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Dompaire, 13 September 1944

Discussion in 'Tank Warfare of World War 2' started by Skua, Aug 10, 2004.

  1. Skua

    Skua New Member

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    - What won the battle ? The Germans had more tanks, and better tanks. The French had air support and artillery support. The French also had more experience and better training, and they had the benefit of better positions and was more prepared for the battle.

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    - The following is as much of the OoB as I have managed to figure out. Any additions or corrections are more than welcome.

    - Allied forces :

    Groupement Tactique Langlade ( GTL ) Col. Paul Girot de Langlade :

    Mechanized Infantry from the Régiment de Marche du Tchade and companies from two tank battalions, the 12e Régiment de Chasseurs d´Afrique and the 501e Régiment de Chars de Combat.

    Three battlegroups : Group Putz, Group Massu and Group Minjonnet. Each group had 15 M4A2 ( 75mm ) Sherman tanks, one M4A2 ( 76mm ) Sherman tank, 3-4 M10 tank destroyers and 1-2 companies of infantry.

    Air support :

    406th Fighter Bomber Group ( XIX TAC ) equipped with P-47D Thunderbolts

    Artillery support :

    105mm howitzers



    - Axis forces :

    Pz.Brig. 112 Col. von Usedom :

    I/Pz.Rgt.29 : 45 ( ? ) Panther

    Pz.Rgt.2112 : 45 PzKpfw IV

    Supported by Panzergrenadiers



    Some sources also mention the presence of M5 light tanks, M8 Greyhound armoured cars and Jagdpanzers ( Jagdpanzer IV ? ) that day.

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    How important was air support for the victory at Dompaire ? Thunderbolts flew four air strikes that day. Of 33 tanks found in Group Massu´s sector after the battle, 16 had been knocked out by aircraft attack.

    What impact did artillery support have on the battle ?
     
  2. 2ndLegion

    2ndLegion New Member

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    What types of tanks were the french using?
     
  3. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    The French were equipped with US vehicles: M4A2 tanks, M10 Tank Destroyers, M5 light tanks and M2/3 half-tracks, M8/M20 armored cars and recon Jeeps. The French Tactical Groups were essentially the same as US Combat Commands so the infantry would have had 57mm (6pdr) AT guns and bazookas. A US tank battalion in a Combat Command would have had 53 Shermans, 6 M4-105 close support SP guns, 17 M5 tanks, and 12 M10 Tank Destroyers attached.
     
  4. 2ndLegion

    2ndLegion New Member

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    Perhaps it was soldier quality and motivation.

    Their nation occupied, the greatness that was their country gone forever(Sorry if it offends any french person here to say that), the eye of the world looking at them, their capital beeing toured by Hitler, their brothers and sisters at arms behind the lines getting butchered, receiving letters from home detailing how hard life was under germany.

    I would say the average french soldier (On the allied side) had a lot more motivation, and often more experience then their german counterparts.

    Kind of like Israeli Soldiers during the 1948 War of Independence.

    Don't overlook individual motivation.

    Also there is the possibility some of them fought in 1940 to, and would have therefore had a lot more experience.
     
  5. Steiner phpbb3

    Steiner phpbb3 New Member

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    Article by Steiner

    Coming to the rescue, Panzer-Brigade 112
    Although Panzer-Brigade 112 was of the second wave of stronger Panzer-Brigades, it had not a favourable building up. The separate elements were hastily gathered on the training grounds of Grafenwöhr in Bavaria in the beginning September and only after one week of formation and training they were on their way to Lorraine. The entire brigade was detrained on September 10th in de vicinity of Lunéville, near Nancy. Panzer-Brigade 112 was planned for the counterattack in the direction of Reims, which Hitler was planning since August.

    Just after the arrival a crisis developed south of Nancy, when elements of the French 2nd Armoured Division broke through and encircled the 16th Volksgrenadier-Division. This threat could cause the breakdown of the entire German front south of Nancy and Colonel-Generaal Blaskowitz of Army Group G ordered an immediate counterattack to save the division and restore the frontline by clearing the area from French incursions. Panzer-Brigade 112 was relieved from the reserve to tackle the situation, supported by elements of Panzer-Division 21.

    On September 12th the untested Panzer-Brigade 112 headed south in two columns. The western column consisted of the 1st battalion of Panzer-Regiment 29, armed with Panther tanks, while Panzer-Battalion 2112, armed with Mark IV tanks, formed up the eastern column with the bulk of armoured infantry. They arrived in the area of the French infiltration without any obstacle or disruption, but failed to detect the French troops.

    In the evening the western column arrived in Dompaire and decided to encamp and spend the night in this village, which was situated in a depression surrounded by forested hills. Lack of reconnaissance or even a hint of the whereabouts of the enemy apparently did not disturb the command, because they preferred to stay in the lower exposed village than in the surrounding forests on the high ground where they could camouflage their tanks. The inexperienced troops also turned out to be ‘good weather soldiers’, because they did not send out any patrols nor posted any guards during the rainy night, but sought the comfort of the village houses.

    Meanwhile the villagers warned the French troops in the neighbourhood of the presence of the Germans in Dompaire and their strength. The French commanding officer Langlade decided to engage the Germans. Although his force was outnumbered two by one in both tanks and men he knew that he could call in artillery and airforce. He decided to block the roads east and south to the village with his forces in the following morning and await help from the airforce. The German got a rude awakening when the village was attacked by the feared American P-47 fighter-bombers, which were called in by Langlade the evening before.

    After the initial fighter-bomber attack the French closed on the village in with their tanks to engage the suprised and bedazzled Germans. A second sortie of the airforce added to their part to the confusion among the Germans, who started to grow desperate by the bombing, shelling and firing at the village from literally all sides. Lots of tanks were out of action due to hits or simply abandoned by their frightened crews. The high ground offered the French good observation view to direct fire from both the ground and the air to any German movement.

    The German commander of the 1st battalion of Panzer-Regiment 29 called his colleague of the eastern column for immediate help. This help from the east could have reversed the fortunes in favour of the Germans by attacking the French troops of Langlade in the back, but French civilians came to the help once more. Langlade was timely informed by the size and direction of the relief force and set up a roadblock with all he had left, a few jeeps with machine guns and tank destroyers. This force would in a normal case be no match for two companies of Panzergrenadiers and 15 tanks. Nevertheless the Germans did not manage to break through. Their inexperienced infantry was dispersed by bold action from the crew of the jeeps with the mounted machineguns and after the loss of a few tanks they lost the appetite to engage.

    During the whole day the village of Dompaire was under fire and any attempt to break out was stopped by even more intensive fire by the artillery. In the evening the 1st battalion of Panzer-Regiment 29 was destroyed. The overall losses for Panzer-Brigade 112 were horrible. An estimate of 350 dead, 1000 wounded and of the total of 90 tanks only 21 were left. Like Panzer-Brigade 106 a few days before Panzer-Brigade 112 met his doom during the first engagement with the enemy, although they outnumbered the enemy!

    The conduct of Panzer-Brigade 112 enhances the conclusion on Panzer-Brigade 106 that the brigades were send out on missions without proper reconnaissance, which was definitely a bad habit which the commanders adopted from their experience in Russia. Next to this failure the brigades were both committed to tasks which were far beyond the skill and experience of the troops. They were no match for the French colonial troops, who were professional soldiers, hardened in the harsh climate of North Africa and with at least two years of war experience. Strength in numbers could not make up the lack of operational skill in the case of Panzer-Brigade 112. The most major shortcoming of the Panzer-Brigade was the lack of any fire support from both the ground and the air. The latter was a common problem in the German army, but the Panzer-Brigade definitively missed organic artillery support.

    This is a part of a bigger article I am working on...
     
  6. David Lehmann

    David Lehmann New Member

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    Hello,

    In fact in 1943-1945 there are many soldiers and officers who already played a role in 1940 and who want to take their revenge. Several key persons can be mentioned for example :

    The 1st French Army was organized in 2 corps ;
    - 1st corps under the command of general Béthouart
    - 2nd corps under the command of general de Goislard de Monsabert

    and they are composed of :
    • 1e division française libre (motorized infantry division)
    • 2e division d'infanterie marocaine (infantry division)
    • 3e division d'infanterie algérienne (infantry division)
    • 4e division marocaine de montagne (mountain infantry division)
    • 9e division d'infanterie coloniale (infantry division)
    • 1e division blindée (armored division)
    • 5e division blindée (armored division)

    + not endivisionned elements :
    • Bataillon d'Afrique (commandos)
    • Bataillon de Choc (commandos)
    • Bataillon de France (commandos)
    • Four GTM (groupements de tabors marocains) (infantry)
    • 9e Régiment de Zouaves (infantry)
    • 1e Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens (infantry)
    • Two Chasseurs d'Afrique regiments (RCA) (armored regiments)
    • Three Spahis regiments (recon armored regiments with armored cars and Stuarts)
    • One Régiment Colonial de Chasseurs de Chars (armored regiment with tank destroyers)
    • 2e Régiment de Dragons (armored regiment)
    • 64e, 65e and 66e RAA (Régiment d'Artillerie d'Afrique = African artillery regiment)
    • Régiment d'artillerie coloniale d'Afrique occidentale française
    • Régiment d'artillerie coloniale du Levant
    • Four engineer regiments and one bridging battalion

    ----> During late war several other divisions joined this Army :
    • 27e division alpine (mountain infantry division) who played a role in the Alps in 1944 (formed on the basis of the former 1e division alpine).
    • 3e division blindée (armored division) (created sooner, disbanded September 1944 an rebuilt in 1945)
    • 1e division d'infanterie
    • 10e division d'infanterie
    • 14e division d'infanterie
    • 19e division d'infanterie
    • 23e division d'infanterie
    • 25e division d'infanterie
    • 36e division d'infanterie
    • 1e DCEO (Division Coloniale d'Extrême Orient)
    • 2e DCEO (Division Coloniale d'Extrême Orient)

    Beside this army there also the French 2nd armored division, the marine-commandos and French SAS under British command, the CLI commandos against the Japanese and of course all the ships and the fighter and bombing squadrons manned by French troops.

    This army was led by general de Lattre de Tassigny, who was in command of the 14e DI in 1940. This division inflicted heavy losses to the Germans in June 1940 around Rethel on the Aisne River.

    Colonel Béthouard is commander of the high mountain brigade in February 1940. In April 1940 he is general and commander of the 1st light mountain division send in Norway in April 1940. After the armistice he is sent to Morocco and thanks to his orders limit the fight with the US troops during operation Torch. He is sent to the USA from December 1942 to November 1943 to negotiate the rearmament of the French Army. In 1944 he takes command of the 1st corps of the 1st French army.

    Colonel de Goislard de Monsabert is in command of the 9e RTA (Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens) in September 1939 in Miliana. In December he takes command of the 81st infantry brigade at Blida. He is promoted general in August 1941. In November 1942 he prepares the arrival of general Giraud at Blida. He is deprived of the French nationality by the Vichy government. He takes command of the "Corps Franc d'Afrique" and later of the 19th army corps during the campaign of Tunisia.
    On 10th April 1943, after the death of general Welvert, general de Monsabert takes over command of the 3rd DIA during the operations in Tunisia. The division is transferred in Italy in December 1943 to relieve the 43rd US infantry division. The first battles are led at Monna Casale, Acquafondata and at the Belvédère in January 1944. On 12th May 1944, on the Garigliano, the division takes Castelforte, opening the road to Rome. On 3rd July Sienne is taken. On 16th August the division lands in France near Toulon during operation Anvil / Dragoon. Toulon is liberated on 21st August and Marseille on 28th August, more than 10,000 POWs are made. On 31st August, general De Goislard de Monsabert takes command of the 2nd corps of the 1st French army and participates to the liberation of Saint-Etienne, Lyon, Mâcon, Chalon, Autun and Dijon before taking part in the campaign in the Vosges and in Alsace. Crossing the Rhine general De Goislard de Monsabert takes Stuttgart. In July 1945 he is promoted commander of the French Forces in Germany.

    On 10th June 1940, capitaine de Hautecloque (as known as "Leclerc") led part of the groupement Maître for the northern French counter-attack on the Annelles - Perthes axis (elements of the 3e DCR : 17 Hotchkiss H39, 9 Renault B1bis and the 3 infantry companies of the 16e BCP). He walked in front of the infantry and the tanks with his famous stick. 12 tanks were lost but the German advance was delayed. The 16e BCP managed to take Perthes and to rescue the French 127e RI still fighting in the town. Together they defended the town until 22h00 when they received the order to pull back. Thanks to this attack the 14e DI (general De Lattre, future commander of the French 1st Army) could retreat in good conditions. Capitaine de Hautecloque is an example of a captain in 1940 becoming commander of an armored division. Leclerc's column took the Koufra oasis (and the El Tag fort) in Lybia to the Italians in 1941 and all the Fezzan area (south-west Lybia) between March 1942 and January 1943. Leclerc’s force quickly crushed the Italian defense in southern Libya and marched 1500 miles north, reaching Tripoli on 23rd January 1943 just as the British arrived from Egypt. Leclerc placed himself under the command of Field Marshal Montgomery and his corps played a major role in the advance of the 8th Army in Tunisia. He was promoted general on 5th May 1943 and ordered to Morocco to form the 2nd French armored division.


    Three officers of the 3e DLM will play a role in the next part of the war.

    - Squadron commander Touzet du Vigier had in charge the "armored cavalry" course in the cavalry school at Saumur from 1931 to 1934. During his teaching and in various conferences in 1937-1938 he proved very open to the innovative ideas concerning the tanks. His teaching influenced many officers like capitaine de Hautecloque. In 1914, he led a cavalry raid deep behind the German lines during 5 days. In 1937, he took part to the writing of the cavalry doctrine with general Flavigny. In 1940 he commanded the 2e Régiment de Cuirassiers of the 3e DLM and fought during the battle of Hannut, the first big tanks battle of WW2. In 1944, he will be commander of the 1st French armored division included in the first French army.

    - Colonel de Vernejoul (1e Régiment de Cuirassiers in 1940) will command the 5th French armored division in 1944 (the 1e DB and 5e DB are part of the French 1st Army unlike the 2e DB).

    - Colonel Leyer, in command of an armored reconnaissance regiment in May 1940 and commander of the 4e DLM in June 1940, will command the Vichy French cavalry in Morocco. In 1942-1943, he will be one of the main actors of the creation of the French armored arm.

    These officers will apply the French cavalry spirit and their own views to the new French armored units.

    One could also mention lieutenant-colonel Baillou, who was tank commander in the 3e DLM in 1940. He is later squadron commander in the 12e RCA (Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique), a regiment of the 2nd French armored division, in North Africa and France. He will be instructor in France from 1945 to 1950.

    Already in 1940, when the French crews were experienced with their tanks they were at the level with the German tankers in many battles (in pure tank vs tank warfare ... not when facing all their supports like 8.8cm FlaK and 10.5cm leFH used in direct fire, Ju87 dive bombers etc.). They knew how to operate their tanks, even if it was a bit different than for a German crew. A French tank in 1940 is more intricate and becomes really a deadly and efficient weapon only with experienced crews. A rookie crew will have many drawbacks. History has shown that the experienced French crews were at level with their German opponents. Besides tank battles like Hannut, an other example of that is the engagement of 10 Somua S35 tanks of the 4e regiment de cuirassiers (1e DLM) in the town of Jolimetz on 18th May 1940 against half of the 5.Panzerdivision. In 10 vs 1 odd, the French lost there 10 tanks (destroyed or abandoned) and the Germans 26 tanks, including many Panzer IVs. That is a perfect example of what well-trained French crews were able to do.

    Baillou explained that in 1943-1945 the situation was inverted : they were more experienced than most of the German crews they met which on their side had better tanks (Panthers in his explanation). They also took advantage of a drawback of the Panther : when the slope was to important in a hilly countryside, the turret became too heavy to be rotated for the Panther, they had to turn all the tank. The French transposed the cavalry spirit to the French armored division of the liberation, and many officers were veterans from the DLMs, applying the cavalry speed and tactics but this time with the Sherman which had an intercom system and a radio unlike in most of the French tanks of 1940. Often they checked the range of a target by firing tracer rounds with the coaxial machinegun. They had observed that until range X it corresponded roughly to the ballistics of the main gun. A significant number of French tankers and commanders who were defeated in 1940 were again in armored units for the liberation and drew their tanks in the heart of Germany and Austria.


    Other people can be mentioned among many others ...

    Pierre Koenig is an intelligence officer in Germany until 1929 in the staff of the 40e DI and 43e DI. He takes part in various operations in the Moroccan desert until September 1939. Back in France on 16th June 1940 he cannot continue the fight there and embarks for Great Britain on 20th June 1940. He is rallying De Gaulle immediately and he is promoted battalion commander. He takes part to the first operations involving some Free French troops like in Dakar. He plays a very important role in the rallying of Gabon to the Free French in November 1940.
    In 1941 he is promoted colonel. He is in Sudan and in Palestine and takes part to operation "Exporter" in Syria as staff officer and later commander of the 1e DFL. In August 1943 he is staff officer for the French Army in Algeria and is in charge of the fusion between the Free French and the former Vichy French troops to build the French Army. In March 1944, he is representative of the new French government by US general Eisenhower. On 28th June 1944, Koenig is promoted army corps general and governor of Paris on 25th August. In July 1945 he is commander of the French Troops in Germany and in 1946 he is promoted army general.

    Edgard de Larminat chooses the colonial infantry in 1919 after the school of Saint-Cyr. During 2 1/2 years he serves in Morocco and he is then sent to Western Africa, in Mauritania.
    From 1925 to 1928 he is in the 1e RIC and the 22e RIC. In 1928 he is sent to Indochina and in September he is promoted battalion commander in September 1929. Back in France in 1931 he takes command of a battalion of the 4e RTS. From 1933 to 1935 he is in the "Ecole de Guerre" (War School).
    In 1935 he is lieutenant-colonel and sent in the Levant (Syria - Lebanon). He is promoted colonel in March 1940 and in May he is in the HQ staff of the Middle-East theatre of operations. In June 1940, refusing the defeat, he tries to keep the troops of the Levant in the fight. He is arrested and put in jail in Damas on 27th June 1940. Three days later he escapes and joins the Free French troops in Palestine.
    He plays a crucial role in the rallying of many African territories to the Free French troops. In 1941 he is condemned to death by Vichy and he is also promoted brigade general. He organized the African battalions which will be included in the 1e DFL and in the Leclerc Column (ancestor of the 2e DB).
    Staff officer by general Catroux, commander in chief of the Levant, he takes command of the 1st Free French brigade in December 1941 for the campaign in Lybia. He is also the officer in charge of the preparation of the defenses of Bir Hakeim to face the assault of the Germano-Italian forces in May 1942. In January 1943, he takes command of the 1e DFL and fights victoriously in Tunisia, taking the Djebel Garci in front of Takrouna from 8th to 13th May 1943.
    He is then sent to Italy with the French Expeditionary Coprs in Italy (FECI) and led the 2nd army corps. In August 1944 he takes part in the landing in Provence and in October 1944 he takes command of the "commandement des Forces Françaises de l'Ouest", which becomes the "Détachement d'Armée de l'Atlantique". He is then in charge of reducing the German pockets in Lorient, La Rochelle, Rochefort, Royan etc. During the winter 1944-1945 he is in charge of transforming FFI units in regular army units and creates 5 infantry divisions. Between the 14th and the 20th April 1945 he reduces German pockets in the Bordeaux area and takes 10,000 POWs and a huge quantity of equipment. In November 1945, Edgard de Larminat is promoted general inspector of the overseas troops.

    Regards,

    David
     
  7. David Lehmann

    David Lehmann New Member

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    About (Free) French tankers fighting between 1940 and 1943 one can mention a Hotchkiss tank company that fought already in Syria in 1941.

    If you read the Trackstory booklet about the Somua S35 you will find information about Somua S35 tanks used in Tunisia (initially Vichy French).

    "After failure of the Free French to rally Senegal to their cause in 1940, the Vichy French Army succeeded in convincing the Germans forming part of the Wiesbaden "Commission d'armistice" (created to deal with the truce terms) of the need for a modern tank squadron in Africa to defend the Empire against the Allies next attack.
    The Germans saw it as reinforcement for the Dakar out-post against the Gaullist threat. But for the French, the true aim was to create a battle worthy amored unit away from the eyes of the Axis.
    The 12e GACA (Groupement Autonome des Chasseurs d'Afrique) is created on 1st September 1941. The first elements of what will eventually become the 12e RCA (Régiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique) on 15th February 1942, unload in Senegal in November 1941. The nucleus is a motorcycle squadron built around a HQ and 4 platoons of 13 side-cars emanating from the 2e RCA and 5e RCA. But before that, the 23 Somua S35 tanks earmarked for the unit have already been released from France and unloaded on the Senegalese port of Thiès on 19th July 1941. In fact, they were first delivered to Oran in Algeria and loaded on a train to Casablanca where they were brought to operational status after such a long lull since 1940, and the crews trained.
    Much time was spent peacefully in Senegal (more than a year), but the 12e RCA moved back to Oran on 21st January 1943 and later to Algiers on 8th February 1943. On 20th February, the 2nd tank squadron, commanded by capitaine Gribius, was sent to the front in Tunisia where it was integrated in the 19e GBF (Groupement Blindé Français) as the 7th squadron from the 12e RCA. The French Army in Africa was then in full metamorphosis and its armored corps consisted in heterogeneous units :
    • Valentine tanks in the 1st squadron of the 5e RCA
    • Somua S35 tanks in the 7th squadron of the 12e RCA
    • M10 tank destroyers in the 4th squadron of the 9e GACA
    • a Stuart light tank company
    The group fought during the last phase of the Tunisian campaign, beginning with the attack on Gafsa on 17th March 1943. The Somua squadron got its last mission in May 1943 : help the 8th Army, coming from the south, to cut the Cape Bon peninsula where 200,000 German and Italian troops were concentrated, hoping for an improbable evacuation by sea. The Somua squadron began its attack on 9th May 1943, and initially meet no serious opposition. A second platoon followed the first one 2 km behind. Their crews were the helpless witnesses of the fate of the mates, slaughtered by the guns of camouflaged Panzer IVs. They later counted up to 12x 75mm shots on one of the 2 destroyed Somua S35 tanks. The 3 other tanks of the platoons escaped thanks to their speed. On 11th May, the French troops in the 19th Army Corps crushed the remnants of the 21.PzD, and 2 days later the capitulation of the Axis forces in Africa was signed.
    During these exhausting battles, the Somua S35 tank has once more displayed its inherent qualities. A total of only 4 were lost in combat. Capitaine Gribius wrote then : "the Somua tank can still be counted as one of the best of the mechanically, with the speed, range, reliability and simplicity of the best US tanks to date. But its inferiority lies in the insufficient armament, lack of communication equipments, in its well designed but not thick enough armor, and in its internal layout in the crew compartments (ergonomics) that is no more suited to the present tactics (1943)".
    Among the 19 surviving tanks, 17 will be kept in the 1st squadron of the 7th Régiment de la Garde to show the flag in this part of the French Empire. But before leaving their tanks, the crews pulled away the embossed "SOMUA" plates and welded them on the Shermans received from the new US ally. Thus keeping the memory of the tank all of them saw as the best tank in the world !"

    For sure Many French tankers who manned their Shermans and M10 in Italy, France and later Germany and Austria (3 French armored divisions + other armored elements) were well experienced but there were also green crews.

    Regards,

    David
     

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