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From Chapter 10, Hatten: Village Aflame in the Maginot Line

        "...Reduced to remnants huddled in isolated segments in shattered houses the night of January 9, the armored infantrymen of 56th AIB finally were joined in the town by the 714th Tank Battalion on January 10 after the Bailey bridge arrived. Efforts to organize a coordinated tank-infantry attack in Herrlisheim were thwarted by smothering artillery and antitank fire. Even at the aid station in Rohrwiller, the shelling was devastating. The battalion surgeon of CCB recalled, "Artillery barrages came down on us in thunders, with an intensity unimaginable, indescribable, large-caliber shells bursting with density of massed machine-gun fire." This bothersome German incursion which General Brooks of VI Corps insisted be eliminated posthaste was backed by considerable firepower—including fortress artillery from across the Rhine.

       The initial assault on Herrlisheim by the 12th Armored Division ended in a midnight rescue operation on January 10-11 when about one hundred survivors of the 56th AIB came back through the waterworks and along the road to Rohrwiller that now had gained the name "Purple Heart lane." In a few days of action, the field west of the Zorn had become littered with mired and burnt-out hulls of tanks of the 714th Tank Battalion, caught in the open by guns they could not see—hidden in town and behind the road and railroad embankment. The German tank and antitank power encountered by CCB in this initial assault of January 8-11 was provided by the von Luettichau special panzer force and the antiaircraft artillery regiment that had been on the scene since the first day of the Rhine crossing.

       As both sides settled into a week of stalemate around Gambsheim, Herrlisheim, and Drusenheim, Himmler desperately sought a more prominent role in the now evermore-improvised NORDWIND offensive. His ambitions were drawing the major German armored power away from the mountains and onto the plains of Alsace.

       The probings of von Witzleben in the north contributed to Himmler's arguments. Finding weak French forces at Fort Louis and Neuhaeusel, the von Witzleben force occupied those points temporarily, and also seized Stattmatten from Company B of the 232d Infantry before being driven back by small tank-infantry teams of the 232d and the 781st Tank Battalion. Von Witzleben's initial successes were greatly exaggerated by Himmler and his headquarters—to the point that a report was received at Rundstedt's and Hitler's headquarters that Soufflenheim, on the main road to Haguenau, had been seized in the cross-Rhine attacks.

       This report that XIV SS Corps had advanced as far as Soufflenheim reached OB West and on January 5. The order for 21st Panzer to rush to Wissembourg and attack immediately in the direction of Saverne came through OB West at 6:00 PM on January 5.

       The decision to commit the waiting 21st Panzer Division away from the mountains—south from Wissembourg—was the most fateful decision of the entire campaign. It brought neither victory nor defeat to either side, but it brought the trials of NORDWIND to a tumultuous climax...



  The Final Crisis
Combat in Northern Alsace, January 1945
by Richard Engler
  • 25 original maps.
  • 20 original, wartime pen-and-ink combat art drawings by Colonel (then-Lieutenant) Theodore MacKechnie, US Army (Retired)
  • Dozens of German and American unit insignia
  • 362 pages; extensive chapter end notes; index
  • Soft Cover, 8.5" x 11" format
  • ISBN 10: 0-9666389-1-3
  • ISBN 13: 978-0-9666389-1-2
$29.95 Retail
+ shipping (see How to Order)

Members of the 42nd Infantry Division Association and their family members
$27.95



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