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Hatten and Rittershoffen January 1945

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by Kai-Petri, Dec 13, 2002.

  1. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    John, sorry to read about your father. While he lived a long and full life, it's never easy to lose someone special. Please feel free to post whatever you wish that gives us something important to know about him.
     
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  2. durski

    durski recruit

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    Hello, In my father's copy of The Final Crisis, by Richard Engler, he inserted notes of his experiences.
    Here's two for your enjoyment.

    Probably about January 5th, almost the entire platoon was sent out on a foot patrol towards Buhl, a mile or so NE of Hatten. The American front lines had pulled back to Hatten, etc. a few days earlier and it was suspected that the Germans had probably moved up to fill the void. We had an interpreter with us (for the first and last time) to talk with any Alsacians we met. It was about 25 degrees F. with a little snow on the ground and lightly foggy. Supposedly the 79th Division on our left had been alerted to the fact that we had a patrol out. But when we were approaching Buhl across a flat field we were suddenly welcomed with machine gun fire and mortar shells. Fortunately, no one was hit, but we had an uncomfortable ten minutes or so trying to make ourselves invisible in that flat field. Chester Giles was smart enough to recognize that it was Americans firing on us, and he also had enough presence of mind to run forward a little and yell to them to stop shooting. Of course no one had told the 79th Division patrol that we were out there too. But it was probably a useful initiation to the war that we discovered that we could probably survive being shot at. We did go on to Buhl, talked to some civilians, and learned a German patrol had in fact been there earlier that day. On returning, we opened a couple of bottles of champagne* to celebrate our rather minor sucess. * I'll post the champagne story later.


    On Jan. 8th five of us were sent out on another patrol, this time east of Hatten across the fields a little to the south of Buhl. Pinky Wilson carried the BAR, LaFleur had the radio, Giles was the leader, and I've forgotten who else was along. Ed Ransom stayed back at one of the Maginot Line bunkers with the second radio, but we lost radio contact almost before we got out of sight. We got out a mile and a half in front of our lines without seeing anything of interest, but suddenly I spotted at least six German tanks under camouflage nets along a road not more than a third of a mile from us. In fact, we had gone somewhat beyond the first few lead tanks. As we stood there looking,a German soldier came towards us from one of the tanks. We waved at him to come on over to us, but suddenly someone shot at us, hitting LaFleur in the helmet. It put quite a dent in the helmet, gave LaFleur a headache and a slight abrasion but didn't really hurt him. However, that alerted us to the fact that we were potentially in some trouble. LaFleur dumped the heavy battery from the already useless radio, and we started running, a few at a time, towards our lines. This was kind of hard work, and we only ran 30 or 40 yards before dropping and waiting to catch our breath. But when we got close to our lines, our troops started shooting at us. Fortunately, by that time we were near a small stream with the 3-or-4 foot banks offering some protection. The ice in the stream wasn't strong enough to hold us, however, and most of us got wet up to our knees. Again, Giles went on ahead and managed to stop the shooting so that we could get back safely. We, of course, reported what we had seen, but as far as we could tell, no one seemed much interested. However, the next morning was when the Germans attacked.
     
  3. Alsa.se

    Alsa.se Member

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    Hello,
    This testimony is very interesting. I am very pleased and excited to be able to know these facts. After much searching on the net, the proof is made ​​that there are always new stories. I am convinced that many veterans have not wanted or dared openly about their past, their unfortunate adventures, but may have written discreetly in secret. One day or another, these writings will re "surface" and will feed into the historical facts, but also confirm some rumors or facts that we were not sure they had occurred.
    Anyway a big thank you for having posted this testimony. Looking forward to reading many more!

    regards,

    Eric
     
  4. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Wow, great first post durski. Thank you so much for sharing.

    The number of veteran's relatives that have posted here is really exciting.

    If you want to post more information not related to this battle feel free to start a thread on the What Granddad did in the War. Since the I&R Platoons were so small there are few accounts of their membership and actions.
     
  5. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    I wholeheartedly agree with Eric and Earthican, durski. Thanks for sharing your father's notes. I would be great if you would share more about him as Earthican suggested. If you need help with starting a thread or any of the other forum functions, just ask. We're a friendly, helpful bunch here. :)
     
  6. durski

    durski recruit

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    Hello, the story I really wanted to share here was his being in the steeple of the church near the start of the German advance on Hatten.

    For some reason or other we were up fairly early on January 9[SUP]th[/SUP]. And Snapp, Lt. Shaneyfelt and I drove to Hatten which was being attacked. There were several inches of snow on the ground at the time. We climbed up in the church tower in Hatten and could see German tanks coming from Buhl. We could also see the primers of mines which had been laid exploding under the tank treads, but the main charge failed to go off, perhaps because of the cold. There were also many German soldiers in white coats coming across the fields toward Hatten. We hadn’t been in the steeple for more than ten minutes before the Germans began shelling the church. We got out as fast as we could and moved back to the church in Rittershofen, a little less than a mile to the west. We couldn’t see nearly as much from that steeple, however. And it wasn’t long before the Germans were trying to hit that steeple too. All this was interesting but not very encouraging so we decided to back up one more town to Nieder-Betschdorf. We couldn’t see a thing from that church steeple, however, so we gave up on steeples for the day and waited for someone to tell us what to do.


    Later that afternoon, Harv Snapp and I were standing out on the east end of Betschdorf. We could hear the fighting going on in the next towns, but couldn’t see anything of interest. There was a big 155mm gun dug in near us, and we saw a couple of German tanks coming along the railroad tracks to the south of Hatten. The gun crew bore-sighted their gun, fired and hit the lead tank squarely. The other tanks retreated rapidly, and the gun crew immediately decided that things were getting too hot for them, hitched up their gun to a truck, and headed for the rear. There was also half a dozen American tanks parked on a little knoll nearby. They didn’t like the looks of the German tanks either, and they also left.
     
  7. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Great stuff, hoping for more.

    Engler's Final Crisis has a few accounts of the Cannon Company, 242d Infantry, firing on German tanks from their positions south of Rittershoffen.

    Also W.Y. Boyd's novel (not a very good novel) The Gentle Infantrymen starts out with an account of 57mm AT Guns engaging German tanks, which seems to match the 242d Infantry's effort from the edge of the woods to the south.

    So it wasn't just the tanks of the 14th Armored Division that turned the Germans back that first day.

    Here's a photo of the church in Hatten, pre-war, can't recall where I found this.
     

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  8. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    While doing searches for another ww2f thread I came across this Google Books preview for "Battle Yet Unsung" by O'Keeffe. It covers the 14th Armored Division through the whole war.

    Hopefully this link will get you the Riffershoffen chapter. These previews are limited and variable. When I was viewing it I was able to read from page 111 to 139. If you cannot access what you want, you might try: navigating away from Google Books, clear your "cookies", then try again.

    Battle Yet Unsung: The Fighting Men of the 14th Armored Division in World War II - Timothy O'Keeffe - Google Books

    It has a number of eyewitness accounts and quotes from unit histories and journals. The description of the battle is rather confused. While this style captures the real "fog of war", it can be frustrating to piece events together. Still a lot of good additional info.
     
  9. Alsa.se

    Alsa.se Member

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    Earthican,

    Thank you for this message. The link works fine. This book seems very interesting. I will immerse myself in the few pages available online (Who can translate this book into French ...;))
    What I find interesting is that in this book we speak different theaters of combat in my area (Forest Ohlungen, Barr, TF Hudelson: Nordwind).

    Eric
     
  10. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Yes "Battle Yet Unsung" must be read carefully in any language. I would use any other source to clarify what happen in the battle and then see if the small pieces found in BYU fit into what you know about the battle.

    I do not recall in what context Hudelson is mentioned in BYU. But recall Colonel Hudelson of Task Force Hudelson in the Low Vosges (Nordwind) was also present at Rittershoffen / Hatten with the 14th Armored Division.


    Eric, BYU has paragraph from Major Willi Spreu, 192.PzGR/21.PzD on page 121. Do you know which fort is described in that paragraph? In a previous post, it was suggested that this was Casement de Seltz. Your thoughts?
     
  11. Alsa.se

    Alsa.se Member

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    I think we should be careful with this book. There are points that don't seem very clear.
    As this bunker north of Rittershoffen with over 120 GI's (?) I don't see a bunker big enough nearby.
    The casemate "de la Seltz" is 1km north-east of Hatten, therefore the opposite of Rittershoffen. It can't be it. In addition it was planned for 28 men.
    ALSACE - LIGNE MAGINOT - FORT DE SCHOENENBOURG

    Regards,

    Eric
     
  12. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Regarding "Battles Yet Unsung" : Right, when I said "read carefully", I mean skeptically. But there are a number of first person accounts and unit document quotes, particularly for the 68th AIB, which I found useful.


    Regarding capture of Maginot Fort: On one hand, I would not rule out the possibility that the bunker/fort was stuffed to over-capacity or that the total number captured included those outside the fort.

    But on the other hand, I take your point that something does not add up and, if I recall correctly, A Company 242d Infantry was thinly spread in its sector north and east of Hatten.

    The other possible location for that action would then be south of Wissembourg on 6-8 Jan 1945 where elements of the 222d Infantry was defending.
     
  13. Nordwind511

    Nordwind511 Member

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    Hello everyone -
    I am sorry for not being here a longer time. But I have to mention that there are lots of new informations about Hatten and Rittershoffen January 1945 - and I have to read very carefully trying to understand what it´s been written. You did a very, very good job!! Thanks to all! Okay, I promise that I will send more informations about the German attack during the next few days (especially detailed informations about the 21PzDiv. and 25. GrenDiv. from the war-diaries aof these units) and as well some about US units (naturally 315th Inf.D, 827 TD Bataillons, etc.) as well. MAybe we will have to up-date our operation-maps a littlebit in consideration of the following reports. We will see ...
    The reason why I wasn´t here is a very simple: like I told you before my grandpa is missing in action after the operation Nordwind. He fought in the region of Hatten/Rittershoffen by serving in C-company of the 220.engineer bataillon (21.PzDiv). Before that he served on the Eastern front from 1941 till beginning of 1944. Then he was wounded badly so the army surgeon said he will not be able to fight on the front anymore. But in december 1944, when the Wehrmacht had to retreat in the west, south and east Hitler took each men who seemed to able to fight his senseless war (young guys only 15 yrs or even younger and old men (50 yrs. and much older) called the "Volkssturm") ... so on 4th of january he served again on the western front ... That was the time, when my grandma/family heard of him the last time. Unfortunatelly after the war the german Red Cross looked for him on wrong places (Eastern Front/Weichselbogen/Poland) and wrong units. Now, 65 yrs. later when I studied all informations about my grandpa I found out what happened and I also found the main mistake of the wrong searching for my grandpa. After I wrote to the Red Cross in november last year they apologized for their mistake and they promised me to check all informations about 14 unknown german soldiers on the military cemeteryin Niederbronn (France/Alsass). This is the place where all the German soldiers who were killed in action during Hatten/Rittershoffen were put in graves (first the American put their soldiers there too, but later they put them in another grave). At the moment I am still waiting if they will find him ...
    When I read some of your Posts you asked for pictures of Hatten/Rittershoffen on the fights there. So first I will send a picture which is taken a little later in 1945 (march 1945) by CCA (14th Armored Division) in Hatten. Two soldiers are starring at the wreckage of a "Sherman" (on the left) and a german "Panther" in the liberated village of Hatten.

    Michael

    View attachment 16271
     

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  14. Natman

    Natman Member

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    Hello Michael,
    Glad to hear you've had success with possibly locating your grandfather. Hopefully, with todays scientific techniques and the Red Cross records, they can confirm if one of the 14 unknown soldiers is indeed him. Your family needs closure on his loss.
     
  15. Natman

    Natman Member

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    I recently got this small amount of info regarding the 827th TD. Unfortunately, the history and journal both have pages missing. These came from NARA at College Park.

    View attachment 16272
     

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  16. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow

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    Michael, I would like to join Steve in wish you and your family well in hopefully locating your grandfather's remains. The advances in technology have made it much easier to make positive identification even after several decades.
     
  17. Nordwind511

    Nordwind511 Member

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    Thanks all for your wishes - yes I naturally hope they will be able to indentify him allthough it will be really very difficult cause they will not open the grave, etc. I know that some of the german soldiers on the western front at Hatten weren´t allowed to wear their dog-tags. The reason for that was if they would be captured the identification of the german units could be easier for the US-troops on the other side ... But my grandpa probablys wear some other special marks ... he fought during the assault on the crimenia 41/42 when the german Wehrmacht captured Sewastopol. For that reason he should wear the "Krim-Schild" on his left arm - if he took it off, there should be 3 marks in the clothes ... and when they put him as an unknown soldiers in his grave they sometimes note down such informations ... we will see. If not - my search will not be over, because the way of the 21.PzD. ended at least in april 1945 in Halbe, where the unit is been destroyed nearly completely ...
    Before I will start to post the informations I already collected about the battle at Hatten I have to make a litte note: I have collected not only informations on the german units about Hatten/Rittershoffen, but also some about the US-Units. Because I am not very familiar with (US) military terms, contractions or special expressions I will probably sometimes use a wrong word - sorry for that! Maybe I have to ask you (if it´s okay?) if I didn´t understand an expression either ... If you have any questions or if you want to ask about some german expressions I didn´t translate in my posts ... just ask I will try to give you an explanation as good as I am able to. I hope my english will go enough :eek:... I will try to translate original German reports word by word. But fFirst I will give you a more detailed description about the positions of the german and the US units (so my posts will start on 5th of january 45 when the 242 US IR should relieve the units of 314 IR). Because it take some time for the translation, etc. -and I can do this work only in the evening - I will not able to post every day, okay. Enough words - tomorrow I will start my posts again ...
     
  18. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    Welcome back Michael, I hope all is well with you.

    Feel free to contribute in anyway you are able. My own focus is military matters but I feel these investigations can help those with personal family connections.

    On unit designations, best to use the German designations for German units and your best guess English for US units, that will reduce some confusion.


    In my on-going effort to provide all information available, I found this map in the 42d ID history from the CARL website.

    I added the regiments by number to the color coded frontages. I wanted to point out that the map on the right shows G/222d Infantry north of Hatten where 3/313th Infantry defended. I can't confirm this in any text and they may not have seen much fighting there, mostly assisting the 313th Infantry. This could be south of Oberroedern or the south side of that town.

    I also recall that Richard Engler described his F/222d Infantry defending west of Rittershoffen or east of Kuhlendorf latter in the battle.

    Not shown on the map are the two battalions of the 314th Infantry of the 79th ID in reserve.
     

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  19. Alsa.se

    Alsa.se Member

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    I look forward to reading your response about the Battle of Hatten-Rittershoffen. This is a subject dear to my heart. I thank you in advance.
    (With the words in German I have no problem ! :D)
    regards,

    Eric
     
  20. Nordwind511

    Nordwind511 Member

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    Does anybody know where my post is gone???? :eek: I have posted a longer report about the US troops and there position on 5th of january
     

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