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  • [QUOTE=Kurt Knispel;n5219425]

    Please note that the 142nd Infantry, 36th ID was tasked to fighting its way to St. Marie au Mines. The 141st and 143d were to the South. This means your quote about the 443rd AAA firing in support of the 143d does not apply here.

    The 442rd was an automatic weapons battalion and was equipped with .50 cal. and 37mm guns. The unit was never equipped with a 155mm.

    According to my sources which include "When the Odds Were Even," the 3d Bn, 142nd was tasked with fighting its way across country to attack the town. The defenders were surprised. The attacking force was actually two companies with less than 340 men.

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    • Originally posted by delete013 View Post
      Hello everyone.

      Cult Icon I read the "Keith Bonn When the Odds Were Even: The Vosges Mountains Campaign, October 1944-January 1945"

      Otherwise a piece of literature of very questionable worth (I've never seen anyone putting so many words in other people's mouths in one book), there is nevertheless an interesting aspect about the American perspective and consensus on the ww2.
      I've read "When the Odds Were Even." I have a question for you.

      Where exactly did you see the author "putting so many words in other people's mouths?"

      Comment


      • Originally posted by delete013 View Post

        Well, of course one shouldn't generalise particular battles with global ratios and conditions of German units (I assume you don't). German units in the West were neither all poorly equipped/trained nor the opposite. They were a big mishmash and local battles were decided by quite many different factors, so I try to be careful.

        I know very little about Vosges campaign but the formulation in the book appears problematic for several reasons.

        Firstly, the author tries to present a case where Allied numbers didn't decide the outcome but the skill and spirit of units involved. The problem arises already at his choice of battles in which the odds were supposed to be even.


        1)For the Battle near Bruyères, 4 US vs. 3 reinforced German battalions, he states the following:
        "These (German) units had about 60 percent strength in personnel but possessed nearly all the heavy weapons (machine guns, mortars, and artillery) of full-strength German units of their types".
        Had "about two-thirds that number of their own 80mm mortars".
        "...the four assaulting American battalions had about fifty-six .30-caliber weapons". "The Germans (...) employed at least forty-two MG34s and MG42s".
        "Regimental Combat Team (Nisei) would be facing an enemy with only about 50 percent of their American adversaries’ personnel strength but with nearly the same amount of long-range firepower, especially at the battalion level." (Division level support is negligent?)

        For the Battle of Winter line ratios were "just under 2.9 to 1 in its(US) favor".

        However, he concludes:
        "Although the Americans in this zone had gained overall numerical superiority, they did not need it; battalion on battalion, company on company, they were outfighting the Germans and overrunning them. Maneuvers such as these, creating such lopsided casualty ratios (greater than six to one) rapidly brought the defenders to the verge of collapse."

        (US) fought "with greater cohesion and superior numbers". (what is the influence of cohesion and what of numbers?)


        2)Given that the Germans were taking advantage of what Clausewitz considered to be the stronger form of warfare (the defensive) in an area almost ideally suited for such operations, given that the foggy weather all but eliminated American close air support, and given that American infantrymen were forced to live and attack in the open (meant as effect of weather) whereas the Germans took advantage of the protection of fortifications and buildings, the odds in the battle for the High Vosges and the German winter line were much closer than the force ratios indicated.

        and

        "Of course, the Germans could also depend on familiarity with the terrain over which they had had several days, if not weeks, to prepare their defenses. Hundreds of antipersonnel and antitank mines had been skillfully laid along the southerly approaches to Bruyères. Houses and other buildings had been selected to serve both as pillboxes and observation posts"

        But then mentions:

        "Although in possession of two large hills that dominate this area, the 716th was so weak from the pummeling its troops had taken that it was hardly able to do more than defend strongpoints along the Vosges line in this area with its thousand or so remaining infantrymen."

        and

        "However, as in the rest of the Vosges, the lines were often too far apart to facilitate mutual support, and the German forces were too few in number to simultaneously occupy all of them."

        This is curiously similar to the operation Cobra where Germans lacked minimal personnel to hold a continuous line and were hence flanked.

        Still the reason for victory was to be:
        "The side that could sustain effective, tactically sound operations would win."

        and

        "In this critical battle, the American superiority in this regard would combine with aggressive and intelligent maneuver to produce an important victory."

        Even with the given arguments the odds were therefore notexactly numerically even but rather balanced with advantages of "highly defendable" terrain, cold weather and fortifications.


        3)There are several contradictory statements giving Germans advantages and revoking them in the next sentence, such as:

        "The approaches to Bruyères from the south and southwest are largely open and rolling, providing the defenders with plenty of opportunity for early acquisition and effective long-range engagement of the advancing Texas Division attackers."

        But then:

        "The attack on Bruyères began on the morning of 15 October 1944 in a cold drizzle with considerable ground fog. This weather was both a blessing and a curse for the attackers, because it obscured the initial American advance from German observation..."


        4)Secondly, the author categorically justifies the "even odds" with the absence of air support and armour due to weather and terrain unsuitable for mechanised maneuver. But perhaps the biggest issue is what he misses to mention. In the mentioned mountain battles there is nothing on US artillery beyond mortars. As if they were a non-factor or absent.

        In mg comparison the author only counted US mediummgs, acompanysupportweapon, andignoredplatoonlevel automatic weapons in the role of lmgs. Besides, to anyone remotely familiar with US tactics in France it is clear that counting mgs is flawed when one side has and relies on plenty of supporting weapons, while the other has none.

        This is before even attempting to cross check with other sources. I don't judge, maybe US units indeed performed better. But in this book I find it hard to distil tactical skill and failures from material conditions. There are also plenty of factors left out, that play a role in other operations in France of 1944.
        Comments about your post.

        #1. You did not accurately relate the author's description of the approaches to Bryeres or the attack itself. Except for Hill 571 the approaches were along and over heavily forested mountain ridges which were defended by prepared German defenses armed with machine guns and mortars.

        #2. The author was a graduate of the US Army Military Academy, and later taught History and Tactics there.

        #3. The efficacy of artillery fire was greatly reduced in supporting troops along the heavily forested ridges and mountain roads for several reasons. Remember, reverse slope defenses offered effective protection against artillery fire, as did the prepared defensive positions. Bruyeres itself was badly damaged by American artillery, but that had little positive effect on the multi-layered, well-prepared German defenses that barred the lines of approach.

        #4. What about the massed fires of all three regimental 57mm antitank guns (firing HE provided by the British) used to make the Germans believe the main attack was being made by the 143d Infantry? That constitutes artillery too. Anyway, it was a successful feint.

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        • Kurt Knispel

          From the source you quoted by the C.O. of the 443d AAA Bn. "knowing that the key to the Vosges was St. Marie Aux Mines."

          Please know this is incorrect. The keys to the Vosges were the Saverne Gap in the North and the Belfort Gap in the South. St. Marie Aux Mines was one of two passes forced by the 36th ID at this time. They were just two of several intervening passes that had to be cleared of the enemy. None of these were of strategic importance compared to the two mentioned above.

          Comment


          • [QUOTE=Keltic Warrior;n5219460]
            Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post

            Please note that the 142nd Infantry, 36th ID was tasked to fighting its way to St. Marie au Mines. The 141st and 143d were to the South. This means your quote about the 443rd AAA firing in support of the 143d does not apply here.

            The 442rd was an automatic weapons battalion and was equipped with .50 cal. and 37mm guns. The unit was never equipped with a 155mm.

            According to my sources which include "When the Odds Were Even," the 3d Bn, 142nd was tasked with fighting its way across country to attack the town. The defenders were surprised. The attacking force was actually two companies with less than 340 men.
            Thanks for the correction. I went back and read some other pages of the 443rd AAA history and they were mostly using the following weapon:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M15_half-track

            When I read SP I assumed it was self propelled artillery of some sort like the M7 105mm, M8 75mm, and M12 155mm. The above weapon was designed as a anti aircraft weapon that could also be used as an infantry support weapon to "hose down" areas of concentrated enemy defensive positions.

            Since you also read the book "When the Odds were Even" do you think the author proved his opinion as facts and that the U.S. units involved definitively gave the German units a thrashing when the odds were even?

            Thanks for providing the OoB's as well.
            Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Keltic Warrior View Post
              Kurt Knispel

              From the source you quoted by the C.O. of the 443d AAA Bn. "knowing that the key to the Vosges was St. Marie Aux Mines."

              Please know this is incorrect. The keys to the Vosges were the Saverne Gap in the North and the Belfort Gap in the South. St. Marie Aux Mines was one of two passes forced by the 36th ID at this time. They were just two of several intervening passes that had to be cleared of the enemy. None of these were of strategic importance compared to the two mentioned above.
              The author, in this paragraph, mentions all 3 but places the most importance on the St. Marie Aux Mines.

              Just east of the crest of the Vosges Mountain range was the heavily defended town of St. Marie Aux Mines. The 36th Division, exhausted by no relief in ninety-eight exhausting days in combat since invading Southern France, was given a temporary defensive assignment to protect the Corps and Army right flank, as the northern XV Corps tried to pierce the Severne Gap pass to Strasbourg while the 1st French Army on the south attacked through Belfort Pass — both the traditional invasion pathways into France. Nevertheless, the 36th Division attacked and forced the Muerthe River enemy defenses. By 26 November, the 36th had captured Fraise and pushed well beyond it, knowing that the key to the Vosges was St. Marie Aux Mines.
              I agree that without first securing the Saverne and Belfort passes St Marie Aux Mines could not be taken.
              Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

              Comment


              • Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post

                The author, in this paragraph, mentions all 3 but places the most importance on the St. Marie Aux Mines.



                I agree that without first securing the Saverne and Belfort passes St Marie Aux Mines could not be taken.
                It took me a while to find it, but here is the operational plan for the November offensive to breach the Vosges Mountains.

                The VI Corps, beginning its attack on the 17th was to advance north-eastward with its main effort along the axes of Routes N-42- and N-392 through the Saales and Hantz passes, northeast of St. Die. Breaking out on the Alsatian Plains, General Brooks' corps was then to seize Strasbourg and secure the wet bank of the Rhine north an south of the city. Initially, Patch's Seventh Army planning estimated that the VI Corps attack would constitute the army's main effort.....
                p. 354. https://history.army.mil/html/books/...0-1/index.html

                As you can see the 36th ID's attacks to clear St. Marie Pass and St. Marie aux Mines were in support of the main effort. 36th ID was worn out and depleted. General Brooks assigned his newly arrived, fresh, 103d ID to the main effort and not the "keystone" to the Vosges. Anyway, this context supports Bonn's thesis that the American infantry fighting through and around the pass to St. Marie aux Mines example of "Even Odds."

                Please note the French 2nd Armored Division passed through the Saverne Gap on the morning of 23 November. Its CCI entered Strasbourg and began reducing the German bridgehead across the Rhine at 1030 hours, 23 November. St. Marie aux Mines was captured on 26 November, three days after VI Corps forces entered Strasbourg and began taking up positions along the German Rhine.

                I believe the book I cited supports my contention that the Saverne and Belfort Gaps were strategically important, but one has to read several chapters to get the proper perspective.

                Last edited by Keltic Warrior; 18 Oct 20, 13:20.

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