|European Campaign - Pt. V: The Impregnable Driant Fortress|
|by Patrick Graham|
At the end of August 1944, the remnants of the German Army in Normandy retreated across France in the wake of the disastrous Battle of the Falaise Gap. As they fled, the Allied Armies moved quickly to fill the void left behind by the German occupiers and continue the chase. While much of France was liberated and the Western Allies began to push north into Belgium and the Netherlands, the Wehrmacht sought to stabilize their lines, and began to regroup among the forests and fortresses near the French/German border. The 3rd army would move into the Lorraine region in early September with hopes running high that after the collapse of the Wehrmacht in Western France, the war would be over soon. The next major hurdle would be to move the Allied armies through the Western frontier and into the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s industrial heartland. Such a move would bring quick capitulation, but with supplies getting thin, General Eisenhower, in command of the Western European effort, would have to choose his opportunities and that meant choosing which army would get the supplies needed to launch a decisive offensive.
Unfortunately for the 3rd Army, and its commander General George S. Patton, there were several factors that worked against their choice of leading the charge into Germany. The Wehrmacht had taken to occupying forts and cities that had been battlefields in past wars. Being past battlegrounds, many of these cities were now heavily fortified. To make matters worse, the ground in the Lorraine area was not very suitable for tanks. The advance into the Ruhr meant going through the Saar Valley. While it was of significance to the Allied command, its capture was secondary.
The 3rd Army would have enough supplies to launch across the Meuse River into the Lorraine and began the battle to take Nancy (Detailed in a Scenario Campaign by Steve Winters). At Metz the 3rd Army was finally brought to a stop due to both the city’s defenses and the fuel shortage brought on by extended supply lines and the impending attack on Arnhem. The 3rd Army would begin its attack on the city on September 7th only to be bloodily repulsed against the maze of barbed wire, mines, casemates, hidden cannons, interlocking machine-gun kill zones, and difficult terrain. An offensive lull ensued while the 3rd Army attempted to glean intelligence on the fortified city and procure supplies from captured German equipment and Allied ration allotments. In order to take Metz itself, Fort Driant to the south would have to be neutralized or occupied. Impervious to bomb and artillery attacks, it was decided that the base would have to be stormed. This job fell to the battle scarred, 5th Infantry Division. On the 3rd of October, with the support of heavy mortars and artillery, engineers supported by the 1st and 2nd infantry battalions would storm the fortress and attempt to destroy its fortifications.
European Campaign - Pt. V: The Impregnable Driant Fortress
Note: This scenario makes use of Maps #1 and #3 of the Base Set.
While the two infantry battalions inflicted severe casualties against the defenders, they could not demolish the fortress entry points. German snipers and machine gunners successfully used to the tunnels interlinking the pillboxes to the fortress itself to slip behind the attacking force and further deplete their spearhead. Unable to subdue the fortress, the engineers returned to friendly lines under the cover of darkness. Patton had concluded that Metz could not be forced, and would have to be flanked and surrounded. However, the supplies and fuel to do so were still not forthcoming.
The stalemate that ensued would last until early December. Late October and November saw renewed efforts to encircle the town and take key positions overlooking the area. Although repeated attempts were made to storm the forts of Metz, most were unsuccessful. Metz itself was seized by American troops on the 15th of November. By that time, most of Metz’s defenders had left, in many cases hastily, leaving equipment behind as they fled. The forts themselves, though not taken, were surrounded and isolated. Surrender was the only option at that point for the remaining defenders. Their compatriots had successfully retreated to a new defensive line along the Saar.