Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges, Autumn 1944

Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges, Autumn 1944

Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges, Autumn 1944

Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges, Autumn 1944

Synopsis

In the autumn of 1944, during fierce fighting in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France, one of the most amazing incidents in military history occurred: the rescue of two infantry battalions, one American, one German, cut off, far behind the enemy lines of each. The 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry ("Alamo Regiment"), had been cut off for six days with food, water, and ammunition running out, when the Japanese-American Nisei of the famed "Go For Broke" 442d Regimental Combat Team were called upon to give their all to break through and save the Texans. At virtually the same time and place, the Wehrmacht's 202d Mountain Battalion, thrown into combat without adequate preparation, had also been cut off, and its sister unit - the 201st Mountain Battalion - had to perform an equally desperate rescue. The weather was abysmal, the terrain almost impassable. For the Germans, it was a last stand, and they would fight to the death. The Americans, caught in their bloodiest fight since Anzio, came to call the battlefield "the crossroads of hell". Nisei casualties were devastating. Some generals lost their sons there, and other generals lost only their honor.

Excerpt

The summer of 1944 brought a series of stunning defeats to the Third Reich. June saw the Normandy invasion, July the attempt on Adolf Hitler's life, and August the Allied landings in southern France. In the East, the Russian summer offensive smashed Army Group Middle, and on every other front the Wehrmacht was either on the defensive or in a state of retreat. On 1 July the aging Feldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt was relieved by Gfinther von Kluge as commander in chief West, who in turn committed suicide on 17 August when summoned to Berlin. Failing to push the Allies back into the sea and being implicated in the plot against Hitler were too much for Kluge (even though he had held out against the conspiracy until proof of Hitler's death was offered).

On 15 August, as thousands of Germans found themselves trapped in the Falaise pocket, the American Seventh and French First Armies landed on the Riviera. Allied plans had envisioned Normandy as the hammer that would smash the German army against the anvil mounted in southern France. Although the timetable had been changed several times, Operation Dragoon (earlier code-named "Anvil") caught the Germans completely off guard. While the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) had every reason to expect such an Allied operation, and knew in advance, from aerial reconnaissance, that the invasion fleet was under way, it failed disastrously in attempting to deduce the target area of the attack. By the time the German Nineteenth Army recovered from the surprise of the landings between Cannes and points east of Toulon , it was too late. The . . .

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