, 773rd Tank Bn. in support, were mopping up the eastern edge of the forest when the tank outfit spotted an enemy column coming from the town of Bauzemont. Three Mark IV tanks and three trucks were destroyed before the surprised unit could withdraw.

Foret de Parroy, for days a nightmare of tree bursts, clinging underbrush, ankle-deep mud and unceasing enemy harassing fire, finally was taken. The enemy, better than anyone else, knows how and why he was forced to quit this highly vital spot for the doubtful haven of the Vosges and the Rhine.

The 79th Readies the Knockout

" * * * You have achieved a significant victory. I have full confidence in your ability to continue your relentless pursuit until the final victory."

HIS story was written in early December 1944. The division is still harrying the enemy, and each officer and man is aware that a break will not come until the last Nazi has been forced to complete and unconditional surrender. The division's story is still an unfinished book and, until V-Day has been proclaimed to the free peoples of all nations, it will remain incomplete.

URRENT entries in the journal follow closely behind a recent commendation from Seventh Army, published as General Orders 111, signed by Lt. Gen. A.M. Patch, commanding:

"Soldiers of the 79th Division: Following your continuous action from D-Day in Normandy until late October, you were committed to the attack only a few days after a short rest. Breaking through the enemy defenses north of Baccarat, you continued to advance in the face of powerful enemy resistance, overrunning the enemy defenses and capturing many prisoners. During the brilliant action which followed, you captured the towns of Blamont and Cirey, reducing the main enemy positions and effecting a breakthrough which permitted the Second French Armored Division to advance rapidly to the northeast and exploit the successes you had achieved.

"Having bewildered the enemy and scattered his forces, you continued the pursuit to the northeast, thus preventing him the opportunity to regroup and make a stand west of the Vosges.

"Without pausing for rest, you continued your tireless pursuit of the enemy toward Saverne, capturing numerous towns, enemy strongpoints and large numbers of prisoners in three days. Within eight days you had driven the enemy from the area of Saverne and Sarrebourg and were preparing to drive him from his last positions west of the Saverne Gap.

"This difficult assault and tenacious pursuit has contributed nobly to the success of the Seventh Army operation as a whole. It indicates a state of training and discipline of the highest order as well as a plan soundly conceived and energetically carried out. You have achieved a significant victory. I have full confidence in your ability to continue your relentless pursuit until the final victory."

O combat unit is stronger than its services and supply branches will it to be. Between the lines of the foregoing are countless untold services and assistance supplied by the 79th QM Co., 79th Sig. Co., 779th Ord. Co., 304th Medical Bn., Division Hq & Hq Co., and Special Troops. In more than four months of consecutive combat days, involving unprecedented troop movements against rigorous enemy opposition, the 79th Inf. Div. was never in want for any item of supply or type of service available to these units. No man suffered for so much as a minute for lack of the finest medical service available.

There is no finer record—nor higher tribute—than this.

Printed by Desfossés-Néogravure, Paris.

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