The liberation of Alsace
November 21-24 1944

From my book

This too shall come to pass…
The story of one of the 130,000 Frenchmen
drafted in the Wehrmacht

In mid-November 1944, the allies who had been bogged down for almost two months in Franche-Comté and Lorraine due to shortage of gas and bad weather decided to move forward and liberate Alsace.

Liberation of Alsace
        The Allies planned to liberate Alsace from the west with the 7th US Army and from the south with the First French Army.

        In Strasbourg Gauleiter Wagner played his last card and decreed the Volkssturm calling all men up to the age of 60 to bear arms to defend the Fatherland. But by November 11 only three battalions were ready to swear allegiance to the Fuhrer. In the south at the head of the 1st Free French Army, General de Lattre was now moving forward along the Swiss border liberating Héricourt and Montbéliard on November 17 and entering Alsace on November 18. On November 21, he took Mulhouse and moved up the Rhine toward Strasbourg. On their left, the French were supported by the 7th US Army of General Patch. This army was to enter Alsace from the southwest and the Vosges. The 2nd French Armored Division of General Leclerc that belonged to the 7th Army was granted the privilege to be the first to cross the Vosges. Leclerc’s men entered Alsace on November 21 and took Saverne one day later. From there they moved directly to Strasbourg that fell on the 23rd. They were guided by the local FFI who captured alone 4500 German soldiers, 50 policemen and 4 Gestapo agents along with a variety of guns and ammunition. The next day, the 79th US Infantry Division coming from Phalsbourg entered Alsace as well. It crossed the Saverne pass and through Saverne and Hochfelden it reached Brumath the evening of the 24th. A soldier of the 314th Infantry Regiment of the 79th ID took the following notes:[1]


“Thanksgiving Day, 23 November, 1944 found the 314th underway to an assembly area at the eastern end of the pass near Saverne. Past the Vosges, Alsace stretched eastward to the Rhine River. At midnight, orders were sent to the 79th Division to move out to Brumath to hook up with the 44th Division in the taking of Haguenau, and recon the area between Strasbourg and Gambsheim. The 314th Regiment was sent to Weyersheim.


“At 10:15, 24 November, the 314th moved out - 3rd Battalion on point, 1st, then 2nd in the rear. Weyersheim was sixteen miles away. They encountered no ground troops, but were bombed and strafed several times by a renewed Luftwaffe. Road blocks were set up at dusk, with 3rd Battalion in Weyersheim on the left, 2nd outside Hoerdt, and the 1st in reserve. Safe billets became more important from a security standpoint because it was rumored the Alsace-area was home to many French sympathizers to the Hitler regime.

“That night, due west of 2nd Battalion’s position - at Bois de Geudertheim - the 311th FA BN[2] stumbled into enemy forces who had strayed from their units due to the breakthrough at Saverne. The cannoneers held fast, and the next morning, 2nd Battalion policed up 130 POWs from the Bois.”


            In its push forward, the 79th ID was supported by several armored divisions including the 749th Tank Battalion. Its log book shows the following entries:[3]


“23 November: "B" Company with attachments (79th Div) moved with 11 tanks from St Jean Kaurtzerade to Monswiller through Saverne. 2nd Platoon of "D" Company moved out to join "B" Company.

24 November: Krauts in counterattacking force at Rauwiller appeared confused. They dove into same shelters with our troops during shelling and although the krauts greatly outnumbered our forces, permitted them (our forces) to escape in most instances. "B" Company arrived in Hoerdt through Brumath. Civilians report 50 Kraut tanks in the vicinity of Haguenau. Panzer Division reported moving to intercept 7th army.”


Major Jack Rogers was also with the 79th ID as part of the 463rd Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion:


“24 November--Moved from lovely Phalsbourg through the Saverne Pass to Brumath. Missed several strafing attacks, but Battalion HQ was shelled on the road near Mommenheim. After much being lost finally set up in an ex-Turnverein & Bierstube (Gym and Pub). A Battery lost a truck & gun and their uneaten Thanksgiving Turkey when a French Tank Detachment fired on them. The Army, God Bless It, replaced the turkeys and trimmings with dazzling speed, so the troops got their Thanksgiving.”[4]


That day of November 24th, detachments of the 79th ID liberated one by one every village in the countryside around Hochfelden and Brumath including Hohatzenheim and Wingersheim. In the rectory of Hohatzenheim, the Priests and the deserters had been anxious for their arrival since the previous day:


“During the night we didn’t sleep, because the Germans retreated and had just passed [on the road] before us to move away. We heard them too. There was [Father Marcel] also constantly on the watch [with me]. We were at the very top, in my room in the attic. Then the next morning as lunch was being prepared, I was in my room with the binoculars and at the corner of the road from Gougenheim I saw a tank and I recognized the sign of the Americans, the star. When I saw that, I ran down the stairs and shouted ‘Sie kommen, sie kommen!’  There were tanks and everything. They parked before the church and in the streets.”[5]


At last, after more than four years of occupation, Hohatzenheim was finally liberated by the US army. The soldiers spread quickly throughout the village. On Village Street, the Josts saw a jeep pass before the house in the direction of the Wendel Spring, at the northwest extremity of the village. Florentine immediately made a French flag that she hung at the window. At the top of the hill, Marius observed the Americans taking up position on this strategic point:


“The Americans of white and black color established themselves on the hill, around the church, preparing their sleeping bags and setting up an observation post on the eastside edge of the cemetery. We wanted to talk to them. Alas there was the language barrier which divided us. Fortunately for us, the American unit was accompanied by a Catholic military chaplain and thus I attended the discussion between Father Célestin and the chaplain in Latin. Father Célestin explained our situation and the chaplain delivered me a certificate that protected me from any surprise from the American Authorities. Because in Wingersheim for example the deserters of the German Army were taken away to be sent to POW camps such as the one in Châlons-sur-Saône. In any case I avoided going out."[6]

Liberation of Alsace

[1] "The Complete History of World War Two" edited by Francis T. Miller (1948) and the 314th Infantry Association's "Through Combat."

[2] Field Artillery Battalion.

[3] Log book of 749Th Tank Battalion

[4] Major Jack Rogers' WWII War Journal

[5] Marius Meyer – 2004 Interview.

[6] Marius is probably incorrect here. The certificate was delivered to him later in December as shall be discussed later.


German Tank in Alsace

A German tank destroyed in the main street of Friesen, Alsace, on 22 november 1944

2nd DB in Strasbourg

First tanks of the 2nd French Armored Division enter Strasbourg - Nov 23, 1944

US Army in Alsace

The 14th US Armored Division in Alsace
Nov 29 1944