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OPERATION NORDWIND: the Lower Vosges - 1st week of campaign

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The second German effort started late on 1 January was well concealed and better prepared. It targeted a portion of the US 7th Army the American defenders did not anticipate, the mountainous Low Vosges. Between the villages of Bitche and Neunhoffen, four Volksgrenadier Divisions advanced during 1 January. The  mountainous region was the defended by a taskforce led by Colonel Hudelson and consisted of only a screening force of armored reconnaissance and armored infantry. These men, from the 14th Armored Division, were ill-suited to operating in this type of terrain and to the task of defending.

 

Through the Low Vosges mountain passes and forests, the Germans made greater progress than their more westerly counterparts who earlier attempted to punch their way through the Sarre Valley. The attack was supplemented by the elite 6th SS Mountain Division, relatively fresh from its long transfer from the Finnish front. The screening elements of Taskforce Hudelson did little to delay the German infantry advance and abandoned a number of vehicles during its retreat. The Germans sorted to gain access to the village at the base of the southern portion of the Low Vosges to enable the panzer reserves access to the Alsace plains beyond.

By 5 January, a mixture of American infantry units from the 45th and 79th Infantry Division (symbol right) had been rush to this area in and around the Lower Vosges. A number of local counterattacks by the US units managed to bottle up the Germans and the Axis forces were unable to secure a route out of the Low Vosges. On 7 January, the 6th SS Mountain Division was fought to a standstill at the village of Wingen. The German First Army would have to look elsewhere to secure their breakthrough.

(Next: Probe across Rhine)