The German View

Although many American researchers rightly claim that very few good history books have been written about the Vosges Mountains Campaign or about the accomplishments of the men of the US Seventh Army in Europe in general, those seeking information on the German side of the action are even more disappointed. For a variety of reasons, including the often chaotic command situations prevalent on the German side of the lines during the last eight months of the war, there are very, very few primary source documents available for chronicling the actions of the German units which opposed the 100th Infantry Division in the ETO.

Primary Sources

The only two divisional Kriegstagebücher, or unit war journals, of German units which opposed the 100th which are known to have survived the war are those of the 257th Volks-Grenadier Division (The Berlin Bears) and the 17th SS Panzer-Grenadier Division (Götz von Berlichingen). The former is available (for a per-page fee) from the German Military Archives facility:

Bundesarchiv / Militärarchiv
Postfach
D-79024 Freiburg, Germany

The 257th's Kriegstagebuch is item #RH 26-257/64.

The Kriegstagebuch of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadiers was published by Schild Verlag in Donauwörth in 1993. Although now out-of-print, this work is enormously useful, as it includes many reports, tactical sketches, field orders, and even summaries of interrogations of Centurymen taken prisoner during the bitter fighting around Rimling in early January 1945. As the only completely intact German division-level Kriegstagebuch to survive the war, it includes over 7,500 documents and sketches. Of course, to make meaningful use of either of these works, one must be able to read German -- they have yet to be translated into English.

The same goes for the only other known surviving Kriegstagebuch of any unit which opposed the 100th, namely that of Army Group G. This was the headquarters that was the rough counterpart of the US Sixth Army Group, which coordinated the actions of the two principle units opposing the 100th during most of its combat in the ETO, namely, the German 1st and 19th Armies. All Army Group G Kriegstagebücher are available on microfilm in the microfilm reading room on the fourth floor of the College Park Archives facility. Their voluminous contents include hour-by-hour reports from subordinate units, operation orders, overlays (made right on the original maps!), casualty and other status reports, and many, many other documents that can help the serious researcher assemble a highly accurate picture of what was going on across the lines from the 100th on any particular day in 1944 - 45.

Copies of microfilmed documents may be made on special machines in the reading room for $.25 each, using the same copycard that one uses on the conventional copying machines on the second floor.

Also exceptionally useful for understanding and interpreting any primary source German Army accounts is The Handbook on German Military Forces (Technical Manual [Enemy] 30-451). The original was a restricted document published in 1945, but it has long been declassified; it was reprinted by the Louisiana State University Press in 1990. This monumental work includes over 600 pages of extremely detailed, highly accurate information on everything about the German Army from weapons, to tables of organization (down to battalion levels!) to ranks and much, much more. The information in here can unlock the most meaning from any reading of primary source material.

GERMAN AFTER ACTION REPORTS

The following papers are available in the Captured German Documents section of the Modern Military Branch of the Archives II facility in College Park, Maryland.

To obtain a more complete perspective on the German view of the 100th Infantry Division's operations, there are a number of manuscripts completed under the auspices of US Army - Europe after the war, which address in detail the operations of units which opposed the 100th Infantry Division. They are part of a very extensive series written by key German commanders and staff officers while in captivity immediately after the war. Most of them have been translated into English, but may be read in the original German if that is the researcher's preference. Researchers would do well to remember the circumstances under which these reports were written, i.e. several years after the war, by the men who lost them, without access to their own operational or intelligence records. For the most part, the authors performed superbly, producing extremely accurate and insightful accounts of their units' fighting; in a few cases, damaged egos naturally get in the way of perfect recall. However, used in concert with the available primary source information discussed above, these manuscripts can help produce a comprehensive understanding of "the other side of the hill."

The Battles in the High Vosges (November 1944)

"Nineteenth Army: Combat Operations of Nineteenth Army in the Forward Defense Zone of the Vosges, in the Vosges Mountains, and the Alsace Bridgehead," by Generalmajor (Brigadier General) Walter Botsch, Chief of Staff, 19th Army. MS B-263, 1950. Excellent overview of German operations in the High Vosges; helps place the 100th's initial combat into the perspective of the German command responsible for defending the historically-impenetrable Vosges Mountains.

"The 19th Army in the Belfort Gap, in the Vosges, and in Alsace from the Middle of September until 18 December 1944," by General der Infanterie (Lieutenant General of Infantry) Friedrich Wiese, Commanding General of 19th Army. MS B-781, 1948. Provides some useful insights into the overall German view of the battles in the High Vosges in November and early December.

"Fighting of the 708th Volks-Grenadier Division in November 1944 at the Vosges Front," by Generalmajor (Brigadier General) Josef Paul Krieger, Commanding General of the 708th VGD. MS B-537, 1947. Detailed, but self-exculpatory account of the defeat of the 708th VGD by the 100th Infantry Division in the battles that were the baptism of fire for both units, i.e. Bertrichamps, Raon l'Etape, St. Blaise, Senones, etc.! The tone is understandable -- Krieger was a 51-year old WWI veteran (one year older than General Burress) who had successfully commanded companies, battalions and regiments in combat in two world wars, but who was relieved of command of the 708th VGD after 15 days of combat in the Vosges.

Pursuit Through the Low Vosges (December 1944)

"First Army's Battles in Lothringen [Lorraine] and North Alsace from 15 September 44 - 10 February 1945," by Oberst im Generalstab (Colonel, General Staff Corps) Albert Emmerich, former Ia (G-3) of the German First Army. MS B-786, 1947. Includes a great deal of information about the plans for and conduct of German operations against the 100th during the pursuit through the Low Vosges in December, and the NORDWIND offensive in January.

"The 361st Volks-Grenadier Division, 31 August - 16 December 1944," by Generalmajor (Brigadier General) Alfred Philippi, Commanding General of the 361st VGD. MS B-626, 1947. Perhaps more than any other, General Philippi's division was a nemesis to the 100th. It was elements of the 361st that captured A/398th in Wingen-sur-Moder in early December, and it was elements of the same outfit that fought so hard at Lemberg and Mouterhouse. This text recounts the action in the Low Vosges against the 100th from the defender's side.

The NORDWIND Offensive (January 1945)

"The Offensive of Army Group G in Northern Alsace in January 1945," by Oberst im Generalstab (Colonel, General Staff Corps) Horst Wilutzky, Ia (G-3) of Army Group G. MS B-095, 1947. Precisely and incisively written, this account explains much about the flawed operational concept of NORDWIND, and should best be read in conjunction with the manuscripts of Oberst i.G. Emmerich and Major Hold.

"First Army's Battles in Lothringen [Lorraine] and North Alsace from 15 September 44 - 10 February 1945," by Oberst im Generalstab (Colonel, General Staff Corps) Albert Emmerich, former Ia (G-3) of the German First Army. MS B-786, 1947. Includes a great deal of information about the plans for and conduct of German operations against the 100th during the pursuit through the Low Vosges in December, and the NORDWIND offensive in January.

"The Winter Battle in the Vosges," by Major Kurt Hold, an assistant operations staff officer in First Army headquarters. MS B-767, 1948. Highly detailed account of the German preparations for and prosecution of Operations NORDWIND in early January 1945.

"IV Luftwaffe Field Corps/XC Infantry Corps, 18 September 1944 to 23 March 1945," by General der Infanterie (Lieutenant General) Erich Petersen, the Corps Commanding General. MS B-071, 1946. General Petersen's mission was to attack south and west from Bitche with two divisions and cave in the 100th's right flank; his objectives were Rahling and Bining, where his two divisions were to link up with the 17th SS Panzer-Grenadier Division, thus completing the noose around the neck of the Century Division. His account tells about how he intended to do it, and helps explain some of why he and his men failed.

"The Attack in the Vosges, 1 January 1945 to 13 January 1945," by General der Infanterie (Lieutenant General of Infantry) Gustav Höhne, the Commanding General of LXXXIX Corps. MS B-077, 1946. Useful account for understanding how NORDWIND affected the units on the 100th's right flank, especially the ill-fated Task Force Hudelson.

"The LXXXIX Corps in Operations NORDWIND, 31 December 1944 - 13 January 1945," by Oberstleutnant im Generalstab (Lieutenant Colonel, General Staff Corps) Kurt Reschke, former Ia (G-3) of the Corps. MS B-76f5, 1948. A very candid and sometimes opinionated account by a very experienced tactician. Provides an account of the actions during NORDWIND to the east of the 100th's sector, against Task Force Hudelson, the 45th Infantry Division and Task Force Herren (the infantry regiments of the 70th Infantry Division, separately deployed).

"Report Concerning the Participation of the 559th Volks-Grenadier Division in Operation 'NORDWIND,'" by Generalmajor (Brigadier General) Kurt Freiherr von der Mühlen. (Freiherr = Baron). MS B-429, 1947. The 559th VGD was the outfit that hit the 399th from Reyersviller all the way to Lemberg -- the account tells the other side of the bitter fighting around Bitche in the first days of 1945.

"Participation by the 257th Volks-Grenadier Division in the Offensive Operation 'NORDWIND,'" by Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) Ernst Linke. MS B-520, 1947. The 257th VGD attacked east of the Camp de Bitche and swung around to attack Lemberg from the south -- 399th Infantry veterans will be especially interested in this one.

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