Yanks shell German city (9-11-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 11, 1944)

Yanks shell German city

U.S. 1st Army nears Aachen, anchor of Siegfried Line
By Virgil Pinkley, United Press staff writer

At rim of Germany, Allied guns today pounded the Siegfried Line, Luxembourg, capital of the duchy of that name, was occupied by U.S. troops (1), while to the south the 3rd Army launched a “mystery offensive” in the Metz–Nancy area toward the Rhineland. At the northern end of the line (2), U.S. forces were close to the German border east of Liège, while the British to the north drove across the Dutch border. On the coast, the battle for the Channel ports continued (3). In South-Central France (4), a French-American force was less than 16 miles from the Belfort Gap into Germany and occupied Dijon.

SHAEF, London, England –
The U.S. 1st Army has captured the city of Luxembourg in a drive bringing a long stretch of the Siegfried Line under artillery fire, and British troops were reported today to have smashed through the Albert and Escaut defense lines into Holland.

A Nazi radio commentator hunted that the 1st Army might be storming the great Dutch fortress city of Maastricht as Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges’ men massed before the German border and laid down a crushing barrage on Aachen, stronghold anchoring the Siegfried Line.

Field dispatches said Ronald Clark, in a dispatch from the 2nd Army front, said patrols crossed the Dutch border this morning in an advance favored by brilliant sunshine after a bridge across the Escaut Canal was seized late yesterday.

Crashing through the Escaut Canal, the last Belgian barrier, the British troops plunged on a mile and a half to and over the border for what front reports described as the first penetration of Holland. The Dutch government in London reported a week ago that Breda fell in a British invasion of Holland north of Antwerp.

The enemy hint that the Americans might also be in Holland was contained in a broadcast by Ludwig Sertorius, Nazi military commentator. He said:

Hodges tried to drive forward his tank formations into the Aachen basin. At Maastricht, as well as near Verviers, he met stubborn German resistance.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was revealed to have conferred Sunday at Brussels with Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery after conferring the day before with Maj. Gen. Troy Middleton, commander of the U.S. VIII Corps at Brest.

The security blackout still obscured front operations, and word from the armies was skimpy as the Allies drove through the final miles before Germany itself on a 200-mile front from North Belgium to Nancy, in France.

Batter foe along Moselle

Marauders and Havocs of the 9th Air Force supported the U.S. 3rd Army, waging a bitter battle along the Moselle River.

Six German field pieces were knocked out in the Marauder-Havoc assault on the enemy heavy guns along the east bank of the Moselle. Germand headquarters and a signal center on the Metz area were also attacked.

A Stockholm dispatch quoted the Nazi-controlled Scandinavian Telegraph Bureau as saying that German engineers were preparing to blow up all important buildings in Aachen and evacuate the city. Nazi authorities appealed to the inhabitants to destroy everything if the city “should fall into enemy hands,” the dispatch said.

Shell Germany

U.S. Long Toms and other artillery was reported shelling German soil from a dozen frontier outposts after the capture of Luxembourg – the third Allied capital liberated since D-Day – and a sweep toward the border 10 miles beyond.

The Army newspaper Stars and Stripes said in Paris that the first shells fell at Bildchen, a little less than a mile across the German border, after a 1st Army advance to the area of Limbourg, 13 miles east of Liège and eight and a half miles from the border.

One 1st Army column drove 10 miles north of Luxembourg City to Mersch where it locked in a swirling battle with German tanks and infantrymen, while other spearheads stabbed out to the east toward the Nazi frontier and southeast toward the Moselle River.

Battle for every yard

Veteran German troops, fighting now with their backs to the West Wall in the black certainty that a breakthrough at this point would spill invaders into their homeland, battled for every yard, but headquarters said Gen. Hodges’ victory-flushed men were pushing ahead everywhere.

The 1st Army drive threatened momentarily to roll over the flank of the strong German forces defending the Moselle River crossings in the Metz–Nancy area, where Lt. Gen. George S. Patton’s U.S. 3rd Army had already launched a “mystery offensive” aimed at the Rhineland.

Gen. Hodges’ troops in Luxembourg were only an hour’s forced march from the German towns of Trier (Treves) and Saarburg at nightfall yesterday. Farther to the north, other 1st Army columns were barely 25 miles from the Reich in the Ardennes Forest area eight miles east of Marche. Still another force 15 miles to the south was reported east of Saint-Hubert.

Stands on plateau

The city of Luxembourg, situated on a high, rocky plateau, formerly was one of the strongest bastions in Western Europe, but had been demilitarized since late in the 19th century. When the Germans overran the Duchy in 1940, they found it defended by an army of 300 men – most of them members of the army band.

Headquarters withheld all information on the progress of Gen. Patton’s attack, but it was indicated that the fiery 3rd Army leader had brought up his armored and artillery reinforcements and had thrown his full striking power into the Battle of the Moselle.

Dive bombers attack

Dive-bombing Allied planes raked the German battle lines with bombs and gunfire, and the great “Long Toms” of the U.S. armies hurled salvo after salvo across the frontier forward positions just behind charging tanks and troops.

U.S. and British gunners at the northern end of the assault line in Belgium were also pounding German soil from emplacements barely six miles from the Reich.

The barrage raked and tore at Nazi rearguards falling back across the shattered canal lines that formed the last natural barrier short of Germany.

U.S. tanks and riflemen knifed almost 20 miles east of captured Liège to the Eupen area, and a United Press dispatch from that sector said fast-moving artillerymen had started shelling Aachen.

Gain above Liège

Other 1st Army troops fanned out more than 21 miles above Liège to take Hasselt, linking up with the right flank of British forces driving across the Albert Canal toward the Durch frontier.

Northwest of the British line, tens of thousands of cornered Nazis broke from the North Sea ports in a panicky attempt to escape across the Scheldt River estuary into Zeeland, only to be slaughtered by low-flying RAF rocket-firing planes.

British armored patrols were disclosed to have rounded up more than 12,000 fleeing Germans in that area last Thursday, Friday and Saturday. More than 2,500 Nazis were taken by the U.S. 1st Army in the drove through Belgium and Luxembourg, and the two bags raised German losses since D-Day to some 500,000 men killed, wounded and captured.

Battle along Channel

Meanwhile, the battle of the Channel ports continued unabated as diehard garrisons held on grimly under a torrent of bombs and shells to delay their use by the Allies to the last possible moment.

Canadian troops inched forward through the outer works of Le Havre against a fanatical band of Nazis who took an unprecedented blasting from warplanes yesterday. The bombardment was climaxed in the evening when a great fleet of RAF heavies dropped more than 5,000 tons of bombs, probably the biggest aerial blow in history.

Equally bitter fighting continued around the besieged Breton port of Brest where U.S. troops made slight gains yesterday under cover of a shattering naval barrage from the 15-inch guns of the British battleship HMS Warspite and the monitor HMS Erebus.

Observers along the British Channel coast reported great naval activity off the French shore last night and the Berlin radio said Allied forces had been repulsed in an attempted seaborne assault on Le Havre. There was no confirmation.