The town of Metz lies on the French German border, and had lain within both countries during the preceding century, and had been heavily fortified by both countries. The Germans had occupied it in 1940 and it had again reverted back to German territory. Now Hitler saw it as a fortress city to be defended to the death, a major obstacle to the Allied advance into Germany.
After the U.S. Third Army had raced across France they had suffered a frustrating time as the Allied supply lines stretched out and they lacked the fuel and the ammunition to push forward. Once they were ready to go again they faced another frustration – the wet climate of north west Europe’s winters. The scene was set for a miserable and bloody confrontation, one that would continue to frustrate the Army commander, George S. Patton:
I woke up at 0300 on the morning of November 8, 1944, and it was raining very hard. I tried to go to sleep, but ﬁnding it impossible, got up and started to read Rommel’s book, Infantry Attacks.
By chance I turned to a chapter describing a ﬁght in the rain in September, 1914. This was very reassuring because I felt that if the Germans could do it I could, so went to sleep and was awakened at 0515 by the artillery preparation.
The rain had stopped and the stars were out. The discharge of over seven hundred guns sounded like the slamming of so many heavy doors in an empty house, while the whole eastern sky glowed and trembled with the ﬂashes.
I even had a slight feeling of sympathy for the Germans, who must now have known that the attack they had been fearing had at last arrived. I complacently remembered that I had always “Demanded the impossible,” that I had “Dared extreme occasion,” and that I had “Not taken counsel of my fears.”
At 0745, Bradley called up to see if we were attacking. I had not let him know for fear I might get a stop order. He seemed delighted that we were going ahead. Then General Eisenhower came on the phone and said, “I expect you to carry the ball all the way.”
Codman, Stiller, and I immedi- ately drove to the Observation Post of the XII Corps, but there was so much artiﬁcial fog and smoke from the pots covering the bridges that we could see little. At about 1000, ﬁghter-bombers appeared in force and attacked the known enemy command posts. The day was the brightest and best we had had for two months.
I visited the Headquarters of the 80th, 35th, and 26th Divisions and also saw General Wood. By dark that night every unit was on its assigned objective for the day; unfortunately it started to rain.