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The XX Corps of the United States Army fought from northern Francemarker to Austriamarker in World War II. Constituted by redesignating the IV Armored Corps, which had been activated at Camp Young, Californiamarker on September 5, 1942, XX Corps became operational in France as part of Lieutenant General George S. Patton's U.S. Third Army on August 1, 1944.

Northern France

Initially assigned to protect the south flank of the U.S. Third Army, XX Corps secured the bridgehead at Le Mansmarker and liberated Angersmarker on August 10, 1944. The corps fought a successful five day battle for Chartresmarker from August 15 - 19, and seized a bridgehead over the Aunay River. Liberating Fontainebleaumarker on August 23, the corps moved rapidly east against disorganized Germanmarker resistance and seized bridgeheads over the Seine Rivermarker at Melun and Montereau. Still pushing east at a rapid rate of advance, XX Corps liberated Château-Thierrymarker and captured a bridgehead across the Marne Rivermarker on August 27, 1944. This feat was followed by the liberation of Reimsmarker two days later. The August succession of bridgehead captures culminated in the liberation of Verdunmarker and seizure of a bridgehead over the Meuse Rivermarker on August 31. Although the corps had conducted a brilliant pursuit of the Germans in August, a crippling shortage of gasoline caused by the unexpectedly rapid advance of Allied armies across France practically immobilized XX Corps at the onset of September 1944.

The tactical situation transforms

Movement of XX Corps units was practically nil for the first week of September, 1944, although corps units feinted in the direction of Sedanmarker and the U.S. 90th Infantry Division crossed the Meuse River to join the rest of the corps near the Moselle Rivermarker. While the corps was at a standstill for a lack of gasoline, the Germans in and south of the fortress city of Metzmarker had been hurriedly reorganizing and establishing cohesive defensive lines. In Metz itself, the German Ersatzheer (Replacement Army) stood up the 462nd Division with odds and ends such as fortress infantry battalions and infantry leader schools. Despite its less than impressive heritage, the 462nd Division would prove to be a determined foe for no less than three months, significantly delaying XX Corps' push to the German frontier. When XX Corps advanced again, the tactical situation had transformed from a pursuit against a disorganized foe to a slogging advance against regrouped German forces. On September 7, 1944, elements of XX Corps, again refueled but still facing persistent shortages of gasoline and artillery munitions, moved out towards Metz and Thionville.

Across the Moselle

On September 8, 1944, the German 106th Panzer Brigade counterattacked the U.S. 90th Infantry Division near Mairy, but failed to route the U.S. infantrymen. In the ensuing battle, the "Tough Ombres" of the 90th Division destroyed the Panzer brigade, causing the Germans losses of 30 tanks, 60 halftracks, and almost 100 other vehicles. On the same day, the U.S. 5th Infantry Division forced a crossing of the Moselle at Dornot, but found German opposition intense and carved out a shallow bridgehead. Intense German counterattacks forced the abandonment of the Dornot bridgehead on the night of September 10 - 11, but the 5th Division had established another bridgehead at Arnaville on September 10. This crossing, and simultaneous advance toward Metz were met with desperate counterattacks by German forces, including the 17th S.S. Panzergrenadier Division. On September 12, the U.S. 90th Infantry Division cleared Thionvillemarker west of the Moselle River, and engineer bridges were completed at Arnaville, allowing armored fighting vehicles to cross into the bridgehead. Subsequently, artillery fire from Fort Driant (part of the Metz fortifications) made bridging and ferrying operations by the corps at Arnaville quite difficult. Finally, on September 16, armored elements of the corps (U.S. 7th Armored Division) broke out of the Arnaville bridgehead and advanced toward the river Seillemarker. Attacks by the U.S. 90th Infantry Division towards Metz during this period were handily repulsed by the Germans.

Tentative moves against Metz

Concentrating its units near the Arnaville bridgehead, XX Corps found German resistance between the Moselle and the Seille very intense, with fire from the German bank of the Seille causing significant losses among units of the 7th Armored Division. Taking the village of Pournoy-la-Chétive on September 20, units of the 5th Division withstood German counterattacks for several days. During this period, the 7th Armored Division left the corps and was replaced by the U.S. 6th Armored Division. Continuing supply difficulties forced the corps into a defensive stance on September 24, and resulted in some very hard-won ground having to be abandoned. In the final week of September, XX Corps made fruitless probing attacks toward Fort Driant. On September 28, 1944, grasping how difficult Metz would be to take, U.S. Third Army declared the seizure of Metz to be the army's priority mission. October 1944 proved to be a month of grinding, indecisive action for the corps. Reaching the outskirts of Maizières-lès-Metz on October 2, the 90th Division commenced a lengthy struggle for the town that finally ended with the Americans taking the town on October 30, 1944. This was a significant victory because it opened a direct route for the corps to advance upon Metz from the north. The U.S. 11th Infantry Regiment (5th Division) attacked Fort Driant from October 3 - 12, but found its strength and weapons wanting against determined German resistance in the old fort. After bitter fighting marked by German raids that emerged from underground chambers, the 11th Infantry broke off the attack.

Campaign Credits and Inactivation

XX Corps is credited with service in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe campaigns. Headquarters, XX Corps, was inactivated on March 1, 1946 in Germany. The corps was subsequently active as part of the Regular Army from 1957 until 1970 at Fort Hayesmarker, Ohiomarker.

References

  • Weigley, Russell F. (1981). "Eisenhower's Lieutenants". Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-13333-5.
  • Williams, Mary H., compiler (1958). "U. S. Army in World War II, Chronology 1941-1945". Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office.
  • Wilson, John B., compiler (1999). "Armies, Corps, Divisions, and Separate Brigades". Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office. ISBN 0-16-049994-1.



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