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• UpBattleground1st OffensiveCounter-attackSchalbachUnit Citation- 114thGerman FailureRhine"Lost Victory"Maginot / Siegfried  LinesSite Map •     

In 1945, deep inside the Reich and the war all but won, General Alexander Patch went on the record that his U.S.
"Seventh Army wouldn't be where it is today if it hadn't been for the heroism of the fighting men of the 2nd Battalion" at Schalbach France.
 
This heroic stand started with an important tip. German prisoner interrogation revealed a counter-attack by the elite 130th Panzer Lehr Division against the flank of the 44th at Schalbach, near Luneville France.  The initial surprise attack involved around 20 of the powerful Panther Mark V tanks, supported by about 800 infantry. The blow would strike the 2d Battalion of the 114th Regiment at 8:30am on Thanksgiving Day 1944.  Panzer Lehr intended to cut off the left-flank of the entire XV Corp.  The Germans were in a crisis. The speed of advance of the XV Corp Vosges offensive played havoc with the battle plans for the upcoming Ardennes Offensive, a.k.a The Battle of the Bulge.  The spearheads of American XV units in this winter offensive struck German weakness with strength.  The Germans were outmaneuvered with precisely coordinated thrusts that unhinged the Germansí prepared defenses.  The 44th threatened to capture Sarrebourg the key communications center in the Vosges Mountains.  The German hope, that these attacks would burn up divisions which might otherwise face the German counteroffensive, was turned on its ear. 
  
The German commander, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, ordered the Panzer Lehr Division out of its assembly area in Germany and into the counterattack against the expressed orders of Hitler.  Panzer Lehr held a key role in the upcoming Ardennes counter offensive and Hitler ordered von Rundstedt to give ground instead of employ Lehr. But the American advance had to be checked.
 
Elements from the 776th Tank Destroyer Battalion and two squads from the 44th Anti-Tank Company, rushed to Schalbach. The 2nd Battalion of the 114th marched all night to join the forces, which included the artilleryman of the 157th Field Artillery Battalion already in place.  With an extended frontline of 4,000 yards to defend, the battalion hurriedly dug into the water-soaked ground north of town. The two anti-tank gun unit positions were set up in advanced areas, this a new tactic. Instead of placing the guns in positions to the rear, the 57mm guns were placed between infantry units openly facing the Germans. The speed required to complete the defenses forced one squad of the third platoon A.T. to dig their 57mm anti-tank gun in under observation of the enemy.  Usually the guns were moved into positions under cover of darkness then camouflaged.  That night the Germans sent out a combat patrol to destroy the gun. The patrol was repulsed although the squad suffered heavy losses in the encounter.

57mm anti-tank gun panther attack Panzer Lehr struck the next day. The GIs were pounded by panzer machine gun and cannon fire at point-blank range, fired at individuals in shallow and wet foxholes.  The attackers anticipated a route.  The men of the 2nd Battalion and Anti-Tank Company did not break and instead fought back furiously despite the overwhelming firepower advantage held by the attackers.  The panzer grenadiers followed close behind the Tigers and Panthers.  But the tanks could not advance without first rooting out the U.S. infantryman.

The 2nd Battalion soldiers refused to give ground.  Outgunned, the men threw everything they had at the German elite.  The German mechanized infantry were stopped cold.   Even out of ammo, the American's stayed in place.  As the battle continued all day, the German casualties grew and the 44th defenses gained strength.   A hailstorm of fire held the attackers in check.  The 157th artillery smothered the Germans with effective fire.  At sunset, the Germans withdrew after losing half their tanks and hundreds of infantry.

The Panzer Lehr counter-attack was then scrubbed entirely.  It was clear that the division had suffered too much damage to allow any further hope of success.  The 130th  limped back to its Ardennes assembly area much reduced in strength and with badly shaken morale.  The upshot of the heroic stand by the 114th, a weakened German attacked at the Bulge.  Lehr was unavailable at the start and when deployed later in the conflict, the division battle strength was much diminished.

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