“Arracourt was the greatest tank battle of the war on the Allied Front.” This is how US Major General John S. Wood described the Battle of Arracourt, which took place in the last weeks of September 1944 in Northern France. The Allied Forces had landed in Normandy in June 1944, and by the summer had broken out of their beachhead. This started the great pursuit of the German forces across northern France towards the German border. By early fall of 1944, General George S. Patton’s Third Army had raced across France faster than anyone had envisioned and was in place to cross the Moselle River in the Lorraine area. Here his forces would face supply issues due to their speed of advance, increasing resistance from prepared German forces, and increasingly difficult weather. Patton’s first obstacle was the Moselle River and the fortress city of Metz. After crossing the Moselle with most of the Third Army by mid September, the US Third Army’s armored units were engaged in the largest tank battles of the Western Front at Arracourt. The next phase of the campaign was to reorganize and train. In early November, the Third Army attacked again and was able to capture Metz by late November, and reached the Sarre River and the West Wall. During the long Lorraine Campaign in late 1944, the US Third Army armored units were able to overcome stiff enemy resistance, superior quality vehicles, hard terrain, and difficult weather with the use of superior tactics, doctrine and leadership.
To understand the Lorraine Campaign of 1944, one must look back a few months to June 1944. Here on June 6, 1944 the western Allies conducted the opposed landings of Operation Overlord in Normandy. From that time till late July, the Allies were unable to break out of their beachhead. But on July 25, 1944, the US forces conducted Operation Cobra and were able break out and start a month long pursuit of the retreating German forces. In August 1944, the Allied strategy of the invasion of Germany was decided. The main focus was British Field Marshall Montgomery’s 21st Army Group in the north, who was to capture the Low Countries, and cross the Rhine River in the Ruhr area. Meanwhile, the US First Army would cross the Rhine and help capture the Ruhr from the south. The secondary Allied focus was General George S Paton’s Third Army in the south, who was to cross the Moselle, capture Metz and Nancy, cross the Rhine River and capture the Saar area.
One of Field Marshall Montgomery’s main objectives was the capture of the port city of Antwerp. The Allies wanted to use the port as a supply base for the final push into Germany. Field Marshall Montgomery preferred a single Allied front along his path into Germany, while US General Omar Bradley preferred a broad front advance. Unfortunately, the Low Countries had a political objective as well; protecting London. The Germans were launching their V-1 and V-2 rockets at London from Belgium. Bradley preferred a broad front advance...