443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

ARDENNES - ALSACE CAMPAIGN

BREAKTHROUGH INTO GERMANY

Click on map to view larger imageWhen the 36th Division began its attack on 15 March it was the division farthest from the Siegfried Line and was not expected to attack it. That task was planned as the Army’s main effort many miles to the 36th’s left. Consequently the 36th was not provided with siege guns to reduce the defenses of the Siegfried Line. It was expected only to make a serious demonstration before the fortifications. The heavy Siegfried fortifications were a formidable obstacle, especially in the 7th Army sector. The familiar pyramidal obstacles (dragon’s teeth) stretched across the plain from Ober-Otterbach to Steinfeld before the 36th Division. They were covered by fire from overlooking heights where a complex network of heavy, concrete pill-boxes, set into the ground and well camouflaged, included elaborate systems of trenches and wire obstacles. Three months earlier, other 7th Army troops had spent three weeks trying to force an opening through the Line, without success.

However, when the 36th captured Wissembourg and rolled up to the Siegfried Line it was not to be stopped. The 142nd Regiment’s 1st Battalion, weary from the previous day’s long pursuit and fighting, was in a lead position and was immediately ordered toward Bergzabern and into the Siegfried Line. Schweigen and Rechtenbach were easily taken but the approach to Ober-Otterbach was met by intense enemy fire. By nightfall, however, the town was taken and other battalions of the Division were moving over the hills, engaging enemy pillbox defenses. The break came on 20 March when the 3rd Battalion of the 142nd, after a twelve hour climb through rugged hills, captured Grassberg Heights — a key enemy defense, whose capture paved the way for collapse of the Siegfried Line, in the Division zone. Bitter fighting continued until on 21 March the 36th broke out of Grassberg to seize Darrenbach and press on into the key town of Bergzabern, over 2 miles behind the Siegfried Line. Meanwhile the Division was demolishing pillbox after pillbox against stubborn defenders. On 22 March Germans who had not been able to flee began surrendering by the hundreds. Pockets of entrenched resistance continued to resist the American advance both within the depth of the Siegfried Line and beyond it. Before dawn on 24 March the 36th was on the Rhine having captured ferry sites, thousands of prisoners and huge stocks of supplies and equipment. This was the last great battle in which the 36th Infantry Division and its attached units would be engaged.

On 30 March the 7th Army’s General Patch issued an Order of the Day, saying,

All officers and men are congratulated on the recent operations of 7th Army personnel".

The 443rd Battalion S-2 report showed prisoners taken by the Battalion in March as:

Battery A - 15; Battery B - 85; Battery C - 40; Battery D - 18
Battalion Headquarters - 5

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