History

314th Infantry Regiment: December 1944

As of 1 December, the 79th Division still fell under the control of VX Corps, 7th U.S. Army. The 44th Division had been replaced by the 45th Division "Thunderbirds" from the brutal Italian campaigns. The 44th remained in the Vosges guarding the Saverne.



Hagenau

The next stop for the 314th Regiment was Haguenau. At 0800, 1 December, 2nd BN was dispatched in a limited offensive to secure Meyershollam Farm located just forward the Regimental line. Some small arms fire erupted from the buildings, but the farm was taken by 0940. F/Co advanced, but took a beating from 20-mm flak guns cutting the road from Haguenau to Winterhausen. E and G/Companies followed, securing positions in the woods beyond at 1230. To the right, 1st BNs A/Co sent a patrol to a walled farm at Walk Chateau, and drew some fire. The patrol regrouped and held the area, tying into the 3rd BN position; holding a line to the right of the 1st BN in the woods overlooking a pasture. Everyone buttoned up for the night.

The next day, 2 December, the 1st and 3rd BNs held their positions, with A/Co facing one counter-attack at Walk Chateau, but the 2nd BN had some organizational problems and needed to straighten their line. F/Co moved one-half mile to a quarry on the battalion's left. They faced arms fire and mortar from a waiting enemy, but advanced through it to put the 2nd BN back in alignment. At this stage, the troops dug in to wait out orders and battle plans, sending out patrols and covering up when the artillery flew. From 3 December to 7 December, they waited. On 5 December, the 79th Division transferred over to VI Corps to form one flank of the new Corps defensive to breach the Siegfried defenses.

Seventh Army Advance to the German Border, 5-20 December 1944
Seventh Army Advance to the German Border, 5-20 December 1944

On 7 December, the first details of the plan came in: the 79th was to move out on the right, 103rd Division center, and the 45th on the left. The newly-deployed 14th Armored Division waited for word of a break in the line to advance. The 79th Division's line of attack would take them through Bischwiller and Seltz, destroying the bridges crossing the Rhine. The 314th's immediate objective was Haguenau and the Foret de Haguenau where enemy ammunition dumps were located. Beyond the Foret de Haguenau lay the fortifications of Hitler's infamous "Westwall." The attack zone had the 314th headed to Haguenau, the 313th moving north to Bischwiller, and the 315th leading off to take Kaltenhaus - all supporting the other's attacks if necessary.

On 8 December, the battalions special unit commanders met at the Regimental CP in Niederschaeffolsheim to coordinate. The 315th was to lead off the attack at 0645, 9 December, while the 314th activated at 0715 laying fire to thwart a German attack to the left. On the afternoon of 8 December, the 315th moved into position on the right flank. That night, 314th's 2nd BN pushed up a few hundred yards, but could get no further. Patrols reported heavy enemy activity, and the 314th jump off time was pushed back until 1400 the next day. The 313th and 315th moved out as originally planned.

Early 9 December, B/Co sent out patrols, but they were stopped by enemy fire just beyond Walk Chateau. B/Co attempted, along with the 315th's 3rd BN, to align with the A and C/Co positions at Walk Chateau. 2nd BN was facing heavy resistance, but was able to insert G/Co along with F/Co at its quarry position. By nightfall, 2nd BN was still well behind the time table. 3rd BN faced heavy fire, but was able to reach the southwest edge of Haguenau before dark. I/Co patrolled the woods and captured 25 POWs. 1st BN was situated on 3rd's right flank. 1st BNs A/Co was now sharing the position with 3rd BN on the edge of town. 2nd BN, seeing more resistance than the others, sent E/Co over to Walk Chateau to guard the Regiment's right flank, and went into reserve.

Germans had moved back into the 3rd BNs zone on early 10 December, and the jump off was delayed by one hour to deal with the threat.

The advance into Haguenau had A/Co on the right, L/Co in the center, and K/Co holding the left. It was slow going as the units worked house-to-house, all the while dodging mortar rounds. As the advance came up to Haguenau proper, the progress was halted because a crossing bridge over a deep railroad track had been blown.

3 members of Cannon Co., 314th Infantry Regiment, try to keep warm in a muddy field near Haguenau
3 members of Cannon Co., 314th Infantry Regiment, try to keep warm in a muddy field near Haguenau

German defenses were only 50 yards away, and were secured in reinforced positions in the houses. The companies moved to a three-story building beside the railroad tracks to regroup and plan. E/Co sent out a patrol to the tracks east of Haguenau to gauge crossing the 2nd BN there. They made it to within 30 yards of the tracks when it was attacked. They retreated. A second patrol sent out at midnight was also heavily fired upon. With the bridges out, armored support was out, and any attack fire was returned in kind by the Germans.

At 0500, 11 December, 2nd BN, coming out of reserve, swept around to the right. By 0825, they were at the tracks due north - close enough to see A/Co and the 3rd BN crossing the deep tracks. Miraculously, the Germans had withdrawn sometime during the night. The units closed in on Haguenau, and had road blocks in place north and east by 1400. The townspeople were gracious and surprisingly pro-Allied. The engineers set about repairing the bridges so the armor and the other vehicles could cross.

The next stop was to be Soufflenheim, eight miles east through the Foret de Haguenau. The 313th was already there facing a fierce fight. On 12 December, a scouting party from the 1st BN was sent out to determine the route. They discovered the bridge west of Soufflenheim mined, but whole. The demolition engineers cleared the explosives, and the 314th reached town at 0830, and ordered to hold in place and support the 313th Regiment.

The 13 December orders had the 314th moving north through the Foret de Haguenau to the town of Niederroedern. The assignment was to set the stage to cross the German border into Scheibenhardt - the edge of the Siegfried Line. Troops were loaded on any vehicle that moved for a fast-paced mechanized advance. Speed was a must for this move to be successful. Along the way, however, were dozens of streams at which the Germans had blown every bridge, and had left tanks to guard the positions. Roughly four miles short of the objective town, 2nd BN moved to Leutenheim, the 3rd BN fell back all the way to Soufflenheim, and the 1st BN, never having began the move, remained there as well.

With the routes to Niederroedern congested or impassable, the 314th was ordered to swing out right to Seltz and cross there on the heels of the 313th. The 3rd BN reached Seltz, and the orders changed - again. 2nd BN moved out to assemble in Wintzenbach, but word reached the Regiment that Wintzenbach was overcrowded, so 2nd diverted to Schaffhausen. The 1st BN moved out later, and assembled at Seltz across from the 3rd BN position. The 314th was finally in line - right behind the 313th Regiments' drive north to Lauterberg.

Riding on tank hulls, the troops got the first look at Hitler's Germany across the Rhine. On 15 December, 1st BN assembled in Neewiller, while 2nd and 3rd BNs billeted in Wintzenbach awaiting the next battle plan.

At 0645, 16 December, the 314th was alerted to prepare for crossing the Lauter River and move up through the 315th's position near Scheibenhardt. The approach was a forested area, and there would be no cheering townspeople. The 314th prepared to invade Germany.

Germany...Into the Siegfried Line

As the 314th Regiment moved north from Haguenau, it passed the French Maginot Line. Thankfully, the forest was void of enemy troops. A few miles ahead, however, lay the Siegfried Line which was manned heavily. The plan to move into Germany had the column crossing with 1st BN in the lead, 3rd BN, and 2nd BN in the rear. At 0900, word came in of a delay due to a bridge was repaired on the main road between Buchelberg and Lauterberg to allow armor to precede the ground troops. The bridge site came under heavy enemy fire, so repairs took longer than anticipated. The move was postponed until 17 December.

Orders were specified to send the 79th Division north, breach the Siegfried Line, and capture Kandel on the other side of the woods. The attack jumped off at 0700 with the 1st BN moving in two columns; C/Co going straight up the main road into Kandel, and A/Co moving up on the left. After dealing with road blocks, C/Co reached the crossroads at Buchelberg-Berg/Kandel.

Soldiers cross the Siegfried Line
Soldiers cross the Siegfried Line

A/Co was still to the left, one trail over. To avoid more road blocks, the units moved eastward. B/Co, with two tanks, had been tracking C/Co when they encountered an enemy defensive position 400 yards east of the road. B and C/Companies spent the rest of the day observing the enemy. K/Co met resistance to the left of 1st BNs position. By nightfall, the placement was following: B and C/Co facing enemy to the right of the main road into Kandel, A/Co tied in at the road but behind slightly to the west. K/Co, to A's left, was at the junction of Berg and Scheibenhardt-Buchelberg, with I and L/Co to it's left position. F/Co was north of Scheibenhardt with the remainder of 2nd BN into town proper. At midnight, K/Co patrols reported an enemy presence of unknown number left of the 1st BN sector.

At daybreak, 18 December, the 1st BN reconned their forward area slowly. B and C/Companies breached an area of pillboxes, capturing one. Artillery fire in the area was heavy, and the 1st BN only succeeded in pushing close to the Line unable to penetrate, but gained valuable intelligence. Another failed attempt to gain ground by the 1st BN took place later in the day. The 313th Regiment had lost its forward position by a German counter-attack.

On 19 December, the 2nd BN marched a reconnaissance in force around the left side of the Line. They met blockades of felled trees across the road. E/Co advanced cleaning out small pockets, but the enemy fire was relentless. The next two days were spend sending out patrols for spots to exploit in the German's defense of the Line. 2nd BN was called in from its recon run on 23 December, and 3rd BN sent forward to secure a good jump off position, and maintain a defensive line. Troops set mines and booby traps all along the German side of the Line behind the Lauter River. On 24 December, the 314th withdrew to the new Regimental line - 2nd BN at Lauterberg and Berg, 3rd BN to Scheibenhardt, the woods beyond and Neewiller. 1st BN established a position on a ridge between Neewiller and Lauterberg.

Christmas Eve, 1944, was spent patrolling the German woods. Platoons were rotated so that the troops got a chance to warm up and have a meal. The 79th Recon troops reported from the right flank of the Rhine that the enemy was laying wire. Numerous enemy flares were also reported.

On Christmas Day, an I&R platoon along with the 79th Recon were patrolling between Lauterberg and north along the bank of the Rhine. Defenses were bolstered by AT mines, demolition preparations for bridges, barbed wire, TD and tank positions, and overall ground weapons. The 314th's line of defense was a little over 9000 yards; the covering was thin due to support troops being pulled and sent to assist in the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne.

Over the next four days, 26-29 December, the troops spent the time patrolling and observing the German troops crossing the Rhine. Orders came in for the 314th to move gradullay to a new position six miles southwest - the old French Maginot Line. This new line ran from just above Rittershoffen, south through the Foret de Haguenau, to Koenigsbruck. The Regiment moved out 30 December. Enemy artillery fell on the 314th's positions throughout the nights of 30 and 31 December, 1944, while the second line was being established. Patrols were still being sent out from the original line.

This historical outline is compiled from research material provided by personal accounts, unit diaries, online sources, "The Complete History of World War Two" edited by Francis T. Miller (1948) and the 314th Infantry Association's "Through Combat." A special thanks to J.W. Campbell and Dwight Pruitt. 17 September 2003. Lori Cutshall.