The first alert arrived. An order was issued to move the 314th out to Baccarat to stand reserve for the 2nd French Armored Division. After three days of waiting, on 4 November, the 314th was taken off the alert. On 5 November, the entire 79th Division received orders to prepare for a move to Benamenil in the 2nd French Armored's sector four miles east.
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Recon patrols were sent out, and on 9 November, field orders came down. Take the Saverne Gap in the Vosges Mountains. The Vosges were heavily defended by the Germans who were spread out, staggered, in the old World War One pillboxes and machine gun strong points. The positions were dotted along the mountainside, instead of uniformly deployed at the ridge line. The 7th Army's plans were the smash the line wide open and beat the German defenses to the Saverne Gap to take the city of Strasbourg. XV Corps - the 44th on the left, the 79th on the right, with the 2nd French Armored closing in behind, were dispatched to Sarrebourg on the western side of the Vosges. The 79th's zone ran from Ancerviller to Nitting, five miles northeast of Hattigny.
The 314th's first objective lay north of Harbouey, northeast of Ancerviller. Under cover of darkness with silence and secrecy stressed, on 12 November, the 314th moved to the assault assembly area southwest of Montigny.
The situation map showed eleven high point objectives (designated numerically and by terrain markings) along the line between the 314th and 315th positions. Once these eleven points were taken, the 2nd French Armored could roll in and the breakthrough would be underway. 1st BN was assigned Points 1, 2, 3, and 3A, while 2nd BN took Points 4 and 5 - all along one sweeping ridge. B and C/Companies were moved to the slopes of Point 1 late the night of 12 November for a surprise attack at dawn 13 November.
It was common knowledge that German troops loved their comfort, so most were pulled off the line at night and billeted. The rainy conditions turned to snow early 13 November, and the assault troops' stealth paid off as they took Point 1 by 0815. Point 2 wasn't as easy. The troops in B/Co dodged artillery and mortar rounds, as well as anti-tank fire losing one of their support tanks, and eventually had to retreat and regroup. B/Co lost 47 men in the failed advance. The 2nd BN advance met little resistance. F/Co, leading point, took the battalion through the woods, and even though they were hit with small arms fire along the way, they took both Points 4 and 5 by early afternoon. 2nd BN had control of the major road between Domevre and Montigny.
B/Co regrouped and took off at 1410 to secure Point 2. In just under two hours of battle, it was taken. Moving on to secure Points 3 and 3A, 1st BN caught sporadic artillery fire, but reported success at 1700. L/Co was brought up to bridge the gap between the 314th and the 315th's positions. The 315th had yet to make their objective of Ancerviller which left the 314th with no flanking cover. And the enemy's main line still lay ahead.
On 14 November, the 3rd BN moved into the attack at 1115 with a battalion from the 315th to begin securing the next four Points: 6, 7, 8, and 9. Points 6 and 7 were taken, but darkness halted troops for the night. 1st BN sent C/Co to 7A and they drew artillery fire. 2nd BN moved forward to assemble near Point 6 to support 3rd's drive the next day.
Once the 315th had advanced to equal points in line with the 314th, 3rd BN jumped off to take Points 8 and 9. The 2nd BN advanced with the 315th to Points 10 and 11. By 1530, 15 November, 2nd BN had F and G/Co occupying Point 10, E/Co at Point 11, and 3rd BNs I/Co held Point 8. The rest of 3rd secured Point 9. Resistance was minimal, but every move was punctuated with mortar and artillery. All eleven points were held by the 79th Division.
At 1620, orders from Division called for a patrol to capture the bridge and crossroads south of Fremonville on the Vesouze River. The same river the 314th had crossed at Marainviller and Croismare on the trek to Foret de Parroy.
The orders called for the bridge to be taken at night. The Regiment was to follow the patrols to Fremonville and send a force over to secure Barbas. 1st BN was given the Barbas assignment, while 2nd and 3rd took the Fremonville assault. As the plans were being drawn, the CP was being showered by German artillery. Orders were modified as a patrol reported that Fremonville's bridgehead was intact and defended by a squad of German infantry. The attack was reschedule for the next morning.
At 0840, 16 November, the 2nd BN moved out headed to Fremonville. E/Co took immediate small arms fire and artillery, halting them fast - while G/Co faced artillery coming in from German positions southeast of Blamont. 1st BN headed into the woods south of Barbas, with C/Co on point, and captured 25 Germans at an outpost along the path.
Entering Barbas, there were German tanks and infantry held up there, and a squad worked its way house-to-house throughout the town. These troops witnessed four tanks and some 300 German infantry leaving Barbas by the back road to Blamont. B/Co remained in Barbas, while A and C/Companies moved to a position south of Blamont on a ridge line.
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By that night, 3rd BN was located between Points 10 and 11 (somewhere in this vicinity, Pvt. Johnson sustained his head injury that would claim his life 2 days later on November 18) - near the main road to Blamont, and 2nd BN a little north of Point 11. 2nd sent out a patrol to the Fremonville bridge, but it was turned back by small arms fire coming from the woods past Point 11. A second patrol was dispatched to find an alternate route around the right side of the woods, but reported back that Germans were on both banks of the Vesouze. 1st BN spent the night lobbing grenades back and forth with the German troops until the enemy got tired of it. 3rd BN was patrolling the woods west of Point 11, and at 0515, 17 November, they moved in.
Two companies of the 3rd BN had made it to the woods by 0800, but were receiving fire from both sides and were quickly pinned down. 2nd BN was supposed to be on the right flank, but had hit heavy resistance along the way. Only E/Co had advanced to the 3rd BNs position. At 0900 in the 1st BN area, the Germans attacked with one tank and squads of infantry to recon A/Company's position. The tank was taken out by a bazooka blast and the ground troops retreated. By the end of the day, 3rd BN and 2nd's E/Co only gained a few hundred yards. The remainder of 2nd BN attempted to advance to 3rd's location, but German artillery held them back.
Early 18 November, the 1st BN withdrew to an assembly area near Halloville after being relieved by the 313th's 2nd BN. At 0700, the 3rd BN moved quickly through the woods, and sent I/Co across an old wooden bridge west of the main bridge. F/Co moved in with tanks forward of E/Company's position, and slammed into the Vesouze at the main bridge area in Fremonville. The bridge had been blown by the Germans during the night. The troops waded across the river forced to leave the armor behind. Another 300 yards through challenging enemy fire lay Fremonville. Almost the entire Company had been stalled in the crossing, but one 12-man patrol pushed on. They finally reached the main road at 1700.
The remainder of the Company moved forward slowly, dodging two Mark IV tanks and enemy infantry on the western side of town. As I/Co moved up to the railroad tracks southwest of Fremonville, the Germans threw all they had at the advancing troops. With no one to support them, I/Co fell back across the river. By nightfall, E/Co moved into western Fremonville to secure the area around the railroad station, and G/Co followed to hold the remainder of the western section of town. By 1100, 10 November, 2nd BN had removed most of the threat of enemy fire from Fremonville. 1st BN made contact with the 313th at their objectives, and finding no enemy, regrouped for the march four miles to Richeval. The 1st BN and the I&R Platoon took point. The breakthrough to Alsace had begun. The column reached Richeval without incident and swung east to Hattigny.
A/Co topped a hill a half-mile beyond the town, and was peppered with mortar fire. A/Co was ordered to engage as cover for the advancing column. They faced an enemy with no cover as the had none, so it was a small arms battle. Behind the diversion A/Co created by engaging the German infantry, B and C/Companies moved across the field to Hattigny. The Germans held on to Hattigny until after midnight, then torched the town in their retreat. The German's Vesouze line had been shattered at Fremonville, and the withdrawal to the Vosges was fast becoming a rout.
The Vosges Mountains and Alsace
The 314th moved out of smoldering Hattigny the morning of 20 November, following the 2nd French Armored Division spearhead. The combat situation at the time depended on the French's armor to deter any German counter-attack. The first resistance was met at La Neueville-les-Lorquin, four miles northeast of Hattigny on the road to Sarrebourg. 3rd BN took 20 POWs, then ran into more enemy troops south of Nitting. The Germans had blown the bridge and the troops had to wade across the river under heavy fire. That evening, the 2nd and 3rd BNs camped in the town of Nitting after it was cleared of enemy, and 1st bunked at La Neueville-les-Lorquin.
On 21 November, 2nd BN relieved the 3rd in the lead off position, and had delays crossing its tanks and armor across the river; a problem they had faced quite often along this advance. At the Rhine-Marne Canal, the column halted again to allow engineers to check the bridges for explosives. By nightfall, the 2nd reached St. Jean-Kourtzerode, the 1st, La Pote de Homarting, and the 3rd BN in the town of Homarting. This concluded a thirteen-mile advance.
The bulk of 22 November found the Regiment sitting tight while the I&R men moved out to make contact with the 2nd French Armored. The French Armored Division was already at the approach to Phalsbourg - the gateway to the Saverne Gap. 1st BN moved A and D/Companies to relieve the French party at Middlebron. The action was at the Belfort Gap, and that night, reports came in that the French had poked through the German defenses there. The 2nd French Armored moved in north behind the Vosges to attack the Saverne defenses from the rear, and it forced the Germans to flee Phalsbourg.
Thanksgiving Day, 23 November, 1944 found the 314th underway to an assembly area at the eastern end of the pass near Saverne. Past the Vosges, Alsace stretched eastward to the Rhine River. At midnight, orders were sent to the 79th Division to move out to Brumath to hook up with the 44th Division in the taking of Haguenau, and recon the area between Strasbourg and Gambsheim. The 314th Regiment was sent to Weyersheim.
At 1015, 24 November, the 314th moved out - 3rd BN on point, 1st, then 2nd in the rear. Weyersheim was sixteen miles away. They encountered no ground troops, but were bombed and strafed several times by a renewed Luftwaffe. Road blocks were set up at dusk, with 3rd BN in Weyersheim on the left, 2nd BN outside Hoerdt, and the 1st BN in reserve. Safe billets became more important from a security standpoint because it was rumored the Alsace-area was home to many French sympathizers to the Hitler regime.
That night, due west of 2nd BNs position - at Bois de Geudertheim - the 311th FA BN stumbled into enemy forces who had strayed from their units due to the breakthrough at the Saverne. The cannoneers held fast, and the next morning, 2nd BN policed up 130 POWs from the Bois.
Motorized patrols were sent to scout the towns southeast of the line. The day of 25 November passed in relative quiet, and that night orders were sent for the 314th to move out north to set up a defense from Weitbruch to Kurtzenhausen. The new objective needed to be established by nightfall 26 November. The 314th arrived at 1400, with the 1st BN patrolling around Weitbruch, 3rd BN had the main line of resistance around Gries, and the 2nd BN spread out: F/Co in Weyersheim tied into a 3rd BN patrol outpost at Kurtzenhausen, with the rest in reserve at Regimental HQ in Geudertheim. German artillery began again, and reports had a considerable enemy presence in the Haguenau / Bischwiller area. The Luftwaffe, back to operational strength, flew 52 sorties over the Division on 26 November. The 463rd AA BN scored four kills.
On 27 November, the Division was ordered to move out to the south bank of the Moder River. This river flowed through the northeast edge of both Haguenau and Bischwiller. The 315th was sent forward on the left, and the 314th was assigned to take the towns of Niederschaeffolsheim and Schweighausen. They were to also set up road blocks from the southwest leading to Haguenau. 1st BN, accompanied by a platoon from the 749th medium tankers, was sent to establish the road block. 2nd, with another tank platoon, was sent behind 1st BN to approach Niederschaeffolsheim from the northeast, and to be ready to drive on to Harthausen. 3rd BN, still in reserve, stood pat over its blockades in Gries and Kurtzenhausen.
H-Hour was set for noon, 28 November, but the tank platoons were late in arriving. A/Co moved out and arrived in Birckwald at 1400. A smattering of enemy small arms fire was the only resistance met. By dark, A and B/Companies were posted near Birckwald, and C/Co, along with the entire 2nd BN, were holding Weitbruch.
0730, 29 November, 2nd BN headed for Niederschaeffolsheim, and C/Co was sent to man the road blocks leading to Haguenau. The 2nd BN met the first objective, and at 1245 began a drive for Harthausen. Enemy artillery and ground fire met the 2nd en route, but they took possession of the town by the afternoon. B/Co had joined C/Co on the blockade route, now moving forward to the Haguenau-Harthausen road, when they met two German tanks and 50 or so infantry armed with machine guns. The surprise attack exacted heavy casualties on the two companies, forcing them to fall back 400 yards south to regroup. Fifty-six men were lost in C/Co alone in the two days (28-29 November). Late the night of 29 November, a change in direction was necessitated to send the 314th head on into Haguenau.
On 30 November, at 0800, the 1st BN moved out, supported by all the tank destroyers, anti-tank guns and 50-caliber machine guns that were assigned to the 1st and 2nd BNs. Progress was still slow, and by 1045, the battalion had reached its objective of the Haguenau-Niederschaeffolsheim road blockade. 3rd BNs orders changed to recommit ahead of 1st BNs position to take 1st's next objective. The 2nd BN had advanced to the road leading north to Schweighausen when it came under heavy fire. E/Co made it across, but G/Co took the brunt of the attack, and the whole left flank was rolled back. 3rd BN had almost reached the objective at the Harthausen-Niederschaeffolsheim crossroad, with K/Co on point, when German fire attacked from three sides. 3rd pulled back and called in counter artillery fire. 3rd regrouped, and K/Co crossed the junction first. By the evening of 30 November, the 314th held a line around the woods overlooking Haguenau.
This 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