Battle of Metz

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This article is about the 1944 battle. For the 1870 battle, see Siege of Metz.
Battle of Metz
Part of World War II
Metz1944-1.jpg
Troops of the U.S. 5th Infantry Division entering Metz on 18 November 1944
Date 27 September – 13 December 1944
Location Metz
49°07′13″N 6°10′40″E / 49.12028°N 6.17778°E / 49.12028; 6.17778Coordinates: 49°07′13″N 6°10′40″E / 49.12028°N 6.17778°E / 49.12028; 6.17778
Result American victory
Territorial
changes
German-held territory captured by US forces
Belligerents
 United States  Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
George S. Patton Otto von Knobelsdorff

The Battle of Metz was a three-month battle fought between the United States Army and the German Army during World War II. It took place at the city of Metz following the Allied breakout after the Normandy landings. The attack on the city by the U.S. Third Army[1] faced heavy resistance from the defending German forces, and resulted in heavy casualties for both sides.[2] The heavily fortified city of Metz was captured by U.S. forces before the end of November 1944, and the battle ended in victory for the U.S. following the surrender of the remaining German forces.

Background[edit]

Metz is a heavily fortified city, located between the rivers Moselle and Seille. The fortifications of Metz consist of several forts and observation posts with connecting entrenchments and tunnels. The city had fallen to the German forces when France was defeated in 1940.[3] Following the fall of France, the city was immediately annexed to the Third Reich. Most of the Nazi dignitaries assumed it was obvious that Metz, where so many German army officers were born,[4] was a German city. At that time, the Wehrmacht did not consider it an important location and the city's defenses were reduced with many guns and equipment removed.[5]

However, as the Allied forces advanced rapidly into German-held territory following the Normandy landings, Metz became an important location for the German command to organize its defenses and attempt to contain the Allied advance.[5] By the end of August 1944, German forces in Lorraine had managed to reestablish a defensive line and the U.S. Third Army had come to a halt in face of the German defenses, resulting in a brief pause of operations in this area of the western front. According to an order issued by Hitler in March 1944, fortress commanders were ordered to allow their forts to be surrounded if necessary and hold them, surrendering only on the approval of the Führer. Metz was required to follow this order by early September, since the U.S. Third Army led by General George S. Patton had reached Verdun and was posing a threat to the Sarre region of Germany.[5] The German command intended to obtain more time for the strengthening of the West Wall through this strategy. The defense was undertaken by the German First Army, commanded by General Otto von Knobelsdorff. The number of German troops positioned in the vicinity of Metz was equivalent to four and a half divisions.[5]

Battle[edit]

German Grenadier with Panzerschreck, on 27th October 1944, near Metz
Men of the 378th Infantry, 95th Division enter Metz (17 November 1944).

Armoured cavalry elements of the United States XX Corps, while on a reconnaissance operation in the direction of the Moselle, made contact with elements from the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division on 6 September 1944. On 18 September, Panzer elements made contact with U.S. reconnaissance units again. The U.S. forces had not expected the German forces to be in the area, and had to bring together their units that were spread out.[5] Several small scale attacks were made by the U.S. forces after this encounter.

The first U.S. attack was launched by the 5th Infantry Division, in which they attempted to capture a bridgehead to the north of Metz. This attack was repelled by the German forces, as was another attack on the city that followed. In another attack, the US forces captured a small bridgehead across the Moselle to the south of Metz.[5]

Troops of 5th Infantry Division conducting a house-to-house search in Metz on 19 November 1944

By the end of September, German forces positioned to the north were relocated in the southern area of Metz. A number of troops were also withdrawn from Metz. Following this new development, the XII Corps launched another attack but was countered by the German defenders. In the following two weeks, the U.S. forces limited themselves to small scale attacks and patrolling in the Metz area. During this time, the XX Corps underwent a training program, experimenting with methods of reducing the defenses of the fortress. By this time, the U.S. command had decided to attack Metz from its rear, coming from the east.[5]

On November 3, a new attack was launched by the U.S. forces, which resulted in the capture of the outer defenses with the aid of the tactics developed during the training process. On November 14, Generalleutnant Heinrich Kittel was appointed as the new commander of the German forces.[6] By 17 November, U.S. forces had managed to isolate most of the forts, and were attacking the city. They entered the city of Metz on November 18, and on November 21, Kittel was wounded and subsequently captured by U.S. forces. Although the city was captured by U.S. forces and hostilities formally ceased on November 22, the remaining isolated forts continued to hold out.[5][7] German forces had been retreating since November 17, and U.S. forces pursued them for the following two days.[8]

Aftermath[edit]

Direct assault was forbidden against the holdout forts in order to preserve artillery ammunition for the XX Corps' advance to the Sarre River. However, the isolated forts subsequently surrendered one by one following the surrender of Fort Verdun on November 26. By the end of November, several forts were still holding out. The last of the forts at Metz to surrender was Fort Jeanne d'Arc, which surrendered on December 13.[9]

Although the battle resulted in defeat for the German forces, it served the intended purpose of the German command of halting the advance of the U.S. Third Army for three months, enabling retreating German forces to make an organized withdrawal to the Sarre river and to organize their defenses.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Video: Third Army blasts Nazi Strongholds, 1944/11/02 (1944). Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Metz, 1944 One More River". World War Two Books. Archived from the original on 6 December 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2008. 
  3. ^ "General George Patton Interrogates a SS General, 1944". Eyewitness to History. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. Retrieved 1 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Admiral Hans Benda (1877–1951), General Arthur Kobus (1879†1945), General Günther Rüdel (1883†1950), General Joachim Degener (1883†1953), General Wilhelm Baur (1883†1964), General Hermann Schaefer (1885†1962), General Bodo Zimmermann (1886†1963), General Walther Kittel (1887†1971), General Hans von Salmuth (1888†1962), General Karl Kriebel (1888†1961), General Arthur von Briesen (1891†1981), General Eugen Müller (1891†1951), General Ernst Schreder (1892†1941), General Ludwig Bieringer (1892†1975), General Edgar Feuchtinger (1894†1960), General Kurt Haseloff (1894†1978), General Hans-Albrecht Lehmann (1894†1976), General Theodor Berkelmann (1894†1943), General Hans Leistikow (1895†1967), General Rudolf Schmundt (1896†1944), General Wilhelm Falley (1897†1944), General Julius von Bernuth (1897†1942), General Johannes Hintz ( 1898 - 1944 ), General Herbert Gundelach (1899†1971), General Joachim-Friedrich Lang (1899†1945), General Heinz Harmel (1906†2000), Erich von Brückner (1896†1949), Helmuth Bode (1907†1985), Johannes Mühlenkamp (1910†1986), Peter-Erich Cremer (1911†1992), Joachim Pötter (1913†1992), Ludwig Weißmüller (1915†1943), Walter Bordellé (1918†1984) among others.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Col. Scott Pritchett. "Metz 1944". Campaign Awards of the Wehrmacht. Retrieved 1 December 2008. 
  6. ^ Cole, Hugh M. (1950). The Lorraine Campaign. Historical Division, United States Army. p. 429. 
  7. ^ Cole, Hugh M. (1950). The Lorraine Campaign. Historical Division, United States Army. p. 446. 
  8. ^ Cole, Hugh M. (1950). The Lorraine Campaign. Historical Division, United States Army. p. 413. 
  9. ^ Cole, Hugh M. (1950). The Lorraine Campaign. Historical Division, United States Army. p. 447. 
  10. ^ Cole, Hugh M. (1950). The Lorraine Campaign. Historical Division, United States Army. p. 448. 

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