Battle Star Five - Alsace and Rhineland

    By September 21st, 36 days after landing in Southern France, the regiment was about to launch its attack on the City of Epinal, which high-lighted the fighting in France to that date.

    The city itself is divided by the Moselle River and is the hub of a large network of communications, roads, and military defenses.  It was defended by three battalions of infantry, reinforced by artillery, mortars and dual-purpose anti-aircraft guns.  The river was a major obstacle, being 80 feet wide, with 20-foot vertical calls on either side.  All bridges had been destroyed prior to the attempt to cross.  All approaches were mined and booby-trapped, while strong roadblocks were covered by machine gun and rifle fire. 

    Despite the determined enemy resistance, and the fast-flowing Moselle River, Epinal was taken by the doughboys of the 180th Infantry on September 24th.  By breaking through these fortifications, the regiment forced the enemy to abandon large stores of equipment, and it was able to start the partial breakthrough into Germany.

    From Epinal, the regiment pushed on into the heavily wooded Vosges Mountains, last natural obstacle to Germany.  Here over a month, the regiment met fanatical enemy resistance.  This, combined with the inclement weather and lack of rest, slowed the advance.  Nevertheless, the Mortagne River was crossed and the regiment fought up to the outskirts of Raon l'Etape where it was relieved on November 9th.

    It is interesting to note that to this date the regiment had been in combat for 86 consecutive days, which at that time was a record for sustained combat. 

    After a 15-day rest, the regiment again was committed against the enemy.  Passing through the Saverne Gap, previously secured by the French, the regiment protected the northern flank of the spearhead pushing towards Strassburg.  Once this city was taken the attack proceeded north, and on November 30th, Pfaffenhoffen, western defense to the key city of Hagenau, was taken.   Continuing to advance, the regiment occupied Mertzwiller, Engwiller, Reichshoffen, and Gunershoffen, and hammered its way up to the German border.

    On December 15, 1944, exactly four months after the regiment landed on the beaches of Southern France, Company L crossed the German border.   This crossing was the first made by any unit of the Seventh Army.  From then until January 2nd, the 180th Infantry battled the enemy in their Siegfried defenses.   It was during this period that Company K earned its Presidential Citation for routing the enemy from their various fortified pillboxes. 

    Meanwhile a powerful German counterattack had broken though the American line south of Bitche, and threatened to push through to the Saverne Gap.  On January 2nd, the regiment was ordered to withdraw from Germany and to proceed immediately to the southern-most point of the enemy thrust in the vicinity north of Erkartsweiller.  With characteristic speed and efficiency, the regiment moved to its sector, and on January 4th launched its counter blows.  In snow and sub-zero temperatures, the enemy was pushed out of Wingen, Wimmenau, Wildenguth, and Reipertsweiller and a solid defensive line was built up.  With the situation well in hand, the regiment was relieved on February 18th, having again added to its record a total of another 86 consecutive days in combat.

    After a month of intensive river-crossing training and a general reorganization, the regiment assembled in the vicinity of Saarenguemines, France, on March 14, 1945.  At 0100 hours, on March 15th, the regiment launched their attack against the strong enemy defenses.  Crossing the Blies River under heavy machine gun and mortar fire, the doughboys raced toward Nieder-Wurzbach, the key defense town of the Siegfried Line in their sector.  By March 19th, the regiment had battered its way through the outer defenses of the Siegfried Line and was camped on the outskirts of this key center.  The following day the town was seized and the regiment raced on to seize Kirkel.  Taking advantage of the confused state of the enemy, the regiment pushed on, seizing Homburg, Kaiserlautern, and stopping only when it finally reached the Rhine.