US 5th Armored Division, September 1944

Discussion in 'US Units' started by Earthican, Aug 9, 2014.

  1. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    I recently discovered that GoogleMaps Terrain feature (shaded-relief topographic) now has forested regions in a light green shade -- a very light green shade. Unfortunately they still have the nature parks in a dark green shade. Still, where there are no nature parks the shaded-relief combined with the forest regions allow better terrain analysis than before.

    I have always been interested in the US 5th Armored Division's attack on the Westwall in September of 1944. The 5th AD and 28th ID had swept the Ardennes and were ordered to penetrate the Westwall at Wallendorf, Germany, northeast of Luxembourg City.

    For this action armor used mobility and firepower in an attempt to dislodge an initial scratch force of defenders. Enemy reaction and a lack of follow-on forces would doom the effort. As in COBRA, it illustrates armor penetrating the enemy defense area, but unlike COBRA the hard fighting done by the armor is not over-shadowed by the larger success of the operation.

    As either a teaser or taste, I offer an almost first-hand account of the action. I like to read these before a careful study of the battle. The confusion and disjointed action provides a sense of how the battle was experienced before a coherent narrative is created from the parts. A period map is attached.


    This is from the 71st Armored Field Artillery Bn, attached to CCB, 5th AD:
  2. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    The After Action Report from the 5th AD headquarters takes one step closer to history. The AAR attempts to build a narrative around the unit journal entries and the memories of the commanders and staff officers. Depending on the time constraints imposed by current operations and the inclinations of the writer, the AAR may be short on memories and depend on the journals.

    North to south, the 5th AD was arrayed facing the Westwall with CCB, CCR and CCA. The 112th Infantry of the 28th ID was attached and appears to have moved in the wake of the armor to clear out enemy pockets.

    Map attached to the previous post.

  3. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Now the official history since it provides a well written overview. So well written that the sketch maps in the official history, though well done, are often inadequate to get the full meaning of the text. To help in this regard, though not ideal, there is the US Army Map Service 1:100k topo map attached to the first post. While known to be optimistic about the road net, the AMS as a period map is better than none.

    Here's where the GoogleMaps Terrain feature helps. For most people, the shaded-relief provides an immediate visualization of the terrain and, in this case, the road net is similar to the AMS map. With the addition of a few village names and marks for their location, the attached map is now a tool for further study of the battle.

    The excerpt below covers the first two days of the attack. Attached is a portion of the sketch map from the official history with its thrusting arrows which may provide orientation but at the cost of comprehension.

  4. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Through my obsessive collecting of oblique aerial photos I happened to have some images of the battle area. These are from the 80th Infantry Division which passed through the same region in late February 1945.

    Another picture of Wallendorf

    Attached Files:

    stolpi likes this.
  5. Tom OBrien

    Tom OBrien Senior Member


    Great stuff. Thanks for posting. Where particular objectives set for the attacks by Corps or Division HQs?


  6. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Thank you for the kind words, Tom.

    MG Gerow was the V Corps commander and his intentions were described here:

    MG Oliver was the 5th Armored Division commander and, until the advance involved more of the 5th AD, there does not appear to be much leeway in the orders from V Corps.

    The problem is V Corps was protecting the southern flank of the US First Army that was making its main effort to the north around Aachen. While V Corps had orders to advance and tie-down German forces it could not hope for any reinforcement if it ran into trouble. While the race across France had been exhilarating, troops and equipment were tired and worn, supplies moving from Normandie had become a concern and the Westwall was a daunting objective.

    I think hindsight shows the day or two pause before the Westwall proved to be fatal. Had the Americans targeted an objective line beyond the Westwall before pausing they may have succeeded in making a large breach of the German frontier. The attack on the Westwall would require special tactics such as a surprise day/night advance or some other infiltration method. The pondering infantry attacks by the 28th and 4th Divisions achieved nothing like the 5th AD at Wallendorf.

    Whole map for V Corps

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