The History of the 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion in Training and Combat, Prepared by and for the Men who saw Action with the Battalion in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and Germany.
Headquarters – 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion – APO No 758 US Army – 9 May, 1945
To all the Members of the Battalion
As I write this little message to you, my comrades of the 628th, the war in Europe has just ended; and in my heart there is both joy and sadness. There is great joy for those of you who have gotten through this hell, sound of mind and body; but there is a deep sadness for our men and officers who have fallen. In all humility, I salute our lads who are no longer with us. In all instances they died willingly as do men for a cause that is just and right : and they died bravely as can only an American soldier. We, their buddies who served by their side shall always remember them with a sweet reverence which can be felt only by comrades in arms. It is my earnest prayer that the peace, for which the Conference at San Francisco strives, will be so lasting and honest, that none of our splendid men shall have died in vain. And I salute, too, those of you who have gone through the many strenuous months of combat with this Battalion. The amazing amount of enemy material and men which you blasted out of the war is but a tribute to your courage and skill at arms. The break-through in Normandy, the Falaise Gap, the Eure and Seine Pockets, the Compeigne Forest, Sedan, Wallendorg and the Huertgen Forest till the Ardennes Battle, the Rhineland, Germany’s Heart and then the crashing offensive to the very banks of the Elbe River, all these duel countless minor battles and campaigns you can, in the years to come remember with a quiet pride. Whether it is your destiny soon to return to civilian life, or to help finish off our one remaining enemy, the Jap, I wish you luck and Godspeed. Believe me, it has been a grand privilege and an honor to have commanded such a fine Battalion in combat. Again, I salute you all, and I shall never forget you.
William J. Gallagher
Lt Col, F. A.
General d. Panzertruppe Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel has agreed at several joint press conferences that for the German counter-offensive of the month of December 1944 in Belgium and Luxembourg, to be successful at least three things had to happen :
(a) the German attack had to be a surprise (b) the weather to be such as to prevent strikes by allied aircraft on the German columns coming through the Ardennes (c) the progress of the German main effort through and beyond St Vith must be rapid and not delayed. Requirements a. and b. were met. Requirement c. was not met because of the defensive and delaying action of Brig Gen Robert W. Hasbrouck’s Luky Seventh, the 7th Armored Division and the attached troops in the St Vith area from December 17 to December 23 1944. His timetable called for the capture of St Vith by 1800 hours on December 17. He did not capture it until the night of December 21 and did not control the St Vith area until December 23 when CCB withdrew on order. On December 22 1964, at a press conference in Watertown, New York, Gen von Manteuffel stated : on the evening of December 24 1944 I recommended to Hitler’s Adjutant that the German Army give up the attack and return to the West Wall. The reason for this recommendation was due to the time lost by his 5. Panzer-Army in the St Vith area. Hitler did not accept von Manteuffel’s recommendation.
644th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Operations in the Ardennes
The 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion (SP)(Self Propelled) commanded by Lt Col Ephriam F. Gaham, sailed from the USA on January 2 1944, on board of the HMT Aquitania. The battalion landed in northern Ireland on January 13 and there continued its training with emphasis placed on indirect fire. The 644-TDB left the USA equipped with the 3 inch (76.2-MM) motor gun carriage, M-10, the vehicle it retained throughout its operations in Europe. On May 10 the battalion moved to Hungerford, England, where, along with more training, preparations were made for the move to the Normandy Peninsula. On July 11, the major part of the battalion moved across the English Channel while the remainder of the unit, under the control of its executive officer, Maj Edward R. Garton, landed also on Utah Beach one day later. On July 15, the 644-TDB was attached to the 8th Infantry Division and although elements of the battalion were from time to time attached to other divisions, the battalion itself remained so attached until early December 1944.
This booklet recounts briefly the highlights of the 99th Infantry Division in combat. Our division has established an enviable record as a fighting team and has taught the German to fear the wearer of the Checkerboard. All of us – officers and men of the 99th Division – can be proud of our record. To be a member of the 99th Division is an honor. Towards our comrades who have been left on the fields of battle, we feel most gratefully humble. Their sacrifice shall be our ever constant inspiration to do our job. Now, Right, and with Steadfast Determination.
Walter E. Lauer
Major General, Commanding
Liège by Christmas, Bruxelles by New Year’s” was Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt’s promise to his soldiers. But his operation backfired. The Battle Babies, the men of the 99th Infantry Division know why. For two days, December 16 and December 17 1944, soldiers of the 99th Infantry stood alone at a very hot corner of the Battle of the Bulge. The Division was in position along the International Highway, B-265, facing Schleiden, Oberhausen, Hellenthal, Undenbreth, Scheid, Losheim, Hallschlag in Germany closing all the roads to Lanzerath, Losheimergraben, Hunningen, Murringen, Bullingen, Wirtzfeld, Krinkelt, Rocherath, Elsenborn in Belgium. While the German’s best troops lowered the boom against their thinly-held line. The Division was spread over a 20-mile front and without reserves. The green troops of Gen Lauer’s 99th Infantry Division mixed with Gen Robertson’s 2nd Infantry Division having on their left Gen Craig’s 9th Infantry Division, on their right Gen Jones’ 106th Infantry Division. Together they fought with the major part of SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Sepp Dietrich’s 6.SS-Panzer-Army. His army included the 1.-SS-Panzer Division, 3.-Fallschirmjäger Division, 12.-Volksgrenadier Division, 12.-SS-Panzer Division, 246.-Volksgrenadier Division, 277.-Infantry Division, 326.-Volksgrenadier Division and supporting units. This display of power called for a show of guts to face it, much less.
The History of the 99th Infantry Division
This book has been compiled from official and unofficial sources to afford men who have been in combat with the 393rd Infantry a review of the Regiment’s action in the European Theater of Operations. With emphasis placed on the unit rather than individual action, the book has omitted stories of personal heroism. Names of men in pictures have been purposely omitted. To each man. who fought with the 393rd Infantry belongs credit for the hard-fought battle. To him belongs also the privilege of relating his deeds. Some five thousand men participated with the regiment in combat – to each this book is the background of his own fight. Effort has been made to show action of every section that comprises an infantry regiment in combat. A sincere endeavor was made to encompass all who played a part in building a fighting team. If you are able to recall some of the joy and hell you experienced with the regiment, the 393rd Infantry in Review is a success.
Ernest W. Fritz
United States Army – 1945
On the fateful day of December 7, 1941, the 99th Infantry Division was a Reserve Unit, a paper division. It has never been called into active service, but with lightning speed plans were made for activation. A tar-paper camp in Mississippi was planned and designated as its post. Maj Gen Thompson Lawrence was assigned as Commanding General. The vast machinery was begun to form a fighting team of 15,000 men. Gen Lawrence said in his activation day speech :
The history of the 99th Infantry Division will be written by you. The greatest responsibility of your life is the preparation and the fight of this division against the enemy’.
The Huertgen Forest – Description
Known as the Huertgenwald to the Germans and to the Huertgen Forest to the Allies this area was one of the largest wooded tracts in Germany. It is located on the Belgian – German border and was part of the northern portion of the Ardennes region of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Eifel region of Germany. It is about 35 kilometers (23 miles) in length located between the southern part of Aachen – Brand in the north to the northern part of Simmerath – Monschau to the south. In wide, the area is about 40 kilometers (27 miles) from Roetgen, along the Belgian – German border in the west to Kreuzau – Düren in the east.
To be perfectly clear, the entire Huertgen Forest area can be included inside the following twons’ belt : Roetgen, Brutscheid, Brand and the Brander Forest, Atsch, Stolberg, Donnerberg, Hastenrath, Eschweiller, Langewehe, Dueren, Kreuzau, Nidegen, Heimbach, Schleiden, Monschau, Simmerath. The forest encompasses several ridges with steep hills and many valleys and contains some of the most rugged terrain in Europe. Between the two main ridges that bisect the forest lays the Kall River, in reality not much more than a stream. A much larger water obstacle is the Roer River on the far eastern boundary of the forest. The Siegfried Line or the Westwall in English, run right through the middle of the forest whose trees were so dense they impeded both foot and vehicular movement and at the same time blotted out the sun from reaching the forest floor. The Germans had turned the forest into a labyrinth of well camouflaged pillboxes with interlocking fields of fire, dense belts of barbed wire, and dense minefields. The few roads and trails that bisected the forest were covered by artillery in depth.
The Defense of Schmidt, Germany
3rd Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment – 28th Infantry Division
November 3-4 1944
Operational Performance of the US 28th Infantry Division (Keystone) September to December 1944 is a thesis presented to the Faculty of the US Army Command and General Staff College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Military Art and Science by Jeffrey P. Holt, Major, USA. BS, University of South Alabama, 1982.
This study analyzes the operational performance of the 28th Infantry Division during a period of high intensity combat in the European Theater of Operations. The focus is on the difficulties the division experienced within its subordinate infantry units. Infantrymen, though comprising less than 40 percent of the division’s total strength, absorbed almost 90 percent of all casualties. The high casualty rate within infantry units severely curtailed the operational performance of the division. The difficulties the 28th experienced were commonplace in the European theater. Compounding the problem was the inadequate number of divisions in the US Army force structure. This inadequacy forced divisions to remain in combat for excessive durations, greatly increasing battle and non battle casualties. The army’s personnel system further contributed to the problems infantry divisions experienced within their infantry units. It failed to provide sufficient numbers of infantry replacements in a timely manner and there was widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of infantry replacements. This study shows that the US Army failed to realize both the importance of infantry units to the war effort and the severity of combat on the modem battlefield. The result was an infantry force structure poorly designed to accomplish its wartime mission.
The preparations for the Allied invasion of Normandy were unprecedented in scale and complexity. In addition to accumulating hundreds of thousands of soldiers and millions of tons of material in Britain, the Allies gathered hundreds of specialized landing craft in ports across southern England. These would play a critical role in delivering the Allied assault troops to the French beaches. Given the presumed difficulties in seizing French harbors from their German garrisons, the Allies designed and built huge metal and concrete artificial harbors – Mulberries – for tow to the Normandy beaches. Once the American and Commonwealth assault troops had secured beachheads in France, the mulberries would make unloading cargo ships easier and faster than carrying supplies over the beach.
Appledore Ebb, Dwight C. Shepler, #134, Watercolor, Feb 1944, 88-199-EG
The twenty-one foot tide of North Devon withdrew toward the Irish Sea, leaving the confluence of the Taw-and-Torridge a Y-shaped trickle in the flat sands. This was significant, for these tidal and beach conditions approximated those in Normandy where the allied invasion force would land in action. LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) and coasters, which would play a part in the invasion, were left high and “dried out” by the ebb. Beyond the lighthouse in the distance lay the dunes and surf-swept beaches of the US Army Assault Training Center at Woolacombe. Here a series of small boat crews from the Advance Amphibious Training Base at Appledore-Instow practiced assaults with successive divisions of infantry troops amidst realistic gunfire and bombardment. The principal objective was the long flat beach of Woolacombe, and the “hedgehogs” of its hinterland, a reasonable facsimile of a “certain” piece of the coast of Europe. Time would tell where and when the actual invasion landscape would be encountered.
Orientation & Introduction
This monograph covers the operations of the 5307 Composite Unit (Provisional) on its first mission, the attack on Walawbum, Burma, March 2-7 1944. To orient the reader, it is necessary to briefly review the major events which led up to this action. In Jan 1942, after overrunning nearly all of southeast Asia, the Japanese struck at Burma. In rapid succession, the Japanese took the city of Moulmein, the port of Rangoon, the rail heads of Mandalay, and Myitkyina and the Burma Road. The enemy’s rapid advance and numerical superiority proved too great for the Allies and all resistance crumbled. A general withdrawal was effected and the Allies retreated west into India and northeast into China. By midsummer of 1943 the Japanese had consolidated their gains and were in complete control of all but a small wedge of territory in northwest Burma. This now placed the enemy in the singular position of threatening the exposed eastern border of India as well as cutting the Chinese land supply routes. All attempts by the Allies to alter this situation had been unsuccessful.
Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt (Oct 27 1858 – Jan 6 1919), the 26th President of the United States of America, carried a Marble’s compass on many of his famous hunting expeditions all over the planet. Admiral Matthew Calbraith Perry (Apr 10 1794 – Mar 4 1858) and Admiral Richard E. Byrd (Oct 25 1888 – Mar 11 1957), both in the United States Navy, also used Marble’s manufactured compasses during their trips to the North and South Pole. Even Charles Lindbergh carried Marble’s a pocket knife, compass and matchbox during his Transatlantic Solo Flight. Our compasses have been routinely pinned on Air Force Bomber and Flying jackets in every American conflict since WW-I. Most of our turn-of-the-century compasses are still in service today. There are very few items that can make that claim.
Operations of the Y-Force Operations Staff, US Army
Salween Campaign, Yunnan, China, May 10 1944 – January 20 1945
(Personal Experience of a Long Range Infiltration Patrol Leader)
Capt Wah G. Chin
The Y Force was the South East Asia Command designation given to Chinese National Army forces that re-entered Burma from Yunnan in 1944 as one of the Allies fighting in Burma Campaign of World War II. The initial supreme commander of the theater was Gen Sir Archibald Wavell while head of the short-lived American – British – Dutch – Australian Command which was dissolved after the fall of Singapore and the Dutch East Indies. In August 1943, the Allies created the combined South East Asian Command (SEAC), to assume overall strategic command of all air, sea and land operations of all national contingents in the theater. In August 1943, with the agreement of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Winston Churchill appointed Adm Lord Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, a post he held until 1946. The American General Joseph Stilwell was the first deputy supreme Allied commander, as well as heading the US China Burma India Theater (CBI) command. Mountbatten arrived in India on October 7 1943 and SEAC came formally into being in Delhi at midnight November 15–16 . The headquarters moved in April 1944 to Kandy in Ceylon. On December 2 1943 the Combined Chiefs of Staff approved in principle a staff plan designating the main effort against Japan to be the Pacific as the most rapid means of coming in range of the home islands for aerial bombardment. The secondary advance was “along the New Guinea N.E.I. Philippine axis” under the South West Pacific Area Command. The South East Asia theater, along with the North Pacific, the South Pacific and China efforts were designated to be supportive. At that time available forces were seen to be limited due to British commitment against Germany with major advances not anticipated until autumn of 1944 and after the defeat of Germany. The focus on the Central Pacific and South West Pacific were a compromise reached at the Casablanca Conference in which British views focused on the war against Germany with the entire war against Japan being limited “to the defense of a fixed line in front of those positions that must be held” an approach unacceptable to the United States. Offensive actions in Burma, support of China and other theater activity beyond holding a defensive line in South East Asia, the position of the British Chiefs, were the result of US demands that the Japanese be kept off balance throughout areas of Allied – Japanese contact.
(Photos NARA, Site : Paperless EUCMH)
Provisional OSS Platoon in Night Reconnaissance
Arakan Coast, Burma, October 1944 through April 1945
India – Burma Campaign
Capt Martin J. Waters, Jr., Infantry
Co author : Douglas L. Waters (son of Martin “Joe” Waters)
Operation Type : Amphibious Landing by Units of Platoon Strength, or less, for Purposes or Limited Reconnaissance.
Below is a picture of my father after the siege at N’Phum Ga, Maggott Hill. He was the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) officer attached to the 2-Bn, Blue Co, I&R (reconnaissance) Platoon of the Merrill’s Marauders, 5307-C-(P). This was prior to the Amphibious missions on the Arakan coast with the British commandos. They were surrounded by the Japanese and greatly outnumbered and held on for two weeks until relief came. They were bonsai charged every day and received artillery rounds from the Japs constantly. The Platoon leader became a psychological casualty and remained speechless in his foxhole during most of the siege. My father took over command of the platoon and even though his men wanted to surrender he kept them going, sometimes with threat of a .45 ACP. If the men surrendered he knew the Japs would have killed everyone. Below is the citation for the action and a happier time back in the US after Burma (he’s the big guy in the middle with the tan waistcoat)
First Lieutenant Martin J. Waters 0-454133, Cavalry, Army of the United States is awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service during the period of February 19, 1944 to April 16, 1944. During this period Lt Waters was attached to an Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) Platoon of the 5307 Composite Unit (Provisional) and proceeded the march of the unit by 24 hours in all engagements. Lt Waters marched over 300 miles through enemy occupied territory and participated in 3 battles : Walabum, Shaduzup, Inkangayawng. Wen the platoon leader became a casualty during a 14 days the I&R platoon was surrounded at Maggot Hill, Lt Waters took command and due to his leadership and initiative, the platoon was able to hold on until relief came.
For the Allies, Beach heading in Anzio, Italy in the early part of 1944 had a special purpose. The deal was – before the beginning of the Operation Overlord – Neptune in Normandy (June 1944), to take back the initiative in the southern part of the European Theater as well as to make sure that the German would not be able to reinforces the southern combat zones with troops from the northern areas and vice versa after the landings in France. The following study of the German Operations against the Allied Beachhead at Anzio, Italy, Jan 22 1944 to May 31 1944, is based on the available journals and records of the German X and XIV Armies. It should be noted that the facts and opinions expressed in the text reflect the German point of view, all statements on Allied troop strength, are German estimates. Records of the German Luftwaffe were not available, therefore the details of air action against the beachhead has not been included. The expressions like Panzer (tanks, armored), Jager (light infantry), and Panzer Grenadier (armored infantry), have been left in German for purposes of clarification. The Allied losses are limited to prisoners taken in most instances, and to weapons or materials known to have been destroyed. The German losses seem always to be minus at least one division, which means the German loss figures are probably grossly under-reported, for whatever reason. In addition, the German figures almost never reflect any material losses, so they do not show the number of tanks, trucks, airplanes, artillery pieces, etc., lost in the day-to-day fighting. Figures from other sources show that from the very beginning of the Anzio landing – code named Operation Shingle – the Allies were outnumbered by a considerable margin. The Germans built their manpower to a high of 120.000+, compared to a high of 90.000 for the Americans and British. It is also apparent through the German daily reports that they blamed their losses on poor training and the inexperience of their troops. They seem to completely overlook the fact that most of the American and the majority of the British forces were also seeing their first combat and were not a whole lot better trained than the German troops.