A War of Attrition

Chapter VII
A War of Attrition

For two days the tankers stayed near Stegen, licking their wounds. The operation had been very successful. Due to the diversionary operation performed by the Fifth Armored Division, troops that might have been used by the Germans in their defenses further north in the Siegfried Line were denied to them at the time when other American forces were breaking the West Wall at Aschen. For five days everyone had been under a great strain, mentally more than physically, and the rest restored high spirits in a short time. it was a welcome relief not to hear the sound of artillery and small arms all of the time.

Outpost on the Border

On 25 September 1944, however, the tankers once again moved to the Luxembourg border and established an oupost in order to keep a watchful eye on the Germans. The ouposting near the Wallendorf area required constant vigilence, as the Germans would send patrols into the American controlled area in an attempt to determine the American strength, disposition, and units. Most of the patrols were picked up and not very much information landed into the enemy's hands.

Several eays earlier, while still inside Germany, the tankers had several opportuinites to accept the surrender of platoon-size German units, except that they were not able to give instructions to the Germans in how to surrender. On at least two occassions when the German troops tried to surrender they were fired upon by their own men. Then, too, they would try to walk in carrying their guns and not have a white flag. Instead of being taken prisoner they would be fired upon by the tankers and would then run into the woods. In order to take advantage of the occasions when the Germans wanted to surrender, a public address system was requested. Unfortunately the system didn't arrive until the night the tankers left "the hill". The Psychological Warfare team that brought the system were ready to go to work but now there was no longer a need for it.

The headquarters of the division wanted the P.A. system used anyway, so Captain Charles DeBevoise took the trailer-load of equipment to the outpost line and set it up between a couple of posts. Captain Ralph Power fired six big propaganda shells into Germany and then the psychological warfare team followed up with a nice little talk on why and how to surrender. This would have got results if the Germans were surrounded, and under heavy fire, but in the present situation they had no desire to surrender.

There was no doubt that the Germans heard the broadcast, as the equipment had a range of two miles. Moreover, the Germans answered it by immediately firing their artillery in the direction of the P.A. system. The psychological warfare team finished their talk, loaded up the equipment and moved out. Artillery fire continued to fall in that area for the rest of the day. (No members of the Wehrmacht surrendered in response to this call).

The month of October was an inactive one for the tankers. On the second day the 8th Infantry Division moved up after having cleaned up the Brittany peninsular and took over the repsonsibility of gaurding the border. CCB assembled its troops on 4 October, near Beringen in Luxembourg, and prepared for a long move to the north. All of the vehicle markings were obliterated, while a security organization painted CCB markings on their vehicles and ran them around in the open. They also used the CCB radio frequencies and call signs to maintain radio traffic. Early on the morning of the 6th the tanks and infantry slipped away and made a fast orderly march of seventy miles to Faymonville, Belgium.

For nine days the maintenance sections were kept busy. Sommerfeldt matting was welded on some of the tanks. This matting was nothing more than heavy chicken-wire but it was very convenient in helping to camouflage the tanks. Branches could be fastened on the matting and if the tanks moved the branches would stay in place. This was thought to be particularly desirable in wooded and semi- open country. Meahwhile, a large tent was put up and it was possible to have movies in the field. This was a very welcome diversion from the day's work of preparing the vehicles for further combat.

Mud and Snow

On October 15th this came to an end. At 14:45 the tankers rolled north through Eupen, and up to the outskirts of Aschen, finally stopping at Ober Forstbach. The new area was a sea of mud and only after great difficulty were the vehicles finally in place in the open fields. The force was not committed in the fighting around Aschen but sat in the mud with occassional artillery shells falling in the area. A railroad gun had been rolled up by the Germans and they tried to hit the VII Corps C.P. When they missed the Corps C.P., the rounds sometimes fell in the CCR area.

For almost two weeks the 81st stayed in the same mud and the wather was very noticeably cooler. Then on the 27th movement was ordered again, back to the vicinity of Faymonville. Although the area in Faymonville was partly wooded. It too was very soft, and again the tankers had great difficulty in getting the vehicles into the woods and comouflaged. In a few days snow fell. This was not the first time the troops had lived in shelter-halves in cold weather and everyone soon settled down to the cold and snow. For the rest of themonth the Battalion remained near Faymonville.

More to Come!!!!

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