3rd Infantry Division
World War II added even greater glory to the Marne Legend. The Division was credited with 531 combat days which was the most combat days of any unit in the European Theatre. The 3rd Infantry Division fought in places like Casablanca, Anzio, Rome, the Vosges Mountains, Colmar, the Siegfried Line, Palermo, Nurnberg, Munich, Berchtesgaden, and Salzburg.
World War II
In World War II, the Division was part of the Western Task Force that landed in North Africa on 8 November 1942 as part of Operation Torch. In July of 1943 they landed on Sicily. By September they were in Italy. In January of 1944 they landed at Anzio.
Following the breakout of the beachhead at Anzio in May the 3rd ID moved on Rome. In August they landed in the invasion of Southern France upon which they advances through the Rhone Valley and Vosges Mountains reaching the Rhine river in November 1944.
The 3rd Division continued across the Rhine and eventually captured Augsburg and Munich and was near Salzburg when the World War II Europe ended in May of 1945.
The Colmar Pocket – “The Forgotten Campaign”
"The Battle of the Bulge" is known by many as this was a famous battle with huge losses on both sides. However, only a few people know of the "The Colmar Pocket" during the Allied Alsace Campaign to free this part of France from the Nazis. Both were very related in the German's scheme.
The "Battle of the Bulge" was an operation, when the Germans tried in a last attempt to broke through the Allied lines and gained a very dangerous amount of territory.
The Colmar Pocket, however was the result of the French 1st Army's incapability to push the Germans back across the Rhine River. The US 7th Army was on the left flank of the French. The French, with their zone of operation went up to the Swiss border, were also the most southerly located Force.
Part of the Seventh Army's was Patton's 3rd Army. By the end of November 1944, the 7th and the 3rd US Army pushed the Germans back across the Rhine and behind its own borders. The only remaining German units west of the Rhine in the southern region were around the Alsace city of Colmar, in the French sector. This so called “Pocket” were 35 to 40 miles west of the Rhine. This German position were a serious threat to the rear of the Allies to the north and had to be destroyed.
Several outfits from the 7th US Army were sent to join and help the French 1st Army. The 3rd US Infantry Division called “The Rock of the Marne”, was one of those units to be attached under French command. The US divisions were the ones to spearhead the assault to clear the Colmar Pocket, while the 3rd was in the lead in clearing this dangerous thread to the Armies to the north.
The Battle of the Colmar Pocket began December 15, 1944, and by February 19, 1945, all German units have been pushed to the west of the Rhine in the southern region. The Germans bitterly defended the areas of Alsace and Lorraine. After the Alsace campaign, the Americans had around 29.000 casualties, among them 7.000 K.I.A's. On the German side were roughly 23.000 casualties, among them up to 3.450 dead as well as 6.800 M.I.A's.
Because of the this severe and ruthless fighting, most of the mentioned towns in this tour report have been completely wiped out during the battle. So it was not always easy to take the 'then and now' comparison photographs and finding the exact spot as some of the towns had to be re-built
DAD - Colmar Pocket Battle
"We were up against 6 Germans machine gun nest... bullets were flying all over the place and I passed out - when I woke up there were dead bodies everywhere and a German Tiger tank - I took out the tank with a sticky bomb and then caught up with my outfit. They were so surprised to see me... they thought I was dead."