Time On Target – Chapter 9

Chapter 9 – The Lorraine Campaign

“All the eastern sky glowed and trembled with the flashes of guns”
– Maj. Gen. Patton


At the beginning of September 1944 the Allies were still confident that the final victory of World War II was at hand (10). The dreaded Argonne forest of World War I fame had been passed through without a fight, and on the last day of August Patton’s tanks had captured the equally famous Verdun with “hardly a blow being struck”. A confident Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, arrived on the continent and assumed direct operational command of the Allied forces in northern France. A final drive through the Lorraine by the Third Army to the Rhine, in addition to the favored northern thrust by the U.S. First Army, was still an integral part of his “broad front strategy” (TLC: MAP I). However, operations from September to November would be quite dismal compared to the rapid advance across France during August (2).


The Lorraine area of eastern France was well known to Gen. Patton from World War I, and he was keenly aware that this area could be the gateway to the Rhine (5). The plain of Lorraine, is an area of rolling hills marked by lakes, often forest covered, crossed by many streams, with numerous small villages and several larger towns like Metz, Nancy, and Sarre-Union (5). The headwaters of the Seine, Rhone and Rhine were all accessible from the Lorraine, and the area was much less difficult to travel across than the Ardennes to the north or Vosages to the south. Nancy, unlike Metz, had not been fortified in modern times, but the area directly to the west was an “inhospitable” area known as the “Foret de Haye”, a rugged upland triangle cut by deep chasms. To the east of Nancy and the Moselle plateau the Lorraine opens up into a high area that commands the surrounding countryside (5).

Patton has his own opinion of the Lorraine when he wrote to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, “I hope that in the final settlement of the war, you insist that the Germans retain Lorraine, because I can imagine no greater burden than to the owner of this nasty country where it rains every day and where the whole worth of the people consists in assorted manure piles” (2). Perhaps Patton’s viewpoint was shaped by his second war in 30 years, or the generally ambivalent, and sometimes hostile, disposition towards Americans by the people of the Lorraine.

Operations in the Lorraine were characterized by prepared assaults to gain river crossings, battles to break out of shallow bridgeheads, and limited objective attacks against well-organized positions (10). Fighting in October was usually hill to hill; in November this changed to village to village. Also, the swampy ground, a limited road net, fogs rising from the river basins, and fewer hours of daylight all combined to slow the American advance in November. The fight for observation was a conspicuous feature in the early days of the battle for the Lorraine (10). This was due in part to the sharply etched nature of the Moselle plateau.


At the first of September the Allied forces were across the Seine and were moving rapidly northeast and east in pursuit of fleeing German forces. Twenty-three Infantry Divisions and fifteen Armored Divisions were on the continent and fighting. The Allied ground forces were backed-up by an overwhelming advantage in air support over the German Luftwaffe, the Third Army being supported by the XIX Air Command.

The Allied right was composed of two Corps under General Patton – the XX and XII. The Third Army front was over 90 miles wide on the east (facing Nancy and Metz), and even longer on the right flank stretching over 450 miles back along the Loire River and westward towards Orleans.


On 29 August Gen. Eisenhower dispatched a letter to all his major commanders, outling his intentions for the conduct of future operations. He finished saying that it was his intention “to complete the destruction of the enemy forces in the West, and then – to strike directly into the heart of the enemy homeland” (10). On 2 September Patton met with Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges and others at the 12th Army Group headquarters. Patton somewhat exaggerated when he said that he had patrols on the Moselle River near Metz and Nancy, and based at least partially on this, Eisenhower gave him permission to secure crossings over the Moselle and prepare to attack the Siegfried Line. This assault would initially involve the 80th Infantry Division north of Nancy, followed by the 35th Infantry Division, supported by the 945th FAB, south of Nancy (TLC: MAP VII).

On 4 September Gen. Patton gave Gen. Eddy, XII Corps Commander, permission to march the 317th Infantry (80th Inf. Div.) toward the Moselle River north of Nancy. The plan was to cross the Moselle north of Nancy, and with a bridgehead open send CCA of the 4th Arm. Div. in to envelop Nancy in a wide sweeping movement to the south. The remaining elements of the 80th (318 and 319th Infantry) and the 4th Arm. Div. would move into position to hit Nancy from the west. It was a good plan that had worked before, but the Germans were ready this time, dug in, and with the 317th under observation as it moved into position (TLC: MAP 2).

In order to maintain “surprise”, the attack on 5 September was preceded by fire from only one field artillery battalion (313th FAB). The attack across the Moselle River at Pont-a-Mousson went badly and was ultimately repulsed. Casualties were heavy and the badly shaken troops were forced in the evening to fall back to Blenod.

Gen. Patton wrote in his diary that the “XII Corps got a bloody nose at Pont-a-Mousson” (7). Reasons for the failure of the assault included insufficient time for reconnaissance, daylight attack, lack of co-ordination, an underestimation of enemy strength, and, the decision to dispense with an artillery preparation in order to gain tactical surprise (10).

The XII Corps regrouped and Gen. Eddy stated that the for the next attack: “This time we will make sure it goes through”. The 35th Inf. Div. was brought forward on 6-7 September for the new plan of attack (TLC: MAP VIII). The new plan outlined on 7 September called for a wide sweeping movement of the 35th Inf. Div. and 4th Arm. Div. (CCB) south of Nancy along with a renewed attack north of Nancy by the 80th Inf. Div. This “double envelopment” would get the XII Corps firmly across the Moselle and take Nancy.


The 945th FAB was near the assembly area for the 35th Infantry Division well west of Nancy at Brienne-le-Chateau on 1 September, and remained in that area for almost a week during the initial attack of the 80th Inf. Div. (TLC: MAP VII). The 945th had “no activity” on the first, and on the 2 September the ominous “heavy rain throughout day” was noted as the battalion moved into position to cover the further assembly of the 35th Inf. Div. in the vicinity of Joinville. On 7 September trucks were provided by the 945th to the 35th Inf. Div. to help haul soldiers, an event which Wayne Cruser noted in his remembrances. Patton noted the poor weather on 8 September and he stated in a letter to his wife that “I have always said that in bad weather officers should be out” (6). He visited Toul, just west of Nancy on a bend in the Moselle River, and commented on why anyone would want to live in a town that had been destroyed every 50 years since the dawn of history.

After several days of inactivity the 945th was on the move on 9 September, moving twice in one day to a location south of Marthemont. On 9 September the XII Corps artillery moved into position to support the new plan of attack. The next day the battalion received their first shelling at the hands of the Germans. The shelling, which came in during the march and into the batteries once they were in position, was remembered by James Wright (I15). On the morning of 10 September the 35th moved forward and the 134th Infantry secured a bridgehead at Flavigny (seven miles south of Nancy – Map VIII). However, the bridgehead was not adequately supported by the tank destroyers, and German artillery fire brought down the bridge isolating the troops on the east side of the river. Those who could escape did so during the night. The 945th, which had displaced to Xeuilley on the Madon River (several miles east of the Moselle River), fired 23 HE rounds, but also received “sporadic enemy shell fire” for the first time.

The attack continued on 11 September and went much better with the 137th Infantry (35th Inf. Div.) getting a toehold across the Moselle at Crevechamps, slightly upstream of the previous days crossing. This advance was supported by the heavier guns of the XII Corps, allowing for significant expansion of the bridgehead. The 945th really went into action this day with 243 HE and 6 White Phosphorus (WP) rounds fired. CCB of the 4th Arm. Div. began to exploit the bridgehead, and the momentum of the attack began to pick up.

To the north a rolling barrage was laid ahead of the renewed attack of the 317th Infantry at Pont-a-Mousson, and Colonel Bruce Clark’s CCA drove the Germans back when they threatened to re-take the bridge. Elements of CCA crossed the Moselle at Dieulouard and penetrated deep into the German lines east of Nancy in a movement that Gen. Eddy later compared to Confederate General Jeb Stuart’s famous ride around the Union Army in front of Richmond. Lt. Col. Creighton W. Abrams 37th Tank Battalion lead the way (TLC: MAP IX).

On 12 September, during the attack south of Nancy, the 945th suffered its first casualty when Pvt. Charles Schwarz was killed by an enemy shell. Charlie had been Major Gray’s driver, and he had arrived with the early detail from the 945th that planned the move from the United States to England. He was the only child of an older couple that resided in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby. Charlie’s body was returned to the states and today is buried between his parents in the cemetery across from where he went to high school, one of over 350,000 killed in action during World War II. Sgt. Robert W. Hesson was wounded, and he spent the rest of the war in hospitals back in the United States (I12).


On 13 September the 945th crossed the Moselle River on a pontoon bridge at Velle-Sur-Moselle (see Neuviller-Sur-Moselle on Map VIII), which was burning “just like a WWI movie” (I14). The battalion passed a check-point and took up positions 2 miles S.E. of Crevechamps. The 945th was close to the front, arriving in this area only one day after the CCB of the 4th Arm. Div. had pushed through (TLC: MAP X). The pace of fire, as well as counter-battery fire, was beginning to pick up with 255 HE rounds fired and 4 wounded. Two men were noted as missing.

Shortly after crossing the Moselle River the battalion had their first encounter with Gen. Patton, who was quite frustrated to find the 945th M-5 tractors stationary with the engines running. For Roy McMahan this first meeting with Gen. Patton made quite an impression, as “he was mad because of a hold up”. This first visit by Gen. Patton also made an impression on Maj. Samuel Gray, the 945th FAB Executive Officer . Maj. Gray was a graduate of Yale Law School, and before being assigned to the 945th had been with the 28th Inf. Div. (Pennsylvania National Guard – Reserves) as an artilleryman. He wrote home to his wife that on 14 September, “old so and so caught Bean and myself in the middle of a burning village yesterday, but despite the traffic snarl his only complaint was that the Bn was burning gasoline and not moving. Actually the motors had just been started, but we didn’t want to enlighten him” (I14). Gen. Patton reportedly told Maj. Gray “Don’t you think I have anything better to do than haul gasoline!”. A number of 945th men remembered this incident, and it was noted that several officers ducked out of view when Gen. Patton arrived on the scene. Maj. Gray, and possibly Maj. Clay crossed their arms and signaled the M-5 drivers to shut down their engines. Later Gino Ricci, whose father had served in a horse-drawn artillery unit in World War I, remembers that someone in the battalion almost ran over Gen. Patton’s jeep with an M-5!

Patton stated in a letter to a friend on 14 September that “We have been having quite severe fighting, which is still going on, but we have finally completely crossed the Moselle River which, as you know, has throughout history been a great military barrier” (6). On this date Eddy’s XII Corps took Nancy into Allied hands, but only after the XII Corps had determined that the Germans had abandoned the mysterious and largely un-investigated Foret de Haye to the west of Nancy. Nancy would become the headquarters for the Third Army and the bridgehead for all supplies moving into the Lorraine. The 945th HQ was briefly located in Nancy on 17 September, and the men took periodic leaves to visit the town in the weeks that followed.

At this point it looked like the XII Corps had a significant breakthrough in progress and Patton considered sending them the 7th Arm. Div. for a push to the Rhine. Patton observed that Eddy was “tense and nervous”, but this did not stop him from suggesting the if the XII Corps breached the Siegfried Line that Eddy send some armor, backed by a mounted combat team straight on with the hope of securing a bridge over the Rhine at Worms (7). In fact, on 16 September, while Bradley and SCHAEF waited to see if the Third Army could capitalize on the Moselle crossings, Patton was planning to have the XII Corps spearhead the drive into Germany. The plan was to use the 4th Armored Division, which had already driven towards Arracourt, the expected 6th Armored Division, and a transferred 7th Armored Division (from XX Corps) to lead a strike at the West wall between Sarreguemines and Saarbruecken and an eventual breakthrough to the Rhine. With the industrial areas of the Saar on the south and the Ruhr on the north out of the war Germany would have to capitulate to the Allies.

The hope of exploiting the XII Corps advance began to diminish with the arrival of heavy rains on September 17. The 945th War Diary notes that “heavy rains which started during the night of the 16th and continued all day”. It was to be the wettest fall in the Lorraine during this century. Patton noted that “Eddy still thinks my attack is premature – I hope that the Germans agree with him…” (6). Patton knew that the advantage was always on his side if the Germans were not expecting one of his moves. He was convinced that the only Germans between he and the Rhine were the ones actively engaged in battle, that the German Army had no depth. Patton also notes on the 18th that Gen. Ira Wyche’s 79th Inf. Div. was moving into position with the XV Corps near Joinville.


After crossing the Moselle River the 945th moved to the north-northeast (MAP VIII) to Bussoncourt, directly east of Nancy. This location was three miles south of the Foret de Champenoux where the 137th infantry (35th Inf. Div.) was heavily engaged by troops of the 1120th Regiment of the 553 VG Division (TLC: MAP VIII). These elite German units were defending the withdrawl of their division, and they had established a stong line of entrenchments within the forest. Their network of foxholes was supported by both tanks and self-propelled 88mm guns (10). Heavy-caliber mortars were also zeroed in on the clearing north of the road from Champenoux to Nancy (TLC: PHOTO p110). Walter Kline commented on the close proximity of the 945th FAB to the front lines, and Wayne Cruser observed several engagements of German infantry and American armor while east of Nancy. Kline remembers that the fighting around Nancy was “quite hot most of the time” (I33).

On 18 September, near the Foret de Champenoux, the 945th was engaged by direct fire, inflicting 20 casualties {NEED MORE HERE}. The 945th also had to turn batteries around when it was reported that 30 German tanks were sighted west of Luneville. The spotting of these tanks by artillery observers (possibly from the 945th) is mentioned on Page 223-4 of The Lorraine Campaign. The tanks were from the second battalion of the 111th Panzer battalion preparing to attack the 4th Armored Division around Arracourt. The 945th FAB returned into position the next day. Despite the shellings and the movement 134 HE rounds were fired in support of the 137th Infantry Regiment. Steve Giacovelli remembers that the fighting around Nancy “was one of the worst experiences, for we had to stradle train tracks to get into a wooded area to bivouac. Our batteries fired point blank at the enemy for they were so close” (I13).

On 19 September, the day Patton hoped would signal the beginning of a new attack by the XII Corps, the 137th Infantry was still trying to enter the Foret de Champenoux and the 134th Infantry was “pushed off a hill” northeast of Nancy (7). This hill was Amance Hill, adjacent on the west to the Foret de Champenoux. A gap between the 134th on Amance Hill and the 137th at the Foret de Campenoux, in addition to a German counter-attack at the village of Agincourt, made the American position east of Nancy tenuous for the period 18-22 September. According to Patton he told Eddy, who was very concerned at this point, what Lee had said at Chancellorsville, “I was too weak to defend, so I attacked”.

The 945th War Diary notes that on the 20th they engaged “strong enemy positions”, most likely those of the 553rd VG at the Foret de Campenoux, and possibly at Amance Hill. The 945th fired over 700 HE rounds on 20 September despite the rain, in a frantic effort to secure this area just east of Nancy. The US Army History notes that the artillery fire of six battalions had “literally blown to bits the German carrying parties as they moved through the woods and had pulverized the log-covered entrenchments” (10). Unfortunately, ammunition ran low and the Germans were still able to man their weapons in the forest.

About this time Wayne Cruser quit driving for the battery commander and began driving for the forward observers. He went with Lt.. Milton Worley to “knock out a roadblock near Chambray” (east of the Foret de Champenoux). Cruser relates the story from there: “We went to Chambray with a half platoon of mechanized cavalry. We scouted the town and tried to determine their strength. We took cover in the ruins of the old French Maginot Line. Observations confirmed a rather heavy concentration of enemy troops. They had a roadblock on the road into town. We didn’t understand quite why, but some of these people started to set up a mortar at the edge of town, aimed in our direction. We tried to discourage their efforts with .50 caliber machine gun fire and 37mm cannon fire from the armored recon car in the party. They pulled back and left their mortar, so then we called in 945th fire on the roadblock and knocked it out”. This story provides a good example of how the forward observers worked with the infantry and armored units that they were assigned to. The forward observers had a very dangerous job to say the least.

The 945th War Diary notes that on 22 September the battalion “fired in support of infantry and tank attack to seize high ground in vicinity of Amanee” (spelled incorrectly in the diary). This was undoubtedly in support of the efforts of the 134th Infantry. Finally, on 22 September, CCB of the 6th Armored Division exerted pressure on the rear of the Amance Hill – Foret de Campenoux area and the Germans gave way (TLC: MAP XI). The 137th cleared the forest as P-47 Thunderbolts strafed the retreating German column of infantry, horses, vehicles and guns. After nightfall the heavy field artillery picked up where the fighter-bombers left off, the “155mm guns and 240mm howitzers … shelled the road all night” (10).

See pages 107-111 of The Lorraine Campaign for a detailed description of the fighting in this area. In their first 10 days of real action, the 945th FAB contributed greatly to the securing of this critical area. The battlion showed that it could be mobile, operate under extreme pressure, and fire large numbers of 155mm rounds with great accuracy, all while under the threat of counter-battery fire from the Germans.

On 23 September Patton was notified by Gen. Bradley that, due to the supply situation, he was to go on the defensive. Patton wrote that it was “one of the bad days of my military career” (7). Wallace Bolton commented on the supply situation, saying that the battalion was “outside of Nancy when we ran out of gas ans ammo”(I16). Although they were not totally out of ammunition, the supply to the Third Army was drastically decreased in order to support the major thrust of the First Army on the northern front.

On 25 September the Third Army Front shows that although they were across the Moselle River, the advance was slowing (TLC: MAP XXII). Patton called the period from 25 September to 7 November 1944 the “most unproductive and uncompensatory” of the campaign in northern France. On the 27th Patton found out that the XV Corps would be reassigned, but he would receive the newly arrived 26th Infantry Division. The 26th was known as the “Yankee Division” as it was comprised largely of units from the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine National Guards. The exploits of the Yankee Division in World War I were legend, and much was expected of Gen. Willard S. Paul and his division. They would replace the 4th Arm. Div. following the attack of the LVIII Panzer Corps at Arracourt.


The 945th advanced on 26 September to a position just north of Moncel-Sur-Seille and ordered to “dig in”. The 6th Arm. Div. had recently been relived of duty in Brittany and, slipping along the north side of the Loire River, had arrived on 17 September. They were immediately deployed near the 4th Arm. Div. The 4th Arm. Division had been under attack since the 19th by the LVIII Panzer Corps near Arracourt, 5 miles southeast of Moncel-Sur-Seille and 14 miles east of Nancy (see MAP VIII for the relative locations of Nancy, Arracourt and Moncel-Sur-Seille).

The combined effort of the tanks, fighter-bombers and artillery was called upon to finally blunt the largest tank battle in the Lorraine. In the end the 4th Arm. Div., although they had not driven towards the Rhine as was hoped, was very successful against the superior German tanks (in range and gun size). The 4th destroyed or damaged 285 tanks or other armored vehicles by the end of the month.


From 27 September to 1 October the 945th supported the attacks of the 6th Arm. Div. and 35th Inf. Div. at the Foret de Gremecey (TLC: MAP XXI). The Foret de Gremecey was located less than two miles north of Moncel-Sur-Seille. The village of Pettoncourt, which was threatened by elements of the 106th Panzer Brigade on 27 September, was located just over a mile from Moncel-Sur-Seille. The 945th War Diary notes on 27 September that “Enemy surprise attack drove to the vicinity of Pettoncourt (02-21) temporarily cutting off a Hq Btry wire crew and threatening Sv Btry position”. Wayne Cruser recalled that the enemy counter-attack hit a group of tanks about fifty yards from where we were sleeping. “They bayonetted two tankers who were on perimeter guard. The guys screamed loud enough that they awakened their buddies and the counter-attack was repulsed”. Service Battery received enemy shelling and a German observation plane was observed over the battalion for the first time.

General Order No. 4, dated 6 October 1944, awarded several Purple Hearts to men from the 945th FAB, including First Lieutenant Paul Remillard, and Cpl. Walter Kline, both from Battery C, for wounds received on 28 September. Paul Remillard “spent quite a few days as a forward observer with the infantry in the Foret de Gremecey, stating that they survived only with the help of tank destroyers that entered the forest (see The Lorraine Campaign – page 247). General Order No. 5, dated 18 October awarded the Purple Heart to Pfc. Walter A. Kehner, Battery C, for “wounds received as a result of enemy action on 30 September 1944 in France”. Cruser witnessed the attack on seven German tanks on a cordoury road (elevated by means of logs) by a bazooka team, which proved to be unsuccessful as the rounds either were duds or ricocheted off into the woods. A BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) rifleman stopped the first tank by firing into the turret, subsequently the other six tanks were blocked and had to surrender.

The fighting in the forest was at close quarters with German and American foxholes just 200 yards apart. Many heroic deeds were noted in the thick forest, one being the destruction of a machine gun nest by two mortally wounded soldiers of the 320th Infantry (Sgt. James Burzo and Pfc. Gerald Downing). The field artillery had isolated the approaches to the forest but could not fire accurately into the confused fight in the forest, thus it was left up to the men in the deep woods to prevail. The use of old World War I tenches by the men on both sides cast a sad historical note on the fighting, here was another generation of young men fighting for the same quiet patch of French woods.

A conference on 30 September between Eddy, General Gaffey (Third Army Chief of Staff), General Baade (Commanding Officer for the 35th Inf. Div.), and all of the regimental commanders ended with the decision to withdraw from the woods. When informed of this decision, an angry Patton immediately flew to Nancy and gave instructions that the 35th would hold, and the 4th and 6th Arm. Divisions would attack the forest (he had given these instructions to Eddy the day before). Patton told Eddy, Grow (6th Arm. Div.) and Baade that “he was disgusted with them” (6). Patton noted in his diary that it was his responsibility to worry, and the Corps commanders responsibility to fight. After the 6th Arm. Div. restored the situation he stated that “I have again earned my pay” (6).

Fortunately, the Germans began a planned withdrawl and the forest was held. The 945th supported this effort on 1 October by firing 394 HE rounds, noting in the War Diary that the “attack was successful in seizing high ground desired”. When the 3rd Battalion of the 137th Infantry left the Foret de Gremecey, they had only 485 men left from the 900 that entered the woods four days earlier. The Germans were dispersed to the north, followed by fighter-bombers past Chambrey. Following the action around the Foret de Gremecey, this sector lapsed into a “period of quiet” that is also noted in the early October entries into the 945th War Diary (10). This quiet period would last into early November, a much needed rest for the XII Corps which had been in continuous action for almost three months (10).


The HQ for the 945th remained in the area around Moncel-Sur-Seille for the entire month of October. Although Patton complied with the plan to keep the Third Army in a defensive posture, he continued local attacks in order to keep his men and officers sharp and ready for the next phase of offensive operations. These included bringing the lines of the XV and XII Corps into a better alignment, the capture of the Foret de Parroy near Luneville, and the capture of the fortifications around Metz including Fort Driant. The XII Corps was to push slightly to the northeast of Moncel-Sur-Seille beyond Chateau-Salins. Following these actions the thirty-mile long front of the XII Corps fell quiet, which was also agreeable to the German who were concentrating their efforts near Aachen to the north.

The arrival of the 26th Inf. Div. at the beginning of October was lead by Maj. Gen. Willard S. Paul, who entered the Army as a private in the Colorado National Guard (10). In order to prepare the 26th for what lie ahead, Eddy had them conduct a limited attack east of Moncourt with the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion on 22 October. The troops fought surprisingly well and the Germans later referred to them as “American shock troops” in their reports. Patton took note of their performance.

During the October pause maintenance was performed, supply lines improved and the men were rotated out for R&R – rest and relaxation. Some went back to Nancy, or even Paris if you were an officer. New clothes, hot showers, good meals were available when you rotated out for a break. Marlene Dietrich’s USO show (which toured for nine weeks) was even more popular than Bing Crosby’s Third Army Tour had been in early September. DeWitt Scarborough spent time “in a dugout for 6 to 7 men lined with pine logs” (I34). He also remembered that several men were transferred to the infantry during this time period, and that it was very difficult to see friends go to the infantry units with their high casualty rates. Bob Frey finally caught up with the 945th at Moncel-Sur-Seille where he served as a radio operator. He felt that it was a much better assignment than going to the infantry so he “was quite happy”, although he never used his Morse Code skills as all communications with the 945th were by radio (I6).

Relief models and maps of the Westwall were studied by the officers, and planning and logistics went into high gear. Supplies continued to come to the front by truck. Paul Linz of Baltimore, Maryland was driving a truck that supplied gasoline to the Third Army during the fall of 1944, later he would join the 945th FAB (Clarence Mitchum’s battery B) in Germany – how that transpired is a mystery (I23). He stated that he “was scared as hell as he had never seen a gun that size in my life”.

During the October lull, P-47s were called upon to destroy the dam at the Etang de Lindre reservoir, thus preventing its later use in flooding the Seille River valley as the XII Corps advanced beyond Dieuze. During this month the men were periodically given passes to Nancy, and even Paris for a lucky few (usually by lottery). Gino Ricci remembers Nancy’s “entertainment” on Stanislaus Square, and Hugh Howenstine had his “first bath in Nancy since the 945th left England” (I20 & I18). During this time period Capt. Gooding Bean was detailed to the 79th Inf. Div. as a liason as they were on the XII Corps and Third Army flank. He went with a 193 radio and command car which could send either morse or coded messages.

While with the 79th he ran into Gen. Ira Wyche, the previous commander of the 74th Field Artillery Brigade at Camp Blanding who now had two stars. He recognized and greated Bean with surprise. While with the 79th Inf. Div., Bean witnessed the bombing ot the Foret de Parroy outside of Luneville by about 500 B-17s. Gen. Eisenhower was also on hand to witness the event. Upon arriving back with the XII Corps Bean was soundly chewed out by Col. Bullock in the 182nd Field Artillery Group Headquarters for not sending messages back as ordered. Bean argued that he had done just that, and later the messages were discovered on the radio operators desk, received but never delivered to the HQ. Col. Bullock later apologized.

When Aachen fell on 21 October to Gen. Hodges First Army, Gen. Bradley dispatched orders for the upcoming offensives. The Third Army would kick-off on 10 November, covering the offensive of the First and Ninth Armies on a line towards Frankfurt. Patton would be allowed to pursue a crossing of the Rhine between Mainz and Worms, situation permitting, otherwise the Third Army would clear the west bank of the Rhine to the confluence with the Moselle River in Germany. The 945th ended the month of October by firing one round of German Schneider 155mm ammo – possibly as a tribute to the old box trail Schneiders that they started with so long ago at Camp Blanding!

During the time the 945th spent near Moncel-Sur-Seille the battalion operated close to the enemy lines. Periodically the forward observers would be within a few hundred yards of the enemy, and the risk of capture was always present. That’s exactly what happened the night of 31 October 1944. A battery had a group headed towards a forward observation post (OP) that the Germans had just surprised and taken over. The War Diary for 1 November records the incident stating that the battalion was “Ordered to occupy an OP at night. A detail from “A” Btry was captured by a German patrol and suffered five casualties”. Fred Lyons relates the story (I50):

“We are on high ground overlooking Moncel-Sur-Seille, France. Moncel-Sur Seille was heavily occupied by German troops. We had directed fire on this town and the close by wooded area for two or more days. Changing OP personnel at midnight the night of 31 October 1944. We were approximately 4 or 5 miles from the OP, so we started out with a jeep. S/Sgt Fred Carruth was in charge, Cpl. Smith was driving. Sgt. Thompson on the radio, Pfc. Lazenby and I were also in the jeep. Cpt. Mitchel had just put me in for T4 rank. I was on the forward observation team, and also drove the command car. As we approached no-mans land our infantry had set up a post to let all passers know that was the front line. No vehicles beyond this point. We had stopped there the night before and left the jeep and went on by foot. But the night of Oct 31st a German patrol had killed our post personnel and taken over. One German wearing a GI helmet waved us down and the second we stopped the Germans came out of the ditch on both sides of the road. One put a gun barrel to the back of my head and said ‘Hons de houf’. So I put them up. They could have killed us then but it was obvious they were after prisoners. We all loaded into the jeep and headed across no mans land. In a mile or so we ran into our infantry patrol and all hell broke loose. I heard a German yell ‘shoot the prisoners’. Everyone was moving out of the jeep fast. Thompson was just in front of me. I saw one or two rounds hit him in the chest. Las was hit in the back and into his lungs. I was hit two or three rounds through my left arm. It felt like a hot sledge hammer and knocked me down hard. I saw Carruth dive for the ditch. He was taking rounds from a hand machine gun. He made the ditch but the German emptied what sounded like a full clip into him. I had an artery cut in my arm and the blood was shooting out. I rolled over and put my right thumb on the vein to slow it down but moving was a mistake. One of the Germans turned his hand machine gun loose on my right lower back to the knee. Twenty rounds, give or take. Three or four missed my body. Then he tried to shoot me in the back of the head. I had on a heavy coat and the rounds went through the coat collar on both sides of my neck. One was so close that it loosened the wax in my ear and I thought the hot wax running out was blood and that I had been shot through the ear. …. In the next two or three minutes the Germans were gone.” The men finally convinced the infantry patrol that they were Americans. Lyons checked Thompson – he was dead, and Smith was gone (reportedly to get medics), and Carruth was wounded. Lyons later heard that Carruth made it “state side”. Lazenby finally crawled to the infantry patrol position to assure them that they were in fact Americans and that the Germans had fled. He was in the same boxcar with Lyons after they were treated at the field hospital in Nancy. Lyons and Lazenby were eventually evacuated to England where they stayed well into December. Lazenby went home, and Lyons returned to the 945th. Fred Lyons concludes that “As I recall the events of that night, it is like it was yesterday.”

Due to delays to the scheduled attack to the north Bradley visited Patton on 2 November and inquired as to whether the Third Army could begin the offensive by itself. Patton answered that he could attack with a 24 hour notice, and the Third Army was on-line for 8 November. Patton would have 6 infantry divisions, 3 armored divisions, 38 field artillery battalions, 15 engineer combat battalions and many more unattached units for the attack – a quarter of a million men in all. What Patton and Bradley were not able to see was that November would bring over 7 inches of rain to the Lorraine, more than twice the average amount during this normally wet month.


On 3 November Gen. Eddy issued Field Order No. 10, giving the mission for the offensive to begin on 8 November. The main objective was designated as Faulquemont, twenty miles east of the front lines on the rail line from Metz to Saarbruecken (TLC: MAP 7). Gen. Patton addressed officers and a few selected enlisted men on this same date to impress upon them the honor of being permitted to attack alone (7). He reiterated the importance of marching fire (Patton was constantly concerned that the infantry would not fire their weapons – a concern that was justified based on later studies), and that all supporting weapons were to be used in the attack. He later spoke to the officers and men of the 4th and 6th Armored Divisions, although he felt it un-necessary to address these veteran units.

On November 7, two years to the day from when Patton landed in North Africa for Operation Torch, the XII Corps offensive was set to go. Then, the rains came and all day it poured. Generals Eddy and Grow came to Patton and asked him to “hold off the attack”, Patton posed this question to them – “Whom would they like to name as their successors”! They immediately assented and “as usual did great work” (7).

At 0515 Patton was awaken by the artillery preparations, the rain had stopped and the stars were out. “The 400 guns sounded like the slamming of doors in an empty house – very many doors all slamming at once. All the eastern sky glowed and trembled with the flashes of guns, and I thought how the enemy must feel, knowing that at last the attack he has dreaded has come” (6). The artillery plan was elaborate and detailed (10). Seventeen battalions of Corps artillery (945th included) would fire a preparation beginning at H minus 60 and continuing through H plus 150, supported by 20 battalions of divisional artillery and numerous 90mm anti-aircraft guns, 3-inch tank destroyer guns, and 105mm howitzers of the regimental cannon companies (10).

Both Bradley and Eisenhower called to check on the attack, Eisenhower telling Patton to “carry the ball all the way”. H-hour was at 0600, and everyone kicked-off on time. The attack of the 26th Inf. Div. was on the right front of the XII Corps (TLC: MAP XXVII). They moved into position during the night before the attack. The 945th was located in the middle of the 26th position just outside Arracourt (see Map XXVIII). The attack was a complete surprise to the Germans for the following reasons: radio silence, late movement of the troops to the departure line, a short artillery preparation, lack of air activity, and a concentration of tanks to the rear (10).

The 104th Infantry (26th Inf. Div.) advanced into Vic-Sur-Seille, and the 101st Infantry seized a bridge at Moyenvic; however, Hill 310 just east of Vic-Sur-Seille remained in German hands. The deterioration in the weather prevented artillery support, and the men on the hill, many of whom had shed their coats in the initial attack on the first day, suffered from exposure when rain and snow began to fall late on the 8th and into the next two days. It would take three days of fighting in the cold and snow to take the hill, with a cost of 478 officers and men killed or wounded. The 945th was again close to the front with all three batteries around Vic-Sur-Seille on 10 November.

At the end of the first day all of the units for the 35th, 80th and 26th Infantry Divisions were at their assigned objectives – then the rain started. The 945th fired 435 HE rounds to support the attack. The War Diary notes that the 8th started clear, turning to rain in the afternoon. By the next day it was snowing.


12 November would prove to be a day that the men of the 945th, or the 104th Infantry would always remember. The 3rd Battalion of the 104th had advanced into Rodalbe accompanying Task Force Hunter from the 4th Arm. Div.. Lt. Paul Remillard, a forward observer with the 945th FAB, accompanied the 104th Inf. With his radio operator Cpl. Charles Albrecth. They “walked all day, carrying our 40 lb radio by hand” (I47). The town they entered was Rodalbe, a small village well to the northeast of Chateau-Salins, was the point of furthest penetration by American forces on 12 November. Unfortunately the Germans set a trap by mining the road and covering it with hidden gun emplacements, essentially closing off the road to Rodalbe. Efforts to relieve the battalion failed as darkness closed in and the muddy roads restricted movement.

A 28-man patrol from the 2nd battalion entered the town with orders for the 3rd battalion to withdraw, but it was too late. Another effort was made to enter the village, but they too were turned away by German tanks which now held all entrances to Rodalbe. Remillard was wounded during the initial German assault, but was able to escape with several other men to get help. After being treated for his wounds, he and some other men from an armored command headquarters were preparing to return to Rodalbe when a colonel stopped, warning them that German tanks had cut off all roads leading into the village.

The men remaining in Rodalbe hide in cellars, but the local residents gave away their locations and the German tanks fired directly into the cellars. Over 200 men and officers were lost in Rodalbe. A few men escaped during the night. Paul Remillard told the story of his narrow escape at the 8th annual reunion of the 945th in Nashville, TN nearly fifty years after it had occurred. His radioman, decided to stay and take his chances – he was later found dead in one of the village cellars. Only twelve men survived from the group that was with Lt. Remillard.

The War Diary for 12 November reads as follows:
12 Nov

Light snow during night and fog during day restricted air observation. FO with Companies “L” and “K” of 104th Inf in Rodalbe (244-348). Radio operator casualty. Lack of communications blamed for losses. 75 HE expended.

The 945th, which had just displaced to Chateau Vous on 14 November, was in top form as 362 and 479 HE rounds were fired on 13-14 November, the highest two day total to date. By 16 November the 945th was “mired in mud” and Gen. Eddy was realigning the boundaries of the XII Corps in preparation for the push to the Sarre River.

The attack towards the Sarre would include begin on 18 November on the “left wing” with the 35th and 80th Inf. Divisions, and the 6th Arm. Div. striking towards the road junction of Morhange (TLC: MAP XXXV). On the “right wing” the 26th Inf. Div. and 4th Arm. Div. would, supported by the 945th, would push past Dieuze towards Sarre-Union, a “bleak industrial town” just beyond the Saar River (TLC: MAP XXXIV).

The mud restricted American armor to the roads and prepared defensive positions; however, the artillery support afforded by the XII Corps was punishing, stopping both armor and infantry attacks in their tracks. At one village, Gros-Tenquin, time-on-target (TOT) artillery fire by nineteen battalions of field artillery, combined with fighter-bombers and mortar attacks, left the few surviving German soldiers “quaking with fear”. Each village was in turn assaulted and reduced at a rate which the armor officers destined – they called it “an infantry pace” (10).

On 25 November the HQ for the 945th was in the Dieuze, and the weather was consistently poor with notes in the War Diary such as “stormy weather; wind, rain and sleet; unable to observe registration; etc.”. Jack Carr remembers that the “towns and dates were meaningless”, that his main concern was to “do his job and stay alive” (I4). Bob Frey, whom Carr frequently worked with as a radio operator, surprised him with a call 45 years later!

At the end of November the advance on the right wing found the 4th Arm. Div. and 26th Inf. Div. overlooking Mackwiller, poised to advance on Sarre-Union. The month of November ended on the left wing with the front lines pushed back another 27 miles in front of the 6th Arm. Div. and 35th Inf. Div. The 26th Inf. Div. had suffered 661 killed in action and over 2,000 wounded since the beginning of the month, almost 90 percent riflemen (2). The Third Army was now along the west bank of the Maderbach River – at the western most border of the famous West wall defense network (TLC: MAP XXXVIII).


The XII Corps had come to a halt by 30 November with the following divisions lined up from north to south: 80th Inf. Div., 6th Arm. Div., 35th Inf. Div., and the 26th Inf. Div. (TLC: MAP XXXVIII). The corps front was twenty-five miles in length, with the left wing at Bening-les-Avold, and the right near Mackwiller (TLC: MAP XXXIX). Gen. Patton had quietly given up on reaching the Rhine River by mid-December, but SHAEF still recognized that continued offensive operations by the third Army would “attract considerable German resources from the northern and central sectors…”, which in fact it did. Units that were scheduled for deployment for the Ardennes offensive were held in line by the Third Army until the last minute.

As the net slowly closed around Sarre-Union, American infantry were caught in the town by eight German tanks. The American infantry took shelter in the cellars while an artillery forward observer, hidden in a house surrounded by Germans, radioed back for artillery fire. In ten minutes the 105mm howitzers of the 101st Field Artillery Battalion fired 380 rounds into the area (10). This was just another example of the dependancy of infantry on the power of American artillery.

Saturday, 2 December was the first date available through the National Archives for the 945th FAB Daily Journal. On that day the weather was clear, the Purple Heart was awarded to five men including 2nd Lt. Milton C. Worley, and the battalion fired 146 HE rounds. Note that at 2400 the Journal was closed and one “situation overlay” was attached. These velum overlays were used to pinpoint the location of the battalion Hqs and firing batteries on the standard topographic maps used throughout the war. The original situational overlays were saved and are also in the National Archives collection. On that date the first concentration (#467) was fired at 0450 (4:40 am) for a TOT (Time on Target) of 12 HE (high explosive) rounds to location (5895-3640) on the Saarbrucken 1:100,000 topographic map, a target near Mackwiller (Saarbrucken Map). It would only be 16 more days until the battalion, located several miles east of Sarreguemines near Erching, would turn towards the west and the Battle of the Bulge.

At the end of 6 December the 6th Arm. Div. And 35th Inf. Div. held the western bank of the Sarre River in force from Grosbliederstoff to Wittring, a distance of ten miles (10). Gen. Eddy delayed the 35th Inf. Div. until the 26th Inf. Div. Could come along side and attack on 8 December. On 5 December the War Diary states that the weather was “cloud with rain”, and that the battalion displaced to Mackwiller, fired one mission, then displaced to Sarre-Union.

On 7 December the XII Corps regrouped for the next phase of the advance to the northeast (10). The main effort would be by the 35th and 26th Inf. Div. attacking abreast in order to position the XII Corps for a final push through the West Wall. Before sunrise on 8 December the 35th and 26th Inf. Div. Attacked to cross their respective barriers, the Sarre River and Maginot Line. The 945th FAB supported the 26th Inf. Div. As they drove forward to “crack the Maginot Line” (10). The 945th participated in a 30 minute artillery barrage that inflicted “severe losses on the German troops”. The German SS XIII Corps commander, Gen. Balck, stated that “The experiences of the last days have taught that the enemy artillery, employing air or ground observation, easily destroys our own counter-attacks before they are actually formed” (10). “The Lorraine Campaign” specifically mentions the 945th FAB in footnote 33 on page 541 where it says that “The enemy too had a rough time at the hands of the artillery. The 945th Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Howitzer) and the 731st Field Artillery Battalion (155-mm. Gun) picked up a German tank park near Bebelsheim, some 5,00 yards northeast of Frauenberg, and crippled or destroyed several enemy tanks”. The War Diary for 11 December includes the notation that “Tanks and counterattacks vital targets”. Total rounds 546 HE…”. The 945th fired over 500 HE rounds for three days in a row on 10-12 December 1944. It should be noted that the 26th Inf. Div. Was replaced on line by the 87th Inf. Div. (Golden Acorns) on 9 December. The 945th FAB subsequently supported the newly arrived 87th Inf. Div. On 12 December with 583 HE rounds.

On 14-16 December the 35th and 87 Inf. Div. Fought a series of “grim Battles” that lead them up to the wood lots held by German infantry adjacent to the West Wall (10). It would be the last progress to the east in the Lorraine, for on 16 December the Germans launched the attack into the Ardennes forest of Luxembourg and Belgium, the Battle of the Bulge. Gen. Pattons’ all-out offensive against the West Wall, scheduled for 18 December, would have to wait. The 87th and 35th Inf. Div. Were told to halt their attacks, and the 35th Inf. Div. Was removed from the battle line after 162 consecutive days of fighting (10). Total American casualties for the Lorraine Campaign was 6,657 killed, 36,406 wounded, and 12,119 missing.

On 18 December, just before the orders came for the 945th FAB to head for Luxembourg, battery C was hit hard by enemy shells. Rudolph Amschler remembers that the location was near Erching on a cloudy, rainy day (I31). As their convoy reached the top of a hillside and got the howitzers uncoupled the German 88mm. guns began direct firing at the battalion. “The driver stopped the engine and told me to take cover. We ran into a branch 3 feet deep for cover. About 60 rounds of artillery hit the Battery C area. One section was knocked out. 2 of our men were killed, and 9 were wounded. The gun was knocked out too. This was late in the afternoon” (I31). Cruser recalled that “… we got beat up pretty good – several casualties. C battery at one time was down from 102 enlisted men to 72 enlisted men. It is pretty tough to go on with about a third of your people gone”.

Two men, Sgt. Henry T. Payton and Pvt. Benjamin F. Fry, were killed. Payton had sought cover between the trails of the howitzer that was destroyed and was killed instantly. Nine others, including 2nd Lt. John T. (Tom) Cope, were wounded. Fred Mackey and his wife Hazel had been good friends with Henry Payton and his wife during training, and Fred later found out that Payton’s first child was born the day after he was killed in France. Fred attended Payton’s funeral in Newnan, Georgia after the war. Battery B was also hit and two men were wounded by shrapnel. Later in the day the battalion was hit again at a different location, and Amschler’s tent was “riddled” with shrapnel holes. Mackey remembers that the tent was absolutely shredded, but a clock inside was undamaged.

Dan Hale remembers that the men were cold, hungry, and exhausted in the Lorraine by December (I1). The Germans had broken through the American lines, and he noted that Tom Cope from his battery was wounded. Tom Cope was born in Ohio, but his father, a World War I veteran, returned the family to Alabama when he was one year old. Having graduated from Auburn University in 1942, he entered the U.S. Army and joined the 179th FAB at Ft. Sill. He was subsequently transferred to the 945th while at Camp Gruber and assigned to Svc. Battery as the motor officer. Cope was assigned to the 945th as an air observer, and he frequently flew with Lt. Eaton in the small Piper J-3 observation planes. Cope had about 60 missions when he was wounded on 18 December, and later received the Air Medal in addition to the Purple Heart. On 15 December he had been temporarily transferred from Svc. Battery to C battery. As the battery stopped in an apple orchard near Erching they received counter-battery fire from across the German border. Cope states that “…. we received a 60 round concentration which killed two and wounded 10″ (I27). Wounded in the shoulder, he spent 8 months in the hospital. He was promoted to 1st Lt. upon separation at LaGarde General Hospital in New Orleans, LA.


LTC. Dyer’s book “XII Corps: Spearhead of Patton’s Army” provides a good summary of the XII Corps Artillery during the drive across France. The Third Army had over 1,000 artillery pieces along the front, with close to 25,000 rounds being fired on days late in November. General John Lentz, Commander of the XII Corps Artillery, was a field artilleryman during World War I and knew first-hand the importance of leadership within the Corps. His frequent visits to the firing batteries created his morale and espirit within the Corps. From the Corps HQ to the firing batteries the quality could be noted. Lentz once commented that he had “never seen a bunch of battalion commanders who had their tails so high”.

The organization was flexible and comprehensive. The corps artillery was divided into four Field Artillery “Groups”, the 182nd being the primary assignment for the 945th FAB, although transfers to other groups for specific objectives did occur. The History of the 182nd Field Artillery Group notes that it was historically a Michigan National Guard unit from the Detroit area. The history also notes that “The first actual firing by the artillery battalions attached to the 182nd group occurred at the seige at Montargis, when the 945th FA Battalion fired 76 rounds from their 155mm howitzers on 21st August” (11).

Control for all the artillery within the Corps was exercised through one or two fire direction centers which were located well forward. Col. Rodney Gott, Lentz’s Executive Officer, stated that “In the whole history of corps operation we never had battalions out of supporting range of our advance elements” (4). “No other corps had their artillery further forward than ours. We never lost any of it”.

The XII Corps history uses the 945th FAB, “one of XII Corps favorite fighting battalions”, as an example of the aggressiveness and co-operating spirit of the corps artillery (page 221). Col. Wilbur V. DeLoach, commander of the 945th FAB, stated that “Less than 10 percent of the positions we occupied were goose eggs (predetermined areas) sent down by Group {182nd Field Artillery Group}. My normal practice was to stay out with my driver, acting as my own radio operator. I had contact with the direct support artillery battalion CO and his infantry. By doing this I could keep up with the situation much better and plan my displacements so as to always be well within range and cover any possible targets in the infantry sector. These tactics always enabled our artillery to stay well forward where it would do the most good, and keep us in position where we could reach a mass of targets with the green bag powder (Charge five or less)….” (4).

General Lentz recognized the 945th and other corps artillery battalions on 4 October 1944 with a Commendation, noting that “The performance of the corps artillery battalions in recent operations has been outstanding” (——). Gen. Eddy echoed this opinion on 16 October 1944 in a letter to gen. Lentz stating that “In probably no other branch of the ground forces has the skillful application of enormous power produced a more devastating effect upon the German army than with the artillery, and I can assure you that the XII Corps artillery is no exception. It has performed its missions consistently with distinction. All its members may well be proud of its record to date” (4).

Gen. Patton wrote two letters of congratulations to the XII Corps on 24 November and 2 December, both of which were forwarded with ringing endorsements from Gen. Eddy (——–). Gen. Lentz concluded this round of congratulatory notes on 12 December ending with the following: “We now stand on the border of Germany. There is still more rain, still more cold, still more mud, still more Germans to overcome. But the end is inevitable. It remains now but to accomplish this final mission in the same magnificent manner that the Corps Artillery has made its standard”.

The Germans recognized the importance and quality of the American artillery, being distinguished by a speedy system of communications, accurate fire, plentiful ammunition, greater range, extensive use of white phosphorus, and the skillful use of artillery planes as aerial observation posts (10).

Chapter 9 Notes

1. Stanton, Shelby L., World War II Order of Battle, Galahad Books, New York, New York, 1984.
2. Weigley, Russell F., Eisenhowers Lieutenants, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 1981.
3. History of the 182nd Field Artillery Group, US Army Military History Institute, 204-182FA 1945, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
4. Dyer, George LTC, XII Corps: Spearhead of Patton’s Army, XII Corps History Association, 1947.
5. Blumenson, Martin, “Breakout and Pursuit”, U.S. Army in World War II, Center for Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1961.
6. Bluemenson, Martin, “The Patton Papers”, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA, 1974.
7. Patton, George S., “War As I Knew It”, Bantam Books, New York, NY, 1947.
8. Johns, Glover S., “The Clay Pigeons of St. Lo.”, Bantam Books, New York, NY, 1958.
9. U.S Army Military History Institute, “War Diary of the 945th Field Artillery Battalion in the ETO”, 202-945FA 1945, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.
10. Cole, Hugh M., “The Lorraine Campaign”, U.S. Army in World War II, Center for Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1950.
11. U.S. Army Military History Institute, “History of the 182nd Field Artillery Group”, 204-182FA 1945, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, PA.



Time On Target

“Time on Target: The 945th Field Artillery Battalion in World War II”, authored by William M. Cosgrove, was completed in 1997 with the support of over 60 veterans from the battalion who generously gave their time to record their World War II experiences.

Hardcover: 172 pages
Publisher: William M Cosgrove (February 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0965689204
ISBN-13: 978-0965689205

Download the Book

Part 1 (11.4MB PDF)
Part 2 (3.3MB PDF)
Part 3 (9.3MB PDF)