The 100th/442nd arrived at Bruyères, Belmont and Biffontaine, September 29, 1944; after arriving in France, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team joined the 36th Division, as part of the 7th Army. In October 1944, the 442nd reached the outskirts of Bruyères, a quaint little town in northeast France.
The Allies were only 40 miles from Germany. But standing in the way were the Vosges Mountains and a cornered, yet determined German army.
The town lay in a valley bordered by four conical hills that the Allies named A, B, C and D. To take Bruyères, the Nisei had to take the hills. On October 15, under the command of Major General John Dahlquist, the 442nd went into combat.
The Germans had the terrain and the weather on their side. The mountains were more than 1,000 feet high and were covered with tall pines. The fog and the thick underbrush limited visibility to a dozen yards.
For three days, the infantrymen fought back constant German attacks. With the help of artillery fire from the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the 100th took Hill A, and the 2nd took Hill B. The 3rd Battalion routed the enemy out of Bruyères, but the Germans still held Hills C and D.
Finally, the 442nd captured Hills C and D. The men began pushing the Germans north, across a railroad embankment and toward the forested area of Belmont. It was here that a K Company soldier shot a German officer and captured a complete set of German defense plans. (Go For Broke)
Using the information in the defense plans, the regimental commander formed a task force comprised of Companies F and L, reserve companies of the leading battalions.
He then placed Major Emmet L. O’Connor, 3d Battalion executive officer, in command, and formed the staff and command group from personnel of regimental and 3d Battalion headquarters.
This task force moved without detection during the night of 20 October to a position in the enemy’s left rear. At dawn of the 21st, the commander launched his attack after a preparation of prearranged fires controlled by a forward observer with the task force. (442)
F and L Companies, led by Major Emmet O’Connor, infiltrated the German lines during the night. At dawn they attacked the enemy from behind, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions attacked in front. The men were aided by the pinpoint artillery fire of the 522nd. (Go For Broke)
Companies F and L, 442d Regimental Combat Team, were cited for outstanding performance of duty in action on October 21, 1944, in the vicinity of Belmont, France.
“By direction of the President, under the provisions of Section IV, Circular No . 333, War Department, 1943, the following named organizations are cited for outstanding performance of duty in action: Company F. 442d Regimental Combat Team Company L. 442d Regimental Combat Team:
“For outstanding performance of duty in action on 21 October 1944, in the vicinity of Belmont, France. Assigned the mission of assaulting the flank and rear of the resistance which had stopped two frontal attacks by the Combat Team, Companies F and L, 442d Regimental Combat Team, designated the O’Connor Task Force …”
“… launched an attack down the north slope of the wooded ridge, Foret de Belmont. Company L, leading the assault, defeated a security group in a short sharp action, capturing several prisoners.”
“Then, by the prompt use of rifle grenades and mortars, the garrisoned houses just outside the woods were quickly reduced.”
“The capture of these houses was an important factor in the success of the mission, as it gave the Task Force observation of the ground to the enemy’s rear.”
“To complete its work, the Task Force now had to interdict enemy movement, drive a wedge through the forces resisting the Combat Team, and effect a junction with the main force.”
“Heavy casualties were inflicted by artillery fire directed by the Task Force’s forward observer on the enemy positions. Then, assault groups began to clear the defenders from houses to the north of La Broquaine.”
“The capture of these houses not only divided the enemy forces, but made certain that large numbers of the enemy would be trapped between the Task Force and the advancing Combat Team.”
“By mid-afternoon the Task Force and the Combat Team made contact, and what enemy troops were not surrounded were completely routed, thus bringing to a close a plan brilliantly conceived and expertly executed. By the next day the Combat Team had secured the high ridge which dominates Belmont. “
“This ridge was both a protective arc around the recently won communications center of Bruyeres, and an entering wedge in the drive to the Meurthe River.”
“In destroying the enemy Main Line of Resistance and advancing the Divisional front lines by approximately 2000 meters, the Task Force captured fifty-six prisoners, killed eighty of the enemy, and captured considerable quantities of enemy materiel and equipment.”
“The fearless determination, daring and intrepidity displayed by the officers and enlisted men of the O’Connor Task Force exemplify the finest traditions of the Armed Forces of the United States.” (Army Citation of Unit)