Friday, June 19, 2015

1st Armored Division (United States)

·         MG Bruce Magruder (July 1940 – March 1942),
·         MG Orlando Ward (March 1942 – April 1943),
·         MG Ernest N. Harmon (April 1943 – July 1944),
·         MG Vernon Prichard (July 1944 – September 1945)

The 1st Armored Division was ordered to Fort Dix on 11 April 1942 to await their deployment overseas. The division's port call required them to board the RMS Queen Mary at the New York Port of Embarkation at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on 11 May 1942. They arrived at Northern Ireland on 16 May 1942, and trained on the moors until they moved on to England on 29 October 1942.

The unit's first contact with an enemy was as part of the Allied invasion of Northwest Africa, Operation Torch, on 8 November 1942. Elements of the division were part of the Northern Task Force and became the first American armored division to see combat in World War II. Combat Command B (CCB) of the division landed east and west of Oran, and entered the city on 10 November 1942. On 24 November 1942, CCB moved from Tafaroui, Algeria to Bedja, Tunisia, and raided Djedeida airfield the next day. Djedeida was finally conquered on 28 November 1942. CCB moved southwest of Tebourba on 1 December 1942, engaged German forces on El Guessa Heights on 3 December 1942, but its lines were pierced on 6 December 1942. CCB withdrew to Bedja with heavy equipment loses between 10 and 11 December 1942, and was placed in reserve. CCB next attacked in the Ousseltia Valley on 21 January 1943, and cleared that area until 29 January 1943 when sent to Bou Chebka, and arrived at Maktar on 14 February 1943. Combat Command A (CCA) fought at Faid Pass commencing on 30 January 1943, and advanced to Sidi Bou Zid, where it was pushed back with heavy tank loses on 14 February 1943, and had elements isolated on Djebel Lessouda, Djebel Kasaira, and Garet Hadid. Combat Command C (CCC), which had been constituted on 23 January 1943 to raid Sened Station on 24 January, advanced towards Sbeita, and counterattacked to support CCA in the Sidi Bou Zid area on 15 February 1943, but was repulsed with heavy loses. The division withdrew from Sbeita on 16 February 1943, but – by 21 February 1943 CCB contained the German attack toward Tebessa. The German withdrawal allowed the division to recover Kasserine Pass on 26 February 1943 and assemble in reserve. The division moved northeast of Gafsa on 13 March 1943 and attacked in heavy rains on 17 March 1943 as CCA took Zannouch, but became immobilized by rain the next day. The division drove on Maknassy on 20 March 1943, and fought the Battle of Djebel Naemia on 22–25 March 1943, and then fought to break through positions baring the road to Gabès between 29 March and 1 April 1943. It began to follow up the withdrawing German forces on 6 April 1943, and attacked towards Mateur with CCA on 27 April 1943, which fell after hard fighting on Hill 315 and Hill 299 on 3 May 1943. The division fought the Battle for Djebel Achtel between 5 and 11 May 1943, and entered Ferryville on 7 May 1943. The German forces in Tunisia surrendered between 9 and 13 May 1943. The division was reorganized in French Morocco, and began arriving in Naples, Italy on 28 October 1943.

The fall of Sicily in the summer of 1943 cleared the way for an Allied Invasion of the Italian mainland. As part of General Mark Clark's Fifth Army, the 1st Armored Division crushed enemy resistance in an assault landing at Salerno on 9 September 1943, and led the drive to Naples. The city fell on 1 October 1943, and the Allies pressed onto the Volturno River.

In November 1943, the 1st Armored Division attacked the infamous Winter Line. Although breaching the line, the Allied advance came to a halt in the mountainous country near Cassino. To break the stalemate, the Allies made an amphibious assault well behind enemy lines at Anzio on 23 January 1944. Beating back repeated German counterattacks, the 1st Armored Division led the Allied breakout from the beachead on 23 May 1944, and spearheaded the drive to Rome, liberating the city on 4 June 1944. The 1st Armored Division continued its pursuit of the enemy to the North Apennies where the Germans made their last stand. Rugged mountains and winter weather now stood between the Allies and the open land of the Po Valley. The 1st Armored Division broke into the valley in April 1945 and on 2 May 1945, German forces in Italy surrendered.

    KIA (Killed in Action): 1,194
    WIA (Wounded in Action): 5,168
    DOW (Died of Wounds): 234

The 1st Armored Division was activated at Fort Knox on July 15, 1940. Its first commander was Major General Bruce R. Magruder from July 1940 to March 1942. In 1941 General George S. Patton Jr. had just named his 2nd Armored Division "Hell on Wheels" and everyone thought that the 1st Armored Division needed a name too. Major General Bruce Magruder announced a contest to find a suitable name for his Division. Approximately 200 names were submitted including "Fire and Brimstone" and "Kentucky Wonders." The General took them home to study over the weekend but failed to find any that appealed to him. While mulling the matter over, he happened to glance at a painting of the U.S.S. Constitution that he had bought during a drive for funds for the preservation of that famous fighting ship. From the painting of the U.S.S. Constitution USS Constitution he noted its nickname, "Old Ironsides". Impressed with the parallel between the early development of the tank and the Navy's "Old Ironsides" spirit of daring and durability he decided the 1st Armored Division should also be named "Old Ironsides." Thus a famous warship of the US Navy and the famous 1st Armored Division of the US Army are historically and appropriately welded by name "Old Ironsides." That ended the search for a name. The 1st Armored Division became "Old Ironsides" that same day and forty months of fighting later testified that its name was well chosen. This was a fighting Division.

Polish II Corps

Polish II Corps (Polish: Drugi Korpus Wojska Polskiego), 1943–1947, was a major tactical and operational unit of the Polish Armed Forces in the West during World War II. It was commanded by Lieutenant General Władysław Anders and by the end of 1945 it had grown to well over 100,000 soldiers.

Following the signing of the Polish-Russian Military Agreement on August 14, 1941, a Polish Army on Soviet soil was born. The first commander, General Michał Tokarzewski, began the task of forming this army in the Soviet town of Totskoye on August 17. The commander chosen by General Władysław Sikorski to ultimately lead the new army, General Władysław Anders, had been just released from the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, on August 4, and did not issue his first orders or announce his appointment as commander until August 22.

This army would grow over the following two years and provide the bulk of the units and troops of the Polish II Corps.

The Polish II Corps was created in 1943 from various units fighting alongside the Allies in all theatres of war. The 3rd Carpathian Division was formed in the Middle East from smaller Polish units fighting in Egypt and Tobruk, as well as the Polish Army in the East that was evacuated from the USSR through the Persian Corridor. Its creation was based on British Army Act of 1940 that allowed the allied units of the exiled government of Poland to be grouped on one theatre of war. However, the British command never agreed to incorporate the exiled Polish Air Force into the Corps. In 1944 the Corps was transferred from Egypt to Italy, where it became an independent part of the British Eighth Army under General Oliver Leese. During 1944-1945 the Corps fought with distinction in the Italian campaign, most notably during the fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino, the Battle of Ancona during Operation Olive (the fighting on the Gothic Line in September 1944) and the Battle of Bologna during the Allies' final offensive in Italy in March 1945.

In 1944 it numbered about 50,000 soldiers. During the three subsequent battles the Corps suffered heavy losses (in the final stage of the Battle of Monte Cassino even the support units were mobilised and used in combat) and it was suggested to Gen. Anders that he withdraw his units. However, since the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with the Polish government and no Poles were allowed out of the USSR, Anders believed that the only source of recruits was ahead - in German POW camps and concentration camps.

By 1945 new units were added composed mostly from freed POWs and Poles forced to join the Wehrmacht, increasing the amount of soldiers to approximately 75,000; approximately 20,000 of them were transferred to other Polish units fighting in the West. After the war the divisions of the Corps were used in Italy until 1946, when they were transported to Britain and demobilised. The total establishment of the Polish Second Corps in 1946 was 103,000. The majority of soldiers remained in exile and settled in Britain. The Corps had a consistently high fighting reputation and was well-regarded by the American and Commonwealth troops they fought alongside with.

In May 1945 the Corps consisted of 55,780 men and approximately 1,500 women from auxiliary services. There was also one bear, named Wojtek. The majority of the forces were composed mostly of Polish citizens who were deported by the NKVD to the Soviet Gulags during the annexation of Eastern Poland (Kresy Wschodnie) in 1939 by the Soviet Union. Following the Operation Barbarossa and the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement many of them were released and allowed to join the Polish Armed Forces in the East being formed in Southern Russia and Kazakhstan. Due to political reasons the Soviet Union soon withdrew support for the creation of a Polish Army on its territory and lowered the supply rate, which forced General Władysław Anders to withdraw his troops to British-held Persia and Iraq. From there the troops were moved to British Mandate of Palestine, where they joined forces with the 3rd Carpathian Division which was composed mostly of Polish soldiers who had managed to escape to French Lebanon through Romania and Hungary after the Polish Defensive War of 1939.

The main bulk of the soldiers were from the eastern voivodeships of pre-war Poland. Although the majority of them were ethnic Poles, there were also members of other nationalities who joined the units of II Corps, most notably Jews, Belarusians and Ukrainians. After being relocated to Palestine, where there was little for the enlisted men to do, many Jewish soldiers of the corps "unofficially" discharged themselves by simply fading into the countryside. Menachem Begin, however, though encouraged to desert by friends of his, refused to remove the uniform until he was officially discharged from the army.

The armament was as follows:
    248 pieces of artillery
    288 anti-tank guns
    234 anti-air guns
    264 tanks
    1,241 APCs
    440 armoured cars
    12,064 cars, Bren carriers and trucks
    1 brown bear

At Anzio…

At Anzio, the beachhead forces remained under tension. It was easy enough for a visitor arriving in April to gain a false impression of safety and calm. Despite the visible destruction around the tiny harbor, the men appeared cheerful, even insouciant. Except for 750 Italian civilian laborers, the population was entirely military; 22,000 men, women, and children had been evacuated to Naples soon after the landings and more than 100,000 troops had taken their places. In apparent unconcern over the danger that struck periodically, men unloaded vessels, trucked supplies to inland dumps, and performed the duties normal in all military installations. The occasional white plume of water that rose as an enemy shell plunged into the bay had an impersonal air. Yet the next shell to whistle over the beachhead might land in the hold of a ship or blow to pieces a jeep driving through Nettuno. At any moment one or a dozen German planes might swoop out of the sun to lay a deadly trail of bombs and bullets.

The horror of the beachhead was the constant, yet hidden presence of death. Casualties were never numerous at any one time. But the continual waiting and expectancy produced strain, for every part of the beachhead was vulnerable to enemy guns and planes. To reduce the accuracy of incoming shells and bombs, a host of smoke generators created artificial fog-smoke pots were placed in a semicircle paralleling the beachhead perimeter and on boats screening the port. During the day the smoke produced a light haze, at night a dense low-hanging cloud. Yet the smoke could neither obstruct nor deflect the random shell, the lucky bomb.

German shells and bombs struck ammunition dumps, Quartermaster depots, and medical installations. Casualties among medical personnel alone totaled 92 killed (including 6 nurses), 367 wounded, and 79 missing or captured for the four months that the beachhead existed.

Trenches, foxholes, dugouts, and pits throughout the beachhead protected men and materiel. Tons of earth pushed up by bulldozers made walls to shelter the neatly stacked piles of gasoline cans and ammunition. Dirt and sandbag revetments ringed the hospital tents, reinforced with planking for added protection to shock wards and operating rooms.

That the port of Anzio continued to operate at all was a testimonial to the quiet courage it took to work under the hazardous conditions. On 29 March, when 7,828 tons of supplies were brought ashore, Anzio in terms of unloading operations was the fourth largest port in the world.

The logistical lifeline, which made possible the continued existence of the beachhead, was a substantial supply effort. Despite the hope of a relatively quick linkup between the beachhead and main front forces, the planners had from the first established supply runs from North African ports and from NapIes. Liberty ships, LST's, and LCT's, some carrying preloaded trucks and DUKW's, brought the means of waging war and the necessities of life, plus some luxuries, to the men in the beachhead.

From 28 January on, weather permitting, a convoy of six LST's departed Naples daily for the 100-mile trip to Anzio. Each vessel carried fifty trucks, a total of 300 per convoy. Each truck was loaded to maximum 5-ton capacity, then backed on a ship for the voyage so that it could be driven off quickly at the destination. The 1,500 tons of cargo carried generally consisted of 60 percent ammunition, 20 percent fuel, and 20 percent rations-for sustaining the beachhead forces and stockpiling items for the coming spring offensive. At Anzio, empty trucks were ready to be driven aboard the unloaded LST's for return to Naples.  

Other vessels supplemented the daily LST shuttle. Each week fifteen LCT's made a round trip between Naples and Anzio. Every ten days four Liberty ships, usually loaded at North African ports, arrived at the beachhead.

LST's and LCT's docked in the harbor of Anzio, Liberty ships unloaded offshore, their cargoes brought into the harbor or over the beaches by a fleet of 20 LCT's, almost 500 DUKW's, and a few LCI's. By 1 February the port was handling 8 LST's, 8 LCT's, and 15 LCI's simultaneously. The volume of supplies, for example, enabled the 450 artillery pieces in the beachhead by mid-February to fire an average of 20,000 rounds per day.

Because hospital ships were unable to dock at the Anzio wharf, LCT's ferried patients to the ships standing offshore. Air evacuation was impossible because the dust raised by the planes landing and taking off brought immediate artillery fire from the enemy.

Despite bad weather, relatively poor unloading facilities, and enemy bombardment and shelling, more than half a million tons of supplies were discharged at Anzio during four months, a daily average of about 4,000 tons. No serious supply shortages ever developed at the beachhead.

Anzio became the epic stand on a lonely beachhead. But the dogged courage of the men on that isolated front could not dispel the general disappointment- the amphibious operation had not led to the quick capture of Rome.

Furthermore, the expedition had approached disaster, averted only by the grim determination of the troops to hold. What made it possible for the forces at Anzio to endure a situation fraught with defeat was the logistical support they received. Without Allied command of the sea, the very concept of Anzio would have been out of the question. And in the end it was support across the water, tied to courage on the battlefield that turned near tragedy into a victory of sorts.

The operations at Anzio taught two immediate lessons: an amphibious assault needed more strength in the initial landing and an immediate drive to key points inland. These were heeded by the planners who prepared OVERLORD.