Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges, Autumn 1944

By Franz Steidl

In the autumn of 1944, during fierce fighting in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France, one of the most amazing incidents in military history occurred: the rescue of two infantry battalions, one American, one German, cut off, far behind the enemy lines of each. The 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry ("Alamo Regiment"), had been cut off for six days with food, water, and ammunition running out, when the Japanese-American Nisei of the famed "Go For Broke" 442d Regimental Combat Team were called upon to give their all to break through and save the Texans. At virtually the same time and place, the Wehrmacht's 202d Mountain Battalion, thrown into combat without adequate preparation, had also been cut off, and its sister unit - the 201st Mountain Battalion - had to perform an equally desperate rescue. The weather was abysmal, the terrain almost impassable. For the Germans, it was a last stand, and they would fight to the death. The Americans, caught in their bloodiest fight since Anzio, came to call the battlefield "the crossroads of hell." Nisei casualties were devastating. Some generals lost their sons there, and other generals lost only their honor.