The campaign in the Vosges Mountains began to resemble the fighting in Italy. Progress was slow, but slogging 143d Infantrymen clawed their way over timbered pocks through Chenemenil, St Jean Du Marche, Herpelmont, Le Panges, Laval, Granges, and a rapid advance to St Marie Aux-Mines to the Alsacian Plains and Ribbeauville and the mighty Rhine River. In broaching the Saverne Pass, one of the traditional highways of invasion for years, the Regiment debouched on the Rhine plains and set the stage for the next phase --invasion of Germany!

On December 2d, 1944, when the 36th Infantry Division entered Selestat, the enemy’s situation in the Alsace Plain was critical. The Germans had been hemmed into a pocket with only two bridges reaming across the Rhine River by which to withdraw. In order to keep pressure on the Germans to keep him from getting set in the Siegfried and Maginot lines, the First French Army and the 36th Infantry Division were given the task of clearing out the Colmar Pocket, the last remaining German stronghold in South Alsace. Accordingly, the Division was attached to the II French Corps on December 4th, 1944.

The hardest task was given to the 143d Infantry, who had to clear the St Marie-Ribbeauville road and the area on both sides of it. The terrain was rugged and heavily wooded. Road blocks of huge felled trees had been placed in every defile through which the road passes in its tortuous, twisting route through the Vosges Mountains. Over 1,500 yards of the abatis, mined and defended, had to be cleared. The 3d Battalion, nevertheless, forced their way through and captured Ribeauville by the 4th of December. On the right, the 1st Battalion went cross-country to isolate and clear out the pockets of the enemy.

Advancing to the Ill River basin, still west of the Rhine, the Regiment found the valleys a vast swampland. Nothing could move off the roads in the valley. Deciding to attack Colmar from the west, the regiment was repositioned in the Ribeauville and Ostheim areas, in the middle of the Corps line. During the next few days, a prolonged period of intense engagements ensued, which saw the elite of the Nazis thrown at the Division to keep the German foothold in the Colmar area. In one instance, an entire body of an officer candidate school, over 100 strong, attempted to out-flank the Division. Had they succeeded, the Division would have probably been destroyed since they struck at the St Marie-Ribbeauville Road, the only link to the Division and route for our reinforcements. The 12th of December was critical by the line held. Later, the defense of Selestat by the 142d Infantry was pointed out by the Germans as a classic defense to be desired from their own troops.

The battle became so bitter as to require the supporting artillery, 133d Field Artillery, of the Regiment to engage enemy forces point blank and for the 443d AAA Battalion to turn their flak wagons on the ground attackers at extremely short range.

By December 14th, the Germans had ended their supreme effort to regain the area. No less than 6,800 infantrymen had been thrown against the Division for the effort. Prisoners taken by the Division during this period, December 6-14, totaled 1,360.


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