It was a wearing, grueling war in the hills and forests of the Vosges. Then, in a sudden burst of power, the division drove across the Corcieux Plain, across the earth scorched by retreating Germans, the burnt remains of St. Leonard and once-thriving St. Die, across the Meurthe River, and into the Ste. Marie Pass.
Ste. Marie Pass never before had been breached by an army. Highly
defensible and heavily-defended, the Pass was taken, however, in a swift
move for which the 3rd Bn., 142nd, received a Presidential Citation. It
stated, in part:
a result of the determination and aggressiveness displayed by every man,
the 3rd Bn. opened the way through the Vosges to the Rhine River Valley,
and by this action accomplished what had previously been considered
Gen. Alexander M. Patch, Seventh Army Commander, commending the 36th,
the Vosges foothills, you dislodged a desperate and skillful foe from
positions which gave him every natural advantage. You fought for weeks . .
. to pave the way for a breakthrough. Despite unfavorable weather, terrain
and savage resistance, you pushed on with tenacious courage.
Gen. Edward H. Brooks, VI
Corps Commander, wrote:
want to express my appreciation for the part played by the 36th Division
in clearing the enemy from his strong positions in the Vosges Mountains .
. . This was all done without fuss or feathers, and in a manner worthy of
the splendid Americans under your command.
Tired by its long, arduous campaign, the 36th still had punch enough to seize Ste. Marie and St. Croix, burst into the Alsace Plain, capture the important towns of Ribeauville and Selestat.
Then came the unexpected climax. Germans switched suddenly from the defensive to strike with all their might at both flanks of the Texans’ line. On that bloody Dec. 13, the 36th was surrounded.
No single day of the fall and winter battles was without lengthy casualty lists. In the Vosges and southern Alsation campaigns, there were more than 6000 casualties.
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