How was George Patton personally
Captain Abraham J. Baum (photo from 1948)
On the evening of March 26, 1945, Task Force Baum was waiting behind a hill in the American bridgehead east of the Main and south of Aschaffenburg. Two companies with tanks and infantry were to cut a breach in the German front line at Schweinheim. Thirty minutes were allotted for this attack, but heavy resistance was met and two tanks were lost. It took hours until Baum's task force could break up in the early hours of the morning and finally get through the German lines. The task force made good progress on Reichsstrasse 26 through the Spessart. They crossed Lohr and were then able to destroy some German trains. Little did Baum suspect that the area was the staging area for a German division. The column reached Gemünden at around 8:00 a.m. The city had been bombed the day before and had no telephone connections, no warning messages came through. The German troops were surprised by the arrival of the Americans. Nevertheless, they encountered fierce resistance from a company of German pioneers. A bridge was blown up and Task Force Baum lost three tanks and a platoon of infantry captured by the Germans.
Task Force Baum encounters stubborn resistance in Gemünden
Task Force Baum withdrew and had to find another route. Captain Baum radioed for air support. They drove further north and found another bridge at Burgsinn. On the way they picked up Germans who had to show them the way to Hammelburg. They also freed 200 Russian prisoners of war. At around 2:00 p.m. they reached the Reichsstraße again, which led to Hammelburg. The task force was now 6 hours behind schedule. The column was discovered by a German reconnaissance aircraft between Burgsinn and Gräfendorf. The pilot reported the location and strength of Task Force Baum, which enabled the Germans to initiate countermeasures.
Before they reached Hammelburg, Task Force Baum was ambushed by Germany. The Germans had brought in tank destroyers of the Hetzer type, which the American tanks were now waiting for. In the subsequent tank battle in the Saale valley, Captain Baum lost 4 half-tracks and three jeeps. Under the fire protection of the Sherman tanks, the rest of the task force drove up the hill to the Hammelburg camp. At around 4 p.m. the task force reached the high plateau and stopped some distance from the camp. Some of the German guards started shooting. Thereupon the Serbian part of the camp was taken under fire because the Serbian officers in their gray uniforms were mistaken for Germans. LtCol Waters and three men, including a German officer, voluntarily went out to the camp to alert the Americans of their error. As they approached the column, a German soldier shot Waters and injured him in the abdomen because he thought they wanted to hand over the camp. Waters was brought back to the camp and treated by a Serbian doctor in the camp hospital.
US tank destroys the fence of OFLAG XIII-B (14th US Armd Div)
With 30% losses in men and vehicles, Task Force Baum had achieved its goal. The liberated prisoners of war came running out of the camp cheering and greeted their liberators. Captain Baum immediately recognized that there were far more than the 300 expected officers in the camp who were originally planned to be liberated. He discussed the situation with Colonel Goode and told him that he could not take back all the prisoners of war. The others could choose between: fend for themselves or wait until the final liberation came.
After a long break, Task Force Baum started the march back at around 8:00 p.m. The Germans had now circled the area. The task force initially moved in a south-westerly direction, after a few kilometers a German anti-tank barrier was discovered. Thereupon Baum turned to the north and after a while discovered another German anti-tank barrier. The only remaining way now led to the west. Captain Baum did not recognize that they were in the middle of a German military training area with shooting ranges.
Baum reached Reichsstrasse near Hessdorf and turned north, hoping to reconnect with the 4th US Armored Division. In the next town - Höllrich, the column drove into a German ambush. The first tank was hit by a German bazooka. The Germans drove this tank into a garden and now used it against the following American tanks. Three other American Sherman tanks were destroyed.
After the rest of Task Force Baum reached a clearing at Height 427 early in the morning, they regrouped. Captain Baum had no idea that there was a German observation post on the top of the mountain that had reported Baum's movements all day. Some of the half-tracks were defueled to get fuel. With just enough fuel for the march back, Captain Baum waited for daybreak to march back when visibility was good. Captain Baum spoke to Colonel Goode that the march back would involve combat and that many prisoners of war could be killed. Colonel Goode saw the condition of his men. They were no longer able to get through to the American lines. He advised them that the extent of the wounded who could walk should march back with him to the camp. Colonel Goode decided that the rest of the task force should not be hindered by them, so they began to march back to the camp under a white flag.
Height 427 - Reussenberg
Baum gave the order to march shortly after sunrise on March 28, 1945. As the column was just rolling in, they received fire from all sides. During the night the Germans had moved troops to the Hammelbug area. In the morning, Captain Walter Eggemann arrived, who took command of the counterattack. While Baum's men were resting, the Germans had brought in troops during the night. At around 9 a.m. they opened fire with tank destroyers and grenades at the first sign of movement. Captain Baum knew there was no more escape and ordered that everyone should escape for himself. The battle lasted about 20 minutes before the Germans took out the survivors who had failed to escape into the woods.
Captain Baum escaped, but was captured by the Germans a short time later. He was shot in the leg while fighting back. He met LtCol Waters at the hospital camp. Here they waited until the camp was liberated by the 14th US Armored Division on April 5, 1945 - just 10 days after the unsuccessful liberation attempt by Task Force Baum. Ironically, the unsuccessful rescue attempt and the injury ensured that John K. Waters was freed earlier. Otherwise he would have been sent on the march to another camp deeper in Germany with the other prisoners. After Captain Baum returned to the 4th US Armored Division, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on April 10, 1945.
The company had ended in disaster; of the 314 officers and men, 26 were killed. Only a few managed to get through to the American lines, the rest went into German captivity. The 57 tanks, half-tracks and jeeps were destroyed or captured by the Germans. General Patton later stated that he did not know exactly whether his son-in-law was in the Hammelburg camp. He said his goal was to free American prisoners and to deceive the Germans about the Third Army's real direction of attack. In his own memoirs, he later admitted: "I dare say - that I was during the entire campaignthere is only one in EuropeMade mistakes when I failedß, a Combat Command to To send Hammelburgn. "
2002 © Copyright Peter Domes - Date of last change: 07.12.20
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