134th Infantry Regiment Crest

134th Infantry Regiment

"All Hell Can't Stop Us"

35th Infantry Division emblem

Report of Action Against the Enemy

320th Infantry Regiment

December 1 to December 31, 1944

 

DECLASSIFIED

Authority 735017

By IM NARA, Date 4/1/06

 

CLASSIFICATION

CANCELLED

BY AUTHORITY OF THE ADJUTANT GENERAL

(Signed) - W Bradley, Capt AGD 1 May 46

DOWNGRADING COMMITTEE CONFIDENTIAL

CONFIDENTIAL

HEADQUARTERS 320TH INFANTRY

APO 35 U S ARMY

 

3 January 1945

 

SUBJECT: Action against Enemy, Report After.

 

TO : The Adjutant General, Washington, D. C. (Thru Channels)

 

1. Following report covers the period 1 December 1944 to 31 December 1944 inclusive.

On 1 December 1944 the 320th Infantry was in assembly area. The Regimental CP and special units were in Pontpierre and the Battalions assembled in the neighboring towns. On that date orders were received for the Third Battalion to come under division control, with instructions to move from their assembly area to the vicinity of Kappelkinger. On 2 December 1944 the remainder of the regiment, acting under orders from higher headquarters, moved to new assembly areas; the First Battalion in the area of Insming and the Second Battalion in area of Hilsprich. The regimental CP displaced from Pontpierre to Uberkinger, a distance of 29 miles. By 2330 the Third Battalion had completed the relief of the 26th Reconnaissance Troop and the 44th Armored Infantry Battalion. The Second Battalion was in process of relieving units of the 44th Armored Infantry Battalion and the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion. The First Battalion remained at Insming in regimental reserve. On 3 December at 1400 Field Order #31 was issued by the Regimental CO to all elements of the 320th Infantry. On 4 December, in execution of the Field Order, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions established bridge heads across the Mederbach River and began clearing towns on the opposite bank. When areas had been sufficiently cleared, the engineers began construction of bridges, repair of roads, and removal of road blocks. The regiment continued to advance until 8 December at which time it reached and secured the western bank of the Saar River, including the towns of Siltzheim and Wittring. In the course of the advance from the Mederbach to the Saar River, the regiment took the towns of Holving, Diederfing, Bettring, Ballering, Richeling, Grundviller, Heckenransbach, Willerwald, Hambach and Zetting, in addition to the two towns previously named. During the early morning hours of 8 December the First and Second Battalions by subterfuge, stealth and assault effected the crossing of the Saar River and canal paralleling it and secured bridgeheads on the opposite bank. The enemy holding positions on the opposite bank were taken by surprise and many were killed or taken prisoner before they could effectively oppose the crossing. On 9 December the Third Battalion effected a crossing by engineer foot bridge at Wittring. By 10 December, engineers had completed construction of bridges across the river and vehicles and supplies could then be sent to the troops on the opposite bank. These were followed closely by the special units and headquarters groups. By 12 December the regiment had advanced to the southern bank of the Blies River and were firing into the town of Bliesbruck, on both banks. In the course of this advance the towns of Dieding and Wiesviller were taken from the enemy. On 12 December it was reported by the CO of the First Battalion that at 1430 hours Staff Sergeant Alvin G. Hammons and Staff Sergeant James W. Johnson, both of Company “B”, waded the Blies River to cross the international boundary into Germany. In the morning of 13 December troops of the Third Battalion now began the assault on the town of Bliesbruck south and east of the Blies River. On 14 December troops of the First Battalion crossed the Blies River while on the right troops of the Second Battalion patrolled to the town of Nieder-Gailbach across the international boundary into Germany. On 18 December troops of the Second Battalion attacked and seized the town thus securing for the regiment the first town within the German Reich. The Third Battalion which, after capturing South Bliesbruck, followed the First Battalion across the river on 16 December, advanced to the North until it was in position and then assaulted and took the town of Reinheim from the West and South. By 20 December the regiment had fought its way well within the borders of Germany and had seized and secured the towns of Reinheim, Nieder-Gailbach and Gersheim. By 2400 of 21 December the regiment had been relieved by the 346th Infantry and elements of the 347th Infantry of the 87th Infantry Division and had moved to new assembly areas as follows: First Battalion in Hirbach, Second Battalion in Bettring, Third Battalion, less Company “K,” in Uberkinger, special units in Hinsing and Holving, with the Regimental CP in Holving. By 1000 next day Company “K” had rejoined the Third Battalion at Uberkinger and all elements of the regiment remained in assembly areas during that day. On 23 December the entire regiment moved to new assembly area in the city of Metz, a distance of 86 2/10 miles, where it remained until 26 December. On Christmas Day all units of the regiment were alerted for movement to the vicinity of Arlon, Belgium. At 1015 in the morning of 26 December leading elements of Combat Team 320 began to move from Metz to the newly designated assembly area. By 2200 all elements of the combat team had closed into new areas as follows: First Battalion in Nagem, Second Battalion in Lannen, Third Battalion in Roodt-les-Ell. The Regimental CP opened at Berg after displacement of 81 miles, all towns being within the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. At 2230 the Regimental CO issued a fragmentary order calling for a jump-off from an LD along the La Sure River, at 0800 27 December. This LD was approximately 5 miles in advance of the troop concentration area, and prior reconnaissance could not be made. Limited information was obtained from elements of the 6th Cavalry who had held a portion of the near bank in light force. Early in the attack the Third Battalion gained the opposite bank of the river by having two platoons wade the icy stream which was five feet in depth and hold a bridgehead while the engineers constructed a foot-bridge on which the remainder of the Battalion crossed. The Second Battalion managed to cross foot troops by using a bridge which had not been completely demolished. At the end of the day our troops had succeeded in occupying the towns of Baschleiden, Flebour and Boulaide and were holding them against increasing enemy resistance. During the 32-hour period from 261015 December to 271815 December Combat Team 320 had moved approximately 86 miles through three countries, France, Belgium and Luxembourg, had crossed a swift flowing stream with no existing bridges, advanced 4 km, taken 3 towns, captured 35 prisoners, all without a casualty among our own troops. During the remainder of period to 31 December troops of the regiment continued to advance slowly against strong opposition including an exceptional percentage of automatic weapons and at 2400 31 December the regiment was disposed as follows: Second Battalion with companies disposed from right to left occupied northern portion of the woods immediately south of Harlange and SW of the Farm Fuhrmann at 610490, Company “I”of Third Battalion at 615489, Company “K” and “L” at 623487.

 

2. Mission: Until relieved on 21 December, the mission was to advance and seize the assigned objectives within the regimental zone of action, to destroy and capture as much of the enemy force as possible while driving the remainder back towards Germany. From 27 December thru the end of the period the mission was to advance and develop the enemy resistance and push as far as possible into the enemy positions, and to hold firm against all counterattacks and prevent the enlargement of Von Rundstedt’s push to the south by offensive action of his troops, all this to aid materially in keeping open the corridor to the friendly troops in Bastogne, and to cut off and destroy the most forward elements of enemy troops attempting to cut this corridor.

 

3. Information of the Enemy: The type and number of defenses of the enemy during the first half of the period were very many. The demolition of bridges, roads and material were the most complete yet seen by this regiment. Every bridge across a stream or gully was blown. Roads were cratered and there were road blocks at many points. Strategic areas were extensively mined and booby-trapped due probably to the use of SS Engineers as infantry. The enemy emplanted two of the largest “S” mine fields thus far encountered near a key cross road and by interdicting this junction forced personnel off into the mine field. Tin cans were intermixed with the mines to delay detection. From 27 December to the end of the period the regiment was opposed by elements of the 5th Paratroop Division. Their defensive tactics have been firm and efficient. They have made extensive use of mortar, Nebelwerfers and MG fire in opposing our advance. These weapons have been supplemented by other small arms, artillery, tank and air support. The efficiency and morale of the enemy troops were moderate to high.

 

4. Decision on Tactical Maneuver: Tactical maneuver was executed by successive echelons in conformity with orders from their own commanders. Wide latitude was given subordinate commanders, who employed the initiative thus allowed with exceptional skill and aggression, exploiting every opportunity and overcoming tremendous obstacles.

 

5. Units Used: The First, Second and Third Battalions were commanded by Major William Walton (promoted to Lieutenant Colonel during the period), Lieutenant Colonel Warren T. Hannum and Lieutenant Colonel Joseph D. Alexander respectively throughout the period. Special units commanders were Captain Dwight D. Bonham, Headquarters Company; Captain Paul H. Heil, Service Company; Captain A. D. Wilson, Anti-Tank Company; Captain Robert N. Ekstrum, Cannon Company; Major L. A. Smith, Medical Detachment. The regiment was commanded by Colonel B. A. Byrne. Lieutenant Colonel William F. Northam was Executive Officer. The regimental staff consisted of First Lieutenant Milton Ginsburg (promoted to Captain during the period), Major George W. Jamieson, Major Thomas P. McElroy Jr., and Major Harold V. Hughes, S-1, S-2, S-3 and S-4 respectively.

 

6. Weapons Used: Small arms, grenades, rocket launchers, mortars, artillery, tanks and tank destroyers. However, from the period after 27 December, the regiment did not have tank support although this arm might well have been employed if available. The regiment had the support of one platoon (4 guns) of 4.2 Chemical Mortars.

 

7. Artillery, Tank and Air Support: Through 21 December the use of tank destroyers and tanks was excellent, although terrain, extremely modified by enemy blocks and demolitions, and weather conditions, often made their use difficult. Artillery support continued to be superior throughout the period. There was no tank support in any of the operations subsequent to 27 December. Air support was periodic.

 

8. Effects of Weather: All operations during the first portion of the period were hampered by rain, and the all prevailing mud was such that operations were extremely difficult and sometimes almost impossible to perform. During the latter portion of the period the weather was subfreezing and the ground blanketed with snow. This has not materially affected the efficiency of the troops except that they must constantly protect themselves against frostbite. However, some casualties were sustained from these severe weather conditions.

 

9. Supply: During this period supply was hampered by muddy roads, poor road networks, and several river crossings. This unit had one weasel at its disposal which was excellent for use in this type terrain. Long hand carries were necessary to supply troops due to the shortage of this type vehicle. Shortages during the period were radio batteries, radio tubes and type “K” ration.

 

10. Communications: Communications were by wire, radio and motorized messenger. The operations of the wire crews were made very difficult by the mud and constant dampness. The lines were frequently cut by shellfire and vehicles, and at time the wire sections operated 24 hours a day.

 

11. Honest appraisal of troop morale and troop efficiency: Excellent throughout the operations.

 

12. Casualties for this period:

Officers

EM

Total

Killed in Action

2

22

24

Wounded in Action

13

240

253

Missing in Action

0

42

42

13. Decorations: The following decorations have been recommended.

3 - Distinguished Service Cross

22 - Silver Star

50 - Bronze Star

 

14. Prisoners Taken: 556 prisoners were taken during this period.

 

15. Complete summary of accomplishments, Remarks concerning mistakes, Incidents: Throughout the period of operations the men and officers of the regiment performed their duties in an efficient and excellent manner. They continued to maintain a high state of morale and efficiency, although the constant mud and rain and miserable living conditions tended to wear down both men and equipment. Perhaps the most successful single operation during the period was the crossing of the Saar River made by the Second Battalion. Through use of information obtained from civilians the troops managed to gain the opposite bank before the enemy was aware of their crossing. The Germans were taken unaware in their trenches and defense positions and were cut off and captured or killed by machine gun and rifle fire before they could offer effective resistance. This was a most fortunate occurrence as the enemy had extremely advantageous positions from which to oppose the crossing and could have made it extremely difficult if not impossible had he not been taken unaware by the stealth and daring of our troops. In connection with the crossing of the Sure River as the line of departure, the regiment made a successful crossing where no bridges existed, in subfreezing weather and without prior observation of the line of departure which was not wholly secured. Across icy stream banks and a snow-covered landscape, the regiment advanced 4 km, took 3 towns and captured 36 prisoners of war without the loss of a single casualty to our forces.

 

(Signature)

B. A. BYRNE

Colonel, 320th Infantry

Commanding

 

4 Incl

Incl 1. S-1 Journal

Incl 2. S-2 Journal

Incl 3. S-3 Journal

Incl 4. S-4 Journal

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