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Withdrawal From Action. Operation of the German 5th Lahdwehr Division in the St. Mihiel Salient. Night 12-13 September, 1918.
The German 5th Landwehr Division was a part of the German Army Detachment "C" which held the St. Mihiel Sector at this time. The staff of this army had been aware that there were preparations for an offensive by the Allies since the first of September, and request had been made to GHQ for permission to withdraw to the Michel I position at once (see Map No.1).
This was granted on 10 September. Detailed plans for the withdrawal of the army had been worked out previous to this time, and a plan, which was the combination of two previously prepared plans, was ordered into execution. On 11 September, all front-line divisions were ordered to withdraw during night 11-12 September to the Artillery Protective Line (regimental reserve line) (see Map No. 1).
The order of battle of the American First Army and the German Army Detachment "C", as of midnight 11-12 September, is as shown on Chart No. 1. The attack of the American First Army began on 12 September at 2 :00 AM (German time) with a four·hour artillery preparation.
This preparation started suddenly, initially on the east of the Meuse, then extended west along the entire front of Army Detachment "C" (see Chart No.1). The fire was strongest against Group Gorz, especially on the boundary between the lOth Landwehr Division and the 77th Reserve Division. It was somewhat less forceful against Group Combres and was very light against Group Mihiel, of which the 5th Landwehr Division was a part.
At about 6:15 AM, 12 September, the Allied attack was launched, its main effort being directed against Group Gorz and particularly against the 77th Reserve Division, which was holding approximately 13 kilometers of front in the most exposed sector.
A secondary attack was launched against Group Combres-the 13th Landwehr Division and the Royal Austrian 35th Division receiving the brunt of the attack. The Mihiel Group apparently received a holding attack only. The 5th Landwehr Division, occupying the southern extremity of the St. Mihiel Salient had, prior to this time, been used only as sector or defensive troops. In combat value in 1918, it was rated as a 4th Class division, the lowest of four classifications.
The division was organized, as were all German divisions in 1918, with one brigade, the 30th Landwehr, consisting of three regiments, the 65th, 25th, and 36th, each regiment with three battalions of four companies each, and a regimental minenwerfer company. Divisional troops consisted of the 256th Landwehr Field Artillery Regiment, with a light ammunition column; the 2d Squadron 16th Uhlan Regiment of Cavalry; the 405th Pioneer Battalion; 505th Signal Command; and Medical and Transport columns.
The normal employment of German divisions in the defense, i.e regiments abreast, each regiment in column of battalions, was used in the sector held by the 5th Landwehr Division, except initially in the 65th Regiment. (See Chart No.2.).
A front-line battalion in each regiment held the regimental sector from the outpost line to the main line of resistance, inclusive, and was termed "assault battalion."
The second-line battalions were called "support battalions" and the rear battalion in each regiment was normally in regimental or division reserve, in a rest area or camp in the rear, and was termed "reserve or rest battalion." Artillery was disposed in depth, and its fires highly organized. These employment terms were used to designate the battalions in all reports and summaries of all higher units, instead of their numerical designation.
Chart No.2 and Map No.1 show the initial dispositions of the 5th Landwehr Division just prior to the retirement to the Artillery Protective Line (retirement to this line began early part of night 11-12 September and was to be completed by 4 :00 Aill, 12 September).
The infantry attack (by the French 39th Division) started at 7 :00 AM, mainly against the left of the 25th Regiment and the right of the 65th Regiment (see Map No. 1). This attack did not proceed far until it was driven back to its line of departure by counterattacks which were launched at once by the local reserves of the front line battalions.
The defense by these front-line battalions was ably supported by the fire, from the artillery. Only one battalion, however, was in position to fire, as the remainder had withdrawn to army and group reserves.
Another French attack was launched at 8 :15 AM, following a hostile artillery preparation. This attack also was repulsed by the heavy machine-gun fire of the 25th Regiment. This situation prevailed until noon 12 September, when a deep penetration toward Thiaucourt on the front of the Gorz Group caused the issuance of the "Loki" or withdrawal order by the Army.
Source: Academic Notes. RML Vol XX Nº 78. September 1940.
Cheers. Raúl M
Serás lo que debas ser o no serás nada. General José de San Martín.