Sherman Tanks Versus a Siegfried Line Fortress
The underpowered 75mm cannon of the 749th Tank Battalion Sherman Tanks were used to blast out the defenders at the bunkers, fortifications at Frudenberg Farm and Fort Simserhof. Armor played a key role in both destroying the cannon and blinding the defenders. Once the anti-tank capabilities were reduced, the combined arms team moved very close to the fortress, the cornerstone in the German Siegfried Line defense. Here the armor was used like portable pillboxes. The following Log Entries from the 749th Tank Battalion describe the intensity of the assault and the roles of all of the attacking elements: armor, engineers, artillery and infantry. Bolded are examples of the toughness of the fort, as the brave tankers of the 749th fired shot after shot in support of the infantry.
Log Files: 749th
"14 Dec: Under fire from Simserhof Fort. . . took cover in a building and supported 2nd Bn by firing on pillboxes. Repeated attempts to advance repulsed. …tanks knocked out 4 pillboxes. ..324th adv under heavy arty and mortar. Bitche/Maginot Line: Artillery fire extremely intense. "A" Co ... by supporting fire while 71st 3rd Bn Inf assault pillboxes with dynamite satchels at Freudenberg Farm. . Fired 80 rds AP at one pillbox….28 pillboxes could be pinpointed, and farmhouse has walls 6 x 6 thick. Our 8 inch howitzers did not damage pillboxes….2 tanks hit by ey arty. 15 Dec: Bitche/Simserhof Fort: Reports on enemy indicate 5-75mm and 2-135mm guns at Simserhof, 2-75mm and 1-135mm plus some 88mm's at Schiesseck. The enemy is still displaying tenacious defense N and NE and at Simserhof. Reports 4 enemy tanks Hottviller. . .2 tanks firing piercing shells at ... pillboxes with no results 16 Dec: Continued destruction of Simserhof Fort by combination ... direct fire from tanks, hand placed explosives, welding by engineers and digging in 2 TDs working late hours of period. "A" Co firing 60 AP at pillboxes. 17 Dec: More direct tank fire on Simserhof Fort. Two tanks "A" Co fired 70 rds AP and 30 rds HE at tunnel entrance. Medium tank fired 60 rds AP at unit #5 of Simserhof Fort with little damage to pill box. 18 Dec:....Simserhof Fort Units #1, 2, 4 believed destroyed by arty fire. Unit #5 by direct fire. Units #3, 7, 8 many direct hits but no visible penetration. Destruction of Unit #9 by 63 Engineers... 700 lb explosive down elevator air vent."
Excerpts from a 776th tankers log book
The information in this section, " Armor at Simserhof", is a compilation provided from the following sources, in addition to the Combat History of the 44th:
749TH Tank Battalion - World War II Memories
776th Tank Destroyer Battalion Combat History
The combined arms team of the 749th, 776th and the 44th were later honored with a Presidential Unit Citation for stopping the German Nordwind attack in their sector.