100th Infantry Division the “Sons of Bitche”

The 100th Infantry Division served with distinction in the European Theater of Operations and became known as the “Sons of Bitche” for their decisive role in the capture of Bitche, France.



100th infantry division

Insignia of the 100th Infantry Division. The division was nicknamed the “Century Division”

The 100th Infantry Division Enters Combat

After undergoing two years of stateside training, the 100th Infantry Division arrived at Marseille, France on October 20, 1944 as the first replacements for the American 7th Army. The 7th Army had been in continuous combat since August 15, 1944 after landing in Southern France. Its men were tired and needed rest. The 100th Divisions was ordered to send one of its infantry regiments to the front as soon as possible.

On October 29, 1944, the 399th Infantry Regiment was the first unit of the 100th Division to reach the front lines, relieving elements of the 45th Infantry Division at St. Remy, France.

On November 1, 1944, the 100th Infantry Division officially entered the war when Corporal Fred Pisano of the 925th Field Artillery fired a 105mm howitzer shell into German lines, the first round fired by the 100th Infantry Division.

100th infantry division

100th Infantry Division Pillow case from Fort Jackson, SC. The Division was activated for WWII at Fort Jackson on November 15, 1942

100th infantry division

100th Infantry Division medics at La Salle, France in November 1944



Throughout November, the division battled the Germans in the heavily defended woods and towns of the Vosges Mountains capturing the cities of Raon-l’Etape, Moyenmoutier, Senones, Belval, St. Blaise, Salm Abet, Frenconrupt, Bacquenoux, Wachenbach, Lutzelhouse, Netznebach, Schirmeck, Urmatt, Niederhaslach and Oberhaslach.

After a successful campaign in the Vosges Mountains, the 100th Division was ordered north to attack the Maginot Line near Bitche, France.

Bitche

Bitche was a natural strong point. Located in a valley guarded by the four hilltop fortresses of Simerhoff, Schiesseck, Otterbiel and Grande Hohenkirkel, it played a key role in the German defense of the Maginot Line.

In mid-December, elements of the 100th Infantry Division assaulted the fortress of Schiesseck.  The hilltops, devoid of trees, provided the Germans with clear field of fire to shoot at the advancing Americans.  After receiving murderous fire in their initial assault, the Americans called in direct fire support from tank destroyers and M12 155mm self-propelled guns to blast the fortress. With the Germans pinned down, the Americans advanced and captured Schiesseck, throwing grenades down gun ports and dynamiting the fortresses’ pillboxes.

On December 16, 1944, Hitler began his counter-offensive in the Ardennes. With other American units ordered north to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, the 100th Infantry Division was ordered to withdraw from Schiesseck and hold defensive positions around Bitche.

100th infantry division

The Society of the Sons of Bitche was formed during the occupation of Germany in 1945. A membership card was given to veterans of the division who fought in the battle. The first “Grand Exalted Biggest Son of Bitche” was Staff Sergeant Dave Swift who was one of the first 100th Division men to enter the city in December 1944

100th infantry division

Reverse of the “Sons of Bitche” membership card



Alsace Counter Offensive

On December 31, 1944, the Germans launched a powerful counter offensive in Alsace-Lorraine, aimed at the destruction of Allied forces in the upper Vosges Mountains and on the Alsatian Plain. On New Year’s Day, the 100th Division was hit hard. Thinly stretched over a wide front, the division held out against repeated German attacks.

Soldiers of the division’s 397th Infantry Regiment desperately fought to hold the town of Rimling. Two GI’s from Company K, Leon Outlaw, Jr. and Alphonse Myers, manned a machine gun on a hilltop over Rimling. Under intense mortar and artillery fire, they fired at the attacking Germans, killing over 100 at ranges up to 800 yards.

In the town of Rimling, T/Sgt. Charles F. Carey captured 41 Germans, killed 15 others and destroyed a Mark IV tank before being felled by sniper fire. He would posthumously be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Faced with overwhelming odds, the 100th Infantry Division pulled back, just south of Rimling. By January 10, the German attack had ended and fighting had shifted to other areas of the front.

100th infantry division

100th Infantry Division helmet from a member of the 397th Infantry Regiment

100th infantry division

100th Infantry Division helmet liner from a member of the 397th Infantry Regiment

Return to Bitche

On March 15, 1945, the 100th Division turned its attention back to the Maginot line and the town of Bitche.  At 5am, the Division attacked, foregoing an artillery barrage to gain surprise. The Americans advanced and quickly regained ground that had been given the previous December. After a two day battle, the 100th Division entered Bitche, receiving the gratitude of the French civilians who made Major General Withers A. Burress, Commanding General of the 100th Division, their first “Citizen of Honor”.

100th infantry division

100th Division GI’s at Bitche in March 1945



Germany

100th infantry division

GI’s of the 100th Infantry Division during occupation duties in Germany

After taking Bitche, the 100th Infantry Division pushed into Germany, crossing the Rhine River on March 31st and fighting the Germans in a bitter nine day house-to-house battle in Heilbronn. On April 21, the Division reached Stuttgart and on April 30th, commenced occupational duties until the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.

In 163 days of combat, the 100th Infantry Division suffered 12,215 casualties, of which 933 were killed in action. Men of the division were awarded three Medal of Honors, seven Distinguished Service Crosses, 492 Silver Stars and 5156 Bronze Stars.

 

 

 

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