PART VII: OPERATION COBRA: THE MOVEMENT INTO FRANCE
Overview: August 19, 1944, The French resistance to German invasion begins. On August 25th, the city of Paris was liberated from the Germans;. The Germans hastily retreated into Northern France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. The 142nd Gun Battalion is ordered to follow behind General Patton. The mission is to continue to search and seek out Germans that may still be in the area.
SEARCHING FOR GERMANS:
The most methodical way to overcome militant Germans who could still be lurking in the country was to slowly scout out the territory inch by inch. Every area had to be checked and double checked so that when the Allies left of France they could affirmatively state that the area was clear. If there were any remnants of German soldiers in the area the Allies were to overpower them and remove them. The mission stated: Germans were to be completely eliminated from France.
General Patton and his troops had gone ahead of the platoon that was just coming into the small town. The strategy was for General Patton to go in one direction. The infantry was to go in a separate direction assuring that the heavy tanks could safely enter. The slow moving tanks rolled slowly through each town with clouds of dust following in their aftermath. Should there be any Germans remaining they would be targeted. Any French citizens who may have been left behind after the Germans had terrorized the towns, the Allies were to offer assistance and whatever help they could
France itself was almost completely deserted since many civilians had departed rather quickly to avoid German advancement. Those who were unable to move for whatever reason had been ignored or cast off and were left in areas where the ravages of war had left them helpless without supplies. In several towns unsuspecting people found themselves face to face with the enemy and were quickly captured. Those unlucky people were forced to tread along in front of the military group and were taken to one of many prisons or work camps.
After arriving at a predetermined destination, the masses of people were tightly jammed into train cars. Always under the watchful eye of the Germans the trip was long and arduous. At periodic intervals the prisoners were allowed to exit the car and relieve themselves without any privacy. Once at the prison camps where conditions were deplorable their time would be spent at the ruthless mercy of the Germans. Duties that were assigned included the repair of decrepit railroads and broken bridges or groups were to work laboriously on farms. As much as possible the French determined to leave the countryside before the Germans actually arrived. No one wanted to be captured and suffer under the harsh conditions of the camps.
As the alert gun battalion cautiously moved into the nearest town, the littered debris strewn on the ground verified that the French had been hastily captured and forcefully taken by the Germans. A variety of items scattered over the soil included Allied jackets, various cameras, and pieces of jewelry. Bottles of cognac and fine wine were carefully confiscated from the homes by the Allies. Basically if it had been left behind it was there for taking.
Extreme caution was the key phrase that the soldiers had been instructed to follow. It was absolutely necessary to remember that although the town looked deserted, the Germans were crafty and had rigged detonation devices throughout the area. Cupboard doors could be casually opened triggering the thin wire that was attached to a bomb. More than one innocent and unsuspecting soldier had met his fate just that way. Never underestimate the resourcefulness of the enemy.
PART VIII: BELGIUM, LUXEMBOURG & HOLLAND
Overview: September 3, 1944: The troops move out of France into Belgium and Luxembourg; September 13 the heavy fighting along the Siegfried Line begins and lasts for five months; and on September 17 the assault on Holland called Operations Market Garden Air Assault takes place.
The primary objective for the Allies at this critical point of the war was to advance cautiously and steadily into the country of Belgium. Fighting in this area and nearby countries took a solid five months and intense concentration. The massive operation was mainly an air assault which literally transported thousands of soldiers into the area as reinforcements. Many British soldiers had fought tenaciously in the country but were now worn with fatigue. The Allied support would ensure that the mission would be successful. Numerous bridges along the way had to be secured to gain access into Germany through southern Belgium and Luxembourg. Three major rivers had to be strategically placed in Allied hands so that soldiers could infiltrate along the Rhur River into Germany. Many highly industrialized areas had been established in the area and kept the German force adequately supplied with military essentials. The advancement along Highway 69 or “Hell’s Highway” was an extreme hindrance to the Allies since the pathway was soft and mushy and progress was delayed as the heavy equipment sunk into one pothole after another.