The new year started out badly as enemy forces pressured the Division's entire position west into the Vosges Mountains. Division prepared to withdraw to the secondary line on 1 January, 1945. Four battalions (1st and 2nd of the 313th, 1st BN, 314th, and 1st BN 315th) were temporarily shifted to the Vosges to hold off a breakthrough at the Saverne. At 1400, the 1st BN of the 314th was rerouted to swap positions with 3rd BN/315th. This gave control of the 313th/314th area solely to the 314th Regiment. 3rd BN/313th acted in reserve capacity. Later, at 1820, 1st BN/314th's orders changed again, as they were ordered to load onto DUKWs (sea-going 2 1/2 ton trucks) to move out to the northeast section of Zinswiller to assist in a battle taking place near Reipertswiller. They had 36 miles to go to meet the DUKWs. The remainder of the 314th was to fall back to the secondary line.
Since the current line was so thin due to the troops sent to Bastogne, the decision was made on 2 January to withdraw and shorten the line. AT/Co and Regimental HQ were to begin the fall back, followed by Cannon Co, the 311th FA BN, with the infantry units to begin its move at 2000. At 0400, 3 January, the demolitions were to be blown taking out the bridges. A delaying force consisting of E/Co, a Company each of TDs and tanks, and the I&R platoon was left in Neewiller to cover the enemy approaches. The withdrawal was executed without detection. The 2nd BN assembled from the Saltzbach River (located between Hatten and Buhl) extending 2500 yards to just shy of the Haguenau woods. 3rd BN was to the right, fanned out 3000 yards south through the woods to the outskirts of Koenigsbruck.
On 3 January, orders came down for a motorized move to a new position near Kriegsheim. This was later amended for a deeper move back to Walk-Chateau and the Saverne Pass - the November 1944 objectives. Luckily, at 1430, the orders were rescinded, and new orders issued held the battalions in their current locations, and to patrol - quietly.
On 4 January, the 314th's 2nd and 3rd BNs were notified they were being relieved by the 242nd Infantry, and to go into temporary reserve. The 2nd BN was to assemble in Schwabwiller, and 3rd sent to Oberbetschdorf. The 1st BN was now located six miles north of Zinswiller, roughly 40 miles from its Regiment.
313th Infantry Regiment in the vicinity of Bischwiller. M5 Light tanks are on the road, December 1944.
Due to transportation difficulties, the 314th was not fully relieved until 0700, 5 January. At 1430, the 314th loaded on trucks for a move to the area of Bischwiller to secure it. German troops had crossed the Rhine and now occupied Gambsheim, Herrlsheim, and Offendorf. The order also outline a planned attack on Rohrwiller, situated between Bischwiller and Drusenheim. Patrols spotted prepared enemy positions on the outskirts of Rohrwiller, but they were not presently manned.
Rohrwiller and Drusenheim
On 6 January, at 0830, the 2nd BN, supported by a company of 749th tanks, moved out to Rohrwiller. Foggy conditions provided excellent cover, the objective was met and the town under 314th's control by 0100. The attack drive was ordered forward to take Herrlisheim. Word reached the 314th elements that A/Co 232nd Infantry was in trouble in Drusenheim. 2nd BN was to clear and secure the town en route to Herrlisheim. 3rd BN was called from Bischwiller to Rohrwiller as the 2nd moved out. At 1400, G/Co riding on its tank support, entered the northwest side of Drusenheim. After meeting up with elements of 232nd's A/Co, 2nd BN moved its units under small arms fire across the Moder River bridge to clear and secure the southern part of town. Five tanks managed to clear the bridge before it broke down. The tanks then accompanied F/Co, on point, on the attack southwest of Herrlisheim. At 1630, as F/Co reached the outskirts of Drusenheim, it met light artillery fire. F/Co attacked the enemy's strong point - a factory building on the east bank of the Moder - capturing two officers and 51 enlisted men. The rest of the 2nd BN were in positions in or around Drusenheim.
Mail call at Herrlisheim
As the 3rd BN moved up the take over positions in Rohrwiller, it fell under the heaviest artillery barrages it had faced to date. During the night of 6-7 January, the bridge in Drusenheim was repaired in the midst of constant enemy fire. I&R and Cannon were outposting Bischwiller alone, because the 1st BN was still away on the Zinswiller mission.
The 2nd BN was hit with heavy artillery at dawn, 7 January, and it continued for an hour. Enemy infantry, estimated at one battalion strength with tank support, hit F/Company's factory building position. F/Co was ready for them. The Germans were using the high embankment of the Drusenheim-Herrlisheim road for cover, and when they broke cover, F/Co and its tanks attacked. After a quick exchange of fire, the enemy broke off and moved its attack northeast to G/Companies position. E/Co was ordered to advance to Drusenheim proper, from its position in the eastern part of the Bois de Drusenheim. F/Co was ordered to move out to the G/Co position, as well. E/Co arrived at G/Companies position without a problem, but when F/Co began to execute the move, it fell under heavy fire from artillery positions on the highway embankment. F/Co was sent back wading across the Moder to the old E/Co position. As night approached, suspecting an armor attack from the Germans, G/Co was pulled back across the bridge to man the perimeter along the southwest of town. F/Co manned the eastern edge of the Bois de Drusenheim, with an outpost in the northwest section of town. E/Co remained on the southern tip of Drusenheim. These positions rarely changed for the next twelve days.
Early 8 January, the zone of attack switched to the 3rd BN sector with L/Co assigned the main objective - establish a bridgehead across the Zorm River near where the Zorm connected to the Moder, and the factory buildings beyond. K/Co was to advance in support eastward from Rohrwiller to the Moder on L/Company's left flank. As the advance stepped off, Rohrwiller was shelled hard amassing multiple casualties in K and M/Companies. L/Co escaped the more harsh shelling and waded the Zorm, establishing the bridgehead. The rubble of factory buildings provided the only cover, and L/Co held it precarious position for the next ten days.
Combat Command B, 12th Armored Division, moved through L/Companies bridgehead and made it to the northern outskirts of Herrlisheim, but the 12th Armored Division, who was to support the drive, was held up and did not follow in time, forcing a wholesale withdrawal. I and K/Companies regrouped, reached the Moder River, and spent the rest of the day thwarting the enemy's crossing. That night, engineers started repairs on the bridge at L/Company's position amidst heavy fire which culminated in an infantry attack at 0800, 9 January. L/Co, aided by tanks, broke up the attack, and the bridge was fully repaired by 1645. At 1840, L/Co faced a second attack. The enemy was strongly supported by armor, but American tank fire, along with machine gunners from M/Co, forced the attack away after a three hour fight.
There was little activity during the night of 9 January, into the next day, 10 January. By nightfall, however, it became evident that an enemy attack was forming on the 3rd BN position. The only artillery available to the units was the 8-inch shells. They were thrown at the advancing threat. To take pressure off the 3rd BN, 2nd BN staged a live-fire demonstration, and took heavy shelling for the effort. For once, the Germans had more artillery at their disposal than the 314th Regiment. The enemy barrages were heavy and frequent on both Rohrwiller and Drusenheim. Communications took a constant hit as wiremen from both battalions and Regimental HQ were continually on the go making repairs.
For the next several days, the situation remained fairly unchanged; 2nd and 3rd BNs held their positions. On January 12, I/Co captured an enemy patrol of five men which had managed to skirt the L/Co position. I/Co exchanged assignments with K/Co, sending I/Co to Rohrwiller. The F/Co outpost at the factory location was hit hard at 0300, 13 January, and they withdrew to a position at the Bois de Drusenheim. The enemy was slowly increasing its presence in front of both battalion positions. An enemy tank, firing on the factory positions, threw about 50 rounds into the church steeple in Rohrwiller. Just moment before, the steeple had been M/Companies OP. Luckily, they had evacuated just prior to the action. The remainder of M/Co got out of the area quick.
Drusenheim and Rohrwiller met heavy enemy shelling on 14-15 January, and the 232nd Infantry's A/Co was ordered to leave Drusenheim. A platoon from F/Co was sent to plug the hole left by the withdrawal from the northern sector. The 2nd BN was left alone in its defense of Drusenheim.
At 0130, 16 January, 2nd BN threw up a diversion to allow the 12th Armored to make its second attempt on Herrlisheim. The enemy response was a sustained shelling that left Drusenheim in shambles. At 0200, the 12th Armored went through the L/Co bridgehead over the Zorm River. It was met with 88-mm gunfire that tallied twelve tanks before retreat was issued. By 1200, the remains of the 12th Armored attack force had withdrawn through the L/Co position. L/Co took sustained fire as well.
Earlier, at 0515, the 1st BN had rejoined the Regiment at the assembly area at Oberhoffen. Immediately placed on alert, a reported attack came in on the 242nd Infantry position east of the Foret de Haguenau. The report proved false. At 0930, 17 January, 1st BN was sent to Schirrhoffen with a platoon of tanks, and Regimental HQ was set up in Schirrhein. At 1600, A and B/Companies were released to the 3rd BN 232nd Infantry, and took up a position with K/Co 232nd along the railroad tracks between Sessenheim and Drusenheim. C/Co committed on the east edge of the Bois de Rountzenheim blocking the road between Soufflenheim and Rountzenheim. Division ordered another company be sent to the 1st BN, so I/Co was immediately transported from Rohrwiller to 1st BNs command. I/Company's position in Rohrwiller was taken over by 3rd BN HQ and M/Co. During the move, I/Co caught heavy fire and suffered nine casualties. The 232nd's K/Co lost its lines under heavy attack at the railroad tracks, on 18 January. A, B, and D/Companies also fell back under orders from the 232nd Infantry's command to the Bois de Soufflenheim. The 1st BN from the 410th Infantry attempted to restore the line, but failed due to darkness.
The 1st BN companies of the 314th remained in their positions along the woods of Soufflenheim. Meanwhile, enemy elements had slipped through into the southwest sector of Rohrwiller overnight. Small arms fire was everywhere, and the 3rd BN units were issued an order: remain stationary in position, and shoot anything that moves. In Bischwiller, the main Bischwiller-Rohrwiller road was heavily mined by a crew from the AT Company. Around midnight, the firing in Rohrwiller died down, and as the 3rd BN troops were calming somewhat, the town received a concentrated shelling. The ironic orders were to "remain alert."
After day of exchanging fire, it became obvious the major offensive mounted by the Germans on both Rohrwiller and Drusenheim was to take place on 19 January. Drusenheim was exposed on three sides with the withdrawal of the 232nd's units. Only the 314th's 2nd BN remained. All day, 2nd and 3rd BNs reported the enemy build up concentrated to the woods southwest. Regardless, the 2nd BN command placed much of the unit's firepower northwest of town. The German attack on Drusenheim began at dusk, 19 January, with heavy mortar and artillery fire. To the south, an intense barrage of machine gun fire created the diversion, while the main attack did, indeed, come from the north. Assault teams quickly gained the town limits, taking out machine gun positions and tank destroyers in H/Companies sector. Two companies of enemy infantry, along with five tanks, dispersed throughout the town. The remaining H/Co positions were quickly taken. To the south-southeast, the Germans crossed the Moder River near F/Company's position in the factory buildings. This enemy element pushed on into the Bois de Drusenheim, up the left side of K/Company's position, and forced the right flank of F/Co back to Drusenheim. F/Co was ordered to move to the northwest corner of town, leaving its original position outposted. In Drusenheim, the enemy moved freely, and dealt with any point of resistance. Battalion CP was taken almost immediately. All communication wires were cut, which left only radio transmissions. 2nd BN reported the situation to Regimental HQ at 2010, and was ordered to break out and assemble northwest to F/Company's position. An advancing enemy, poor communications and not enough time to organize properly led to the breakthrough failing.
Efforts did continue until 0300, 20 January. F/Co was ordered northwest as fast as they could go. Only five officers and 93 enlisted from F/Co made it to Bischwiller. A few more troops from E (one officer, 28 enlisted), G (no officers, 44 enlisted), H (no officers, 23 enlisted) and BN HQ and I&R (two officers, 45 enlisted) returned. A total of 241 men. The rest of 2nd BN was "missing in action."
As F/Co was in the midst of its withdrawal, K/Co redeployed to block the Rohrwiller-Drusenheim road. A and B/Companies moved to defensive positions southwest of the Bois de Soufflenheim, blockading the road between Soufflenheim and Sessenheim. A unit from the 410th Infantry Regiment was sent to close the hole left by the loss of the 2nd BN, but they failed to make contact on K/Companies left flank.
The Moder River and Schweighausen
On 20 January, L/Co still held the bridgehead on the Zorm River, and 3rd BN was sent to a new defensive line along the Moder near Bischwiller. The 8-inch artillery was fired at enemy positions spotted by K/Co patrols in the Bois de Drusenheim. No counter-attack came, so the bridges were blown across the Moder and Zorm, allowing the withdrawal to go ahead. A, B and I/Companies joined the rest of the Regiment later that day. The 314th Regiment was solidly established at the new line position along the Moder near Bischwiller and Kaltenhaus on 21 January.
1st BN was on the left, with 3rd on the right with the remnants of F/Co attached. I/Co went to Regimental reserve. On 22 January, word came that the 313th Regiment would be relieving the 314th position, sending them to reserve near Niederschaeffolsheim. (The relief unit ended up being the 315th at the Moder River position.) Before the reserve orders came through, reports of clear indicators of an enemy buildup forming northeast of Bischwiller. Roughly 200 troops had been spotted in the Bois d'Oberhoffen across the Moder. The 813th TD Regiment and the 25th Tank Regiment sent armor to the 314th for a defensive show of force. Now that the artillery was more plentiful since Bastogne had been secured, Corps artillery threw TOTs (time-on-target) rounds to dissuade any enemy attack. At dusk, 3rd BNs position came under sporadic fire. At 2200, 1st BN reported seeing five tanks near Camp d'Oberhoffen. Enemy infantry was also settling along the outskirts of town.
At 0220, 23 January, B/Co reported trucks and tracked vehicles unloading enemy troops to their front. At 0530, a German patrol hit C/Co, and B/Co forced another patrol back shortly after the first attack. The outposts were withdrawn, and a TOT round fired. Hitler's new jet-propelled plane flew over the 314th's position and dropped several bombs. A/Company's CP was hit. Retaliation came in the form of two Allied bombing runs over Camp d'Oberhoffen. The plans to move the 314th to reserve were called off as more enemy vehicle movement was reported near Oberhoffen. To make matters worse, some of the vehicles spotted were the 314th's own that had been captured earlier. At 1800, 24 January, relief finally began of the 314th by the 315th. 1st BN was to move to Winterhausen, and the 3rd BN to the remnants of Niederschaeffolsheim. Relief of the line was completed undercover of a huge snow storm.
Forming a new line along the Zorn, Moder, and Rothback Rivers north of the Marne-Rhine Canal
Before the 1st BN had arrived to its reserve location, reports came in that enemy troops had crossed the Moder River between Neubourg and Schweighausen, breaking through the 42nd Division's 222nd Infantry positions. 1st BN was placed on a one-hour alert, and as the 3rd BN closed in at 0030, 25 January, it was also on the alert. At 0130, 1st BN was sent in knee-deep snow 2000 yards north of Winterhausen to Ohlungen. The task force (consisting of elements from the 42nd Rainbow/222nd Infantry and the 314th) assignment was to force the Germans back across the river. The enemy force had broken through the 222nd's line in an effort to take Haguenau. Units moved to Schweighausen and eastward on to Neubourg at 0530, accompanied by two medium tanks.
Schweighausen was being cleared by the 1st BN 222nd, while the 1st BN 314th sent out a recon patrol to establish a CP and install communications. The Command Post was billeted in a house with a solid cellar. The battalions tanks began down the Schweighausen road and were lost to the unit when one was hit, and the other crashed. Both crews escaped.
The ground troops advanced forward about 500 yards to a brewery building occupied by the enemy. After a short firefight, the building was cleared and the column advanced to the outskirts of Schweighausen. They observed the forward CP in trouble. They were taken prisoner, and ended up with the 2nd BN POWs. B/Co was deployed to the left of town in a wooded area, and was immediately pinned down. Combat Command B of the 14th Armored Division cleared the woods due west of Schweighausen, and by 1830, the 1st BN held the town. With five light tanks, 3rd BN was sent on foot toward Neubourg to help restore the 3rd BN 222nd's line. At 1100, the unit was advancing and attacking east through the Bois d'Ohlungen. I/Co faced heavy resistance, and was pushed back 400 yards. They managed to regroup, counter-attack, and gain back most of the lost ground. The battalion dug in for the night tied in with the ranks of the 222nd.
Reports reached the exhausted task force on 26 January of a considerable enemy force moving across the river. A company of 155's were dispatched to shore up the force from VI Corps. Early in the morning, 1st BN had tied in with the 222nd's 2nd BN in Schweighausen. The attack began at 0730, sending the 3rd BN east through the woods, Combat Command B 14th Armored west, and 1st BN with units from the 222nd hitting north. They discovered the enemy had withdrawn in full. By 1100, 26 January, a Moder River defense was re-established.
On 27 January, elements from the 101st Airborne Division had arrived - signaling once and for all the Battle of the Bulge was over - to relieve the 314th Regiment's position. The battalions assembled for replacements, and moved out again to the banks of the Moder taking over the area held by the 242nd Infantry. This section of the line, from the southern edge of Haguenau to just south of Kaltenhaus, was the area the Germans broke through on 24 January. Relief finally began, and despite a snow storm and some enemy activity in A/Company's sector, by 2200, 28 January, the 314th was back in Haguenau.
The next three days were spent patrolling, and the only incident of record happened when C/Co attempted to capture a three-man enemy scout force early the morning of 31 January. C/Company's position was hit by a heavy mortar barrage. The church steeple was hit by enemy artillery in Kaltenhaus, as well.
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.