Advancing on the Rhine River in Germany one victory after another, a U.S. tank battalion led by commander George S. Patton arrived in Metz, which is located along the Moselle River at the German borders with Lorraine Province in northeastern France. Taken by France in 1552, the city later became part of German territory, but was reclaimed by France again after World War I. Metz was surrounded by a fortress designed by legendary French architect Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban (1633-1707). The development of cannons made it difficult for existing citadels to protect cities. Then, the design and technics regarding “star forts” were devised by architects centered around Vauban.
Despite its prestige as a historic masterpiece, the fortress of the 18th century, part of which was reinforced after the Franco-Prussian War, would never been considered to get in the way of the strongest U.S. corps equipped with cutting edge weapons. The 20th U.S. corps led attack in Metz under leadership of Gen. Walton Walker, who earned Patton’s trust and later died during the Korean War. Even with their poor combat competency, German guards survived fierce attacks by the 20th U.S. corps. The walls of the fortress were strong enough to weather destructive cannon shots.
The U.S. foot soldiers rushed toward the fortress to take it down with a series of potent strikes as if it were a siege warfare in the Middle Age. Although thought to end in a few days, the battle turned out to be a three-month war with massive casualties. The Battle of Metz left a defamatory scar to Patton. French architect Vauban would have had mixed feelings if he had known that his fortress was used to contribute to the victory of German troops. However, what matters more in terms of war is not a cause but a practical way of thinking. As Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu says, the best tool during war is to take away and use the other’s weapon.