Early in the month of December 1944 two of the greatest armies the world, has ever seen were facing each other in northern Europe. One army, the German, was tired, beaten back, but as yet undefeated. The other, the American First Army had enjoyed great success on the continent and was somewhat over-confident. The result of this situation was the greatest single battle fought by American troops in World War II, the Ardennes Campaign. During this battle three German Armies, two of which were Panzer, penetrated the sector of the First US Army in the region of Luxembourg and Belgium, and only after over a month of the bitterest fighting were thrown back to a line approximating, that from which they had started. A total of 56 divisions, 29 US and 27 German, participated in this battle. Among these 29 American divisions were 10 Armored divisions, as well as numerous separate tank battalions. As a mute testimony of the savage fighting, 85.000 casualties were suffered on each side before the battle ended.
This study deals with four major features of armored division employment during the Ardennes Campaign. These features are, first :
piecemeal versus coordinated of the armored division;
deficiencies of organization and equipment;
effect of the type of mission assigned by higher headquarters on the employment of the armored division;
operations during a unusually obscure combat situation.
On the 29 US divisions engaged in this action, only two will be covered in detail in this study. These are the 2nd and the 3rd Armored Divisions. The tactical employment of these units will be developed to portray the use of armor on the division level during operations under extremely obscure circumstances, over the difficult rugged terrain of the northern Ardennes sector, and in severe winter weather.
The German Ardennes offensive began early on the morning of Dec 16 1944, splitting the American line on a 50 mile front. This gap in the line was finally closed one month later on Jan 16 1945, at the little Belgian town of Houffalize. During this period the action of the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions took place in three phases. The first phase was the action of the 3rd Armored Division during the period Dec 18/31 1944, the second was the employment of the 2nd Armored Division during the period Dec 21/31 1944. The the third phase was the motion of Jan l1/16 1945 in which both divisions, under the US VII Corps, attacked abreast to make a juncture with troops of the US Third Army advancing from the south. The extreme winter weather was superimposed upon the entire action with increasing severity as the battle progressed. These winter conditions seriously affected the efforts of both Allied and German forces – sometimes favorably and sometimes adversely. To the individual soldier, however, the weather always was a miserable handicap that gradually sapped his endurance and efficiency. A better understanding of the events that took place in the Ardennes on the northern flank of the German Counteroffensive may be gained from a knowledge of how the Ardennes sector was related to the overall situation along the front of western Europe.
On December 15 1944, the Allied forces were disposed generally north and south along the western border of Germany. These troops hand landed in Normandy the previous June, had driven eastward to the German border by early September, had stopped until mid-November for a build-up of supplies, and had then attacked into Germany with the mission of reaching the Rhine River along the entire front. Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower’s forces met heavy resistance, made slow progress, and were just launching a renewed drive when the German Ardennes Counterattack began. At this time the Allied forces were disposed in three army groups, the 21st Army Group on the north, the 12th Army Group in the center, and the 6th Army Group on the southern flank of the line.
In the center of this effort, as the interior army of Gen Omar N. Bradley’s 12th Army Group, the First US Army was disposed generally along the Siegfried Line. At the moment, the major strength of the army was heavily engaged to the north in the Huertgen Forest in an attempt to seize the vital Roer River Dams. Such was the character of the terrain and opposition that these troops were concentrated on a comparatively narrow front in the the sector of the US V Corps, then charged with the immediate mission of securing the dams.
South of the V Corps, and occupying over half of the l25-mile First Army front, was the VIII Corps, commanded by Maj Gen Troy H. Middleton. This Corps, disposed thinly along an 80-mile front that wound through the forested hills of Belgium and Luxembourg, enjoyed comparative inactivity. As a result, this portion of the front was used as an area for resting battle-weary divisions and for indoctrinating unseasoned units to foxhole life in front of the Siegfried Line. It was into this broad sector, lightly held by 3 infantry divisions, that the 3 German Armies launched their Winter Offensive before daylight on December 16 1944. This German effort, which fortunately for the Allied cause was never to accomplish its capabilities, had been conceived many months earlier by Adolph Hitler. During July and August 1944, while bedridden with injuries received in an attempted assassination he planned a counter-blow at the Allied forces threatening Germany. This was to be his means of keeping the support of the German people and of regaining the initiative lost to the Allies by their successful landings in Normandy.
The plan, erroneously referred to as the – Offensive von Rundstedt – and refined by the German high command, was : To consist of an armored dash through the difficult country of the Ardennes with the object of capturing the bridges on the Meuse River between Namur and Liège. Once this spurt of over 50 miles had been completed, and bridgeheads on the west bank of the Meuse secured, the panzer divisions would continue their advance in a northwesterly direction and, seize the cities of Brussels and Antwerp. By this bold maneuver it was hoped to deprive the Allies oft their chief supply base at Antwerp and at the same time, trap the entire British and Canadian forces of Field Marshal Montgomery’s 21st Army Group, then lining the banks of the Meuse.
Gen Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt, Commander in Chief, German Forces in the West thought so little of the plan’s chance of success that he refused to participate. Thus Gen Field Marshall Walter Model actually implemented the plan, and under his command three German armies trained and assembled for the attack (Statement of Prisoner of War Gen. d. Kav. Siegfried Westphall, Chief of Staff to Commander in Chief West, von Rundstedt – Salvaged Third Army Files). The effectiveness of Model’s divisions varied greatly due to the personnel. Some units were composed of highly trained officer and enlisted cadres of fanatical young SS troopers. Others contained Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe personnel and some were made up of boys and old men brought to service by the Final Draft of the dregs of German power. Divisions were reorganized or reconstituted at about 85% of war tables of organization and equipment was issued on a similar basis, actual vehicle strength being approximately 6o% wartime authorization.
With rigid secrecy, supplies were assembled under the code name Watch on the Rhine, designed in the event of information leaks to mislead the Allies as to German intentions, making it appear that these resources were being marshaled for a defensive effort. So successful was this plan that not only were Allied intelligence officers deluded, but an uninitiated German logistical commander stored the larger portion of German gasoline reserves east of the Rhein River. As a later result, these reserves never reached the attacking troops, who were then forced to plan on capturing American supply dumps to keep their, motorized elements moving.
These three German armies were assembled west of the Rhine River in the V and VIII Corps sectors. At 0530 on December 16 1944, 17 divisions of the, 27 that were to see action in this battle accessed the line of departure. They included approximately 180.000 men and 400 tanks. The magnitude of the H-hour force is important because of its tremendous contribution to the overwhelming obscurity of the action during the next ten days. These preparations had been kept so well secret that the initial reports of the attack were considered in the US Military Channels as a rather small-scale German effort. Bad weather prevented aerial reconnaissance which should have located the German columns and indicated the size of the attack. It was not until Day #4 (December 19) that Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower realized the the full seriousness of the situation.
The theater commander had no troop in theater reserve, therefore units had to be shifted from other areas of the front to engage this German threat. The 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions were thus moving to the Ardennes area where they helped form the northern line along the penetration. Here they helped, bring the German effort to a stop and moved into a coordinated offensive to close the gap of the enemy penetration.
This study, in the next three chapters, takes up in detail the part which the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions played in closing the gap.
The American 3rd Armored Division was the first of these units to go into action. Thus, it will be treated first. It will be shown that this division was committed in a piecemeal fashion under extremely obscure circumstances and that a lack of organic infantry, now corrected, in the T/O & E (1) of the US Armored Division, was’ a definite handicap, particularly in the rugged terrain of the Belgian Ardenne.
(1) – What is a Table of Organization and Equipment ?
A Table of Organization and Equipment (T/O&E)1 was a chart-like document published by the War Department which prescribed the organic structure and equipment of military units from divisional size and down, but also including the headquarters of corps and armies. Prior to 1943 organization and equipment were expressed in Tables of Organization (T/Os) and Tables of Basic Allowances (T/BAs). Unfortunately the T/BAs were not closely coordinated with the T/Os. In October 1942 the Table of Equipment (T/E) was substituted for the T/BA. The difference was that a T/E was set up for each standard unit, whereas there had been a single T/BA for each combat arm, covering all standard units of that arm. To provide complete coordination between organization and equipment, a consolidated T/O&E was issued for each standard unit beginning in August 1943.
The T/O&E prescribed the standard form of the unit, whether stationed in the US or overseas, for combat or service under normal operating conditions. In the theaters of operation, unit commanders frequently modified their organization, rearranging or adding additional personnel and equipment wherever possible, according to their best judgement of the immediate situation. However, in general, units formed, trained, and operated as prescribed by their T/O&E. It is important to note that formal T/O&Es were not issued for the many provisional units that were organized to meet special combat and service requirements.
T/O&Es were identified by a specified numbering system according to arm or service and by the date which it was published. The War Department frequently published changes (numbered C1, C2, etc.) to the existing T/O&Es when relatively minor changes in organization, weapons, or equipment were required. When a T/O&E became outdated, the old T/O&E was superseded by a new T/O&E using the same number but with a later date.
In addition to T/O&Es of general application, special T/O&Es were authorized for units operating under special conditions. These T/O&Es were identified by the letter “S” immediately after the number (e.g. 7-157S Combat Intelligence Platoon, Alaskan Department). Tentative T/O&Es were also prepared for experimental purposes and for tests of organization, equipment, or both. Upon completion of the tests, standard T/O&Es were to be prepared if the unit concept was approved. These tentative T/O&Es were identified by the letter “T” immediately after the number (e.g. 7-71T Light Infantry Regiment).
Each T/O&E provided the official title and designation of the unit. Section I “Organization” of the T/O&E prescribed the authorized number, grades, and qualifications of personnel, and also showed the number and distribution of weapons, transportation, and principal items of equipment. Where applicable, a remarks column was included to define the unit’s capabilities, functions, and normal assignment. Section II “Equipment” of the T/O&E prescribed the authorized allowance of equipment for units organized with the strength provided in Section I except for :
– 1) equipment required for temporary use for special purposes
– 2) items of clothing and individual equipment
– 3) component parts, spare parts, and accessories of kits and sets
– 4) training equipment
– 5) expendable items and ammunition
The action of the American 2nd Armored Division in December 1944 will be studied next. Emphasis will be placed upon the obscure situation, poor weather and again, a lack of organic infantry to work with the tank units. Finally, the action of the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions in a coordinated attack will be studied. This study will emphasize the employment of armored divisions in a tactical situation which was more suited to infantry, the extremely severe weather, stubborn enemy resistance, and the accomplishment of its mission by armor, under perhaps the most adverse conditions that armor could face.
Piecemeal Employment of the 3rd Armored Division
December 16 – 31 1944
At the time that the German Counteroffensive in the Belgian Ardenne began on December 16 1944, the 3rd Armored Division was in an assembly area in the vicinity of Stolberg, Germany. Acting as reserve for VII Corps the division was undergoing a period of maintenance and rest after participating in the battles which had ended only a few days before. The 3rd Armored Division was Commanded by Maj Gen Maurice E. Rose. Combat Command A (CCA) was led by Brig Gen Doyle O. Hickey, Combat Command B (CCB) by Brig Gen Truman E. Boudinot and Combat Command Reserve (CCR) by Col Robert L. Howze. On December 14 1944, the division was placed on a four hour alert. There were strong rumors that enemy paratroopers were being dropped near the division area. As a result of these, rumors the security measures in force around the assemble area were greatly strengthened, but no other action took place until December 18 1944, when the division began to roll out of its assembly area to take part in the greatest battle of World War II on the Western Front. To follow the 3rd Armored Division during the early days of the German offensive it will be, necessary to trace three separate and distinct actions, as the division was widely scattered in its employment. We shall follow these three separate actions to the time that they converged into a unified division action and then follow the division through to the close of the first phase of the Ardennes Counteroffensive in the last days of December.
The first unit to leave the division assembly area was CCA (Combat Command A), which was attached to V Corps on December 18 and ordered to Eupen (Belgium) where it was employed in anti-airborne operations until December 21 when it reverted to the control of the 3rd Armored Division. The day after CCA departed from the vicinity of Stolberg (Germany), CCB was attached to V Corps and ordered in the vicinity of Spa (Belgium). Upon arrival near Spa, CCB was transferred to control of XVIII Corps and attached to the 30th Infantry Division. The command was employed in the La Gleize – Stavelot (Belgium) area until December 25 when it reverted to control of the 3rd Armored Division.
With the departure of both of the major fighting units of the division the remainder of the division was attached to XVIII Corps on December 19, and on the night of December 19 to 20 it moved to Hotton (Belgium). Upon arrival the division was ordered to attack southeast from Hotton to secure the Manhay – Houffalize (Belgium) road. This attack was made by the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, reinforced.
On December 21, the division, still minus CCA and CCB, was attached to the VII Corps, and on December 24, the CG VII Corps, ordered the division to establish a defense line from Grandmenil (Belgium) to Melroux (Belgium), and to tie in with the 7th Armored Division on the left and the 84th Infantry Division on the right. As the action progressed and the situation became more clearer, the division gradually regained control of it’s organic units and received strong attachments. CCA came back under control of the division (December 21), CCB (December 25). Also about as December the small but heroic Task Forces of the 83rd Armd Rcn Bn were withdrawn through the division lines after stubbornly resisting repeated attacks from a greatly superior enemy force.
In the closing days of December, 1944, the 3rd Armored Division succeeded in stabilizing a line which ran generally from Hotton to Grandmenil in Belgium, and just South of the road which, connected the two towns. At this time the division was reinforced by the attachment of the 289th RCT, the 290th RCT, the 2/112th Infantry Regiment, the 509th PIB and the 517th PIB. Tying in with the 7th Armored Division in the east and the 84th Infantry Division on the west, this line enabled the Allied forces to prepare and launch the attack of January 3 1945, which resulted in the reduction of the German salient. We shall flow take up a detailed account of the employment of CCA, followed in turn by CCB, and concluding with the division less CCA and CCB.
Combat Command A
As noted, previously, CCA was the first element of the 3-AD to move from the division assembly area for participation in the Ardennes counteroffensive. On December 18, the command, composed of :
HQ Det, CCA
32nd Armored Regiment (less 1st Bn)
3rd Battalion, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment
67th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
A Co, 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion
A Co, 45th Armored Medical Battalion
Det, A Co, Maintenance Battalion
1st Plat, A Co, 738th Tank Battalion (SP) ME
was attached to V Corps and ordered to the vicinity of Eupen (Belgium). Clearing the division assembly area by 1200 on the 18th the command arrived in the zone of V Corps and relieved the 18th Infantry Regiment the 1st Infantry Division located there (Eupen) on December 19, 1944. While in this vicinity the infantry of the command was employed in mopping up, German paratroopers in the woods south of the town. Armored elements of the command established road blocks on the main roads leading to the town and were to be employed as a mobile reserve by V Corps in event of enemy attacks. However, the expected enemy attacks failed to develop, and on Dec 21, the command was relieved from, attachment to V Corps and reverted to control of the 3rd Armored Division. CCA departed from Eupen on Dec 22 for a new assembly area near Werbomont (Belgium) on that same day. Immediately upon arrival at Werbomont the command was split into two task forces :
Task Force Doan (Col Leander L. Doan)
– 32nd Armored Regiment (less 1st and 3rd Bns)
– 3rd Bn, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment (- I Co)
– 1st Plat, A Co, 23rd Armored Engineer Bn
– 1st Plat Rcn Co, 32nd Armored Regiment
– 67th Armored Field Artillery Battalion.
was ordered to move to the main highway junction 7 kilometers north of Marche (Belgium) in order to cut the Marche-Bastogne road at that point. Arriving in the vicinity of Hargimont at 1615 on Dec 22, Task Force Doan established the road blocks and tied in their defense with elements of the 84th Infantry Division, which. was operating in the area.
During the night of Dec 22 to 23 and on Dec 23 Col Doan’s road blocks receivred heavy pressure from a enemy armor and infantry, but hold fast. On Dec 24, Task Force Doan was attached to the 84th Infantry Division. Meanwhile, the other Task Force of CCA, Task Force Richardson, Lt Col Walter B. Richardson commanding, was placed under division control and ordered to go to the aid of elements of the 106th Infantry Division defending a road block at crossroads #576653, which is about 23 miles southeast of Odeigne.
Task Force Richardson
3rd Battalion, 32nd Armored Regiment and I Co, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment; moved Dec 23 toward the crossroads. The defense, of crossroads #578853 was very important because it gave the division time to organize its position. Without the action at the crossroads, the division most likely would have been overrun. The crossroads was under attack and the Richardson’s force, under command of Maj Olin F. Brewster, had to fight in order to reach it. Upon reaching the crossroads Maj Brewster returned to the Task Force Command Post to bring up reinforcements. While he was gone, the road block was overrun by the enemy. Maj Brewster returned with an additional platoon of tanks and a platoon of infantry and managed to set up another road block farther to the north in the Vicinity of Belle-Haie. However, on Dec 24, this block was also overrun by a numerically superior enemy force, who was advancing on Manhay. Lt Col Richardson and his headquarters withdrew to Grandmenil and Maj Brewster was ordered to withdraw his force by way to Malempré. Proceeding north, Brewster ran in to strong enemy fire which was coming from Malempré and was forced to halt. Hopelessly cut off from friendly lines Maj Brewster ordered the destruction of the few remaining vehicles, and the remnants of the Task Force withdrew on foot cross country. On Dec 25, this force passed through the lines of the 3rd Battalion, 289-RTC, just west of Grandmenil. Keeping in mind the fact that Task Force Richardson was operating under division control, the loss of Task Force Dean to the 84th Infantry Division on Dec 24 stripped CCA of all its combat units with the exception of a small reconnaissance outfit. On Dec 24, the headquarters of CCA moved to Heyd, where it took over the defensive sector from Amonines to Manhay. The 3-AD was at this time attempting to stabilize the lines in that area. The principal unit coming under control of CCA was the 289-RTC, which held a line running just south of the Erezée – Manhay road. Its 3rd Bn was blocking to the north and east, as the enemy at this time held the town of Grandmenil.
On Dec 25, the 289th-RCT attempted to advance on the line – Amonines – Aisne – Rau sous l’Eau – Le Chat – Grandmenil, but the 3rd Bn was unable to seize Grandmenil which was strongly hold by the enemy. The other two battalions of the regiment endeavored to cover the entire line, but in doing so left a gap of about one thousand yards in the line just south of the town of, Sadzot. Task Force MacGeorge from CCB (attached to CCA on Dec 26) drove enemy tank and infantry forces from Grandmenil, securing the crossroads in the center of the town. The task force also established contact with CCB of the 7th Armored Division. Up to this time several attempts to close the gap in the lines of the 289th RCT had been unsuccessful. On the night of Dec 27, elements of 12. SS Panzerdivision and other troops infiltrated through the gap and launched a determined attack on Sadzot. This enemy attack was counter-attacked by the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, now attached to CCA. The counterattack was successful and the paratroopers continued their attack southeast through the forests to La Fosse. While the paratroopers were driving to the southeast, the 1/112-IR, now also attached to CCA, moved forward and closed the gap in the line. With these operations the last thrusts of the enemy into the lines of the 3-AD was repelled. Official control of the sector passed to the 75-ID at 1800 Dec 28 and elements of the 3-AD left the area on Dec 29 for a short period of rest and reorganization.
In evaluating the employment of CCA we see considerable piecemeal use of its forces. In the initial action at Eupen the tank and the infantry units were separated. Upon return to control of the division the command was split into two forces, Task Force Doan passing to control of the 84th Infantry Division and Task Force Richardson to direct division control. CCA then took control of a defensive sector hold by infantry troops, finally succeeding in stabilizing the lines. Now, let us consider CCB’s actions during the sane period.
Combat Command B
On Dec 19 1944, the day following the departure of CCA for Eupen, CCB, under the command of Brig Gen Truman B. Boudinot, was attached to V Corps and ordered to Spa and La Reid, Belgium. The command moved in two columns, Task Force Lovelady, Lt Col William B. Lovelady cormmanding, consisting of :
– 2nd Battalion, 33rd Armored Regiment
– B Company, 56th Armored Infantry Regiment
– Plat, Rcn Company, 33rd Armored Regiment
– Plat, B Company, 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion
went to Spa, while Task Force MacGeorge, Maj Kenneth T. McGeorge commanding with :
– I Company, 33rd Armored Regiment
– F Company, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment
– Plat, D Company, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment
– 2 Plats of Assault Guns
– Mortar Plat, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment
– 2 Plats of Light Tanks
Engineer Squad, went to La Reid. Upon arrival in their new areas, the units of CCB were attached to XVIII Corps. On Dec 20, the command was attached to the 30th Infantry Division and committed to action in the La Gleize-Stavelot Sector. The command was ordered to attack from their present positions toward the Amblève River with the mission of blocking and eliminating an enemy force which was headed for Spa from the direction of Stavelot. This enemy force was a combat team of the 1. SS-Panzerdivision, I. SS-Panzerkorps, led by Lt Col Joachim Peiper, perpetrator of the infamous Malmedy Massacre.
3rd Armored Division History
[…] By dawn, we had more definite orders, and proceeded southward to secure a road junction towards which the enemy spearheads were rapidly advancing in their unabated dash from Stavelot to Spa, Marche en Famenne, Liège. Spa, world famous for its mineral baths, had been the site of First US Army headquarters. In imminent danger of capture, they had moved out, leaving behind only a few service troops, who happily guided, with sighs of relief, the tanks of Task Force Lovelady through the city. A short distance further on, we passed through a tremendous gasoline dump, millions of five-gallon cans stacked at intervals through hundreds of acres of dense forests. Service troops were hastily loading these in trucks, moving them to safety. We later learned that the Germans were just as earnestly drawing gasoline from the other side of the dump. As we wound along the narrow, snowy roads, it became clear that American troops were scarce. The only visible defense were anti-aircraft guns, the larger ones being used for road blocks, strategically dug-in on curves and tops of hills. Soon, these disappeared and we were in no-man’s land, approaching the road junction we were to secure.
E Co was in the lead that day, commanded by 1/Lt Hope. They reached their objective at the same time an enemy column was driving through. This surprised the Germans, all of whom were killed or captured before they could fire their guns. Leaving road blocks here, we received orders to move on to Stavelot. An enemy armored column had apparently received orders exactly contrary to ours, for they were coming, with equal resolve, towards us. The two spearheads met, locking horns of hot steel in ferocious mortal combat. 1/Lt Hope was killed when his tank was hit, and Lt Stanko wounded. Casualties mounted but were not excessive, considering the raging battle. The day ended and we had lost four Sherman tanks by anti-tank and tank fire. The enemy task force must have sent a gloomy report back to their higher headquarters, too, because they lost a Mark IV tank with a 15 CM (150 millimeter) cannon mounted on it, five armored and two personnel and supply trucks, one towed 15 CM artillery piece, two towed 75 millimeter anti-tank guns, three large personnel carrying half-tracks, and one Volkswagen. Thus ended our first day in the Battle of the Bulge, with the promise of even harder ones to come. Von Rundstedt must exploit his advantage to the fullest extent before we could get organized, or lose his great gamble. Our Combat Command was attached to the XVIII Corps (Airborne) and the 82nd Airborne Division worked along our right flank, also in the direction of Stavelot.
The E Co battle group was still detained in the vicinity of Trois-Ponts, when D Co tried to ease the predicament by a flanking movement to the left. At Parfondruy, they encountered large numbers of enemy infantry. These troops were more than ordinarily savage, composed mostly of SS and Fallschirmjäger (Paratroopers). Since infancy, they had been Hitler’s favorite children, whose only creed was Victory or Death for the Fuhrer. Their minds had become warped by the narrow limits of military training to such an extent that the commitment of atrocities was a fascinating diversion for them. Human life was the least precious of German commodities, and they dealt their blows and gave their own lives with the same sadistic abandon.
It is difficult for Americans to develop the emotion called hate. Good sportsmanship, fair play, reluctance to kill, failure to beat the foe when he is down, will of times lose a battle, for by these rules, a team dedicated to killing, cannot be fully aggressive. Parfondruy shall remain a monument to the birth of the deepest, fiercest hate for the German people by all the ranks in the command of Task Force Lovelady. When D Co with infantry liberated the tiny village, they found only a few living civilians, huddled in dark corners of cellars, too terrified, too overcome by grief, to move or welcome American troops with their usual hearty greetings. For, strewn about the houses were the corpses of whole families, from babies to parents and grandparents. Obviously innocent bystanders, they had been killed by beating or shooting in cold blood. Compassion for the victims and burning hate for the foe welled up simultaneously in the hearts of the soldiers who witnessed these gruesome scenes. We had read accounts of the massacre at Malmedy, but no amount of reading can replace a few minutes of seeing.
With doubled efforts, Task Force Lovelady suddenly became a wild beast, stampeding enemy positions with increased ruthlessness and ferocity, which often, throughout this memorable campaign, made even the most rigorously disciplined enemy troops wither in horrified amazement, their dying soldiers more than once expiring, not with the word of their Fuhrer on their tongues, but a final conviction, learned far too late, Deutschland Kaput!
By way of disposition of our task force, the situation was peculiar. The command post, in order to maintain liaison with both battle groups, split into two communications sections, one at Moulin du Ruy, one in the railroad station on the road to Grand Coo. Driving from the command post to Grand Coo, a distance of two miles in a southerly direction, one looked down into a valley on the right side with a parallel range of hills rising above it. Halfway up this range was the town of La Gleize, strongly held by the 1. SS LSSAH Panzerdivision. Task Force Lovelady and other units had cut them off completely, then left them quite alone, while Task Force MacGeorge and his 1st Battalion systematically set about to eliminate this potent pocket. In the meantime, as one drove from our command post towards Grand Coo, he would invariably be fired upon by enemy tanks in La Gleize, which often could be plainly seen as they changed positions.
At Grand Coo, the route turned sharply eastward, through Petit Coo, whose only installations were the aid station guarded by a platoon of light tanks from B Co and the Rcn Plat. Half a mile further east was Trois-Ponts, the right boundary of the main line of resistance, held by E Co in charge of Maj Stallings. North of this was Parfondruy, the left boundary of the main line of resistance, held by the D Co battle group, led by Capt Richard Edmark. Thus a triangle was formed by the two battle groups and the aid station, the left leg of which was exposed to enemy attack, unprotected and unguarded except for occasional patrols. The right leg was secure by virtue of a small river with units of the 82nd Airborne Division on the other side.
To relieve the increasingly desperate plight of Hitler’s finest soldiers in La Gleize, the logical axis of advance would be behind our two battle groups, the attack proceeding from the northeast, directed towards Petit Coo, thence up the valley to their objective. Unfortunately, this important probability, although it occurred to us, was not seriously considered, since our chief interest was directed towards organizing an attack to retake Stavelot.
Early in the afternoon on Dec 22, the present writer returned to Petit Coo from the command post and engaged in replacing a radio in the peep. One of the light tankers noticed a group of soldiers walking towards us in the distance. The radio was disregarded temporarily; its aerial left unconnected. Had it been in operation, a frantic warning from Maj Stallings would have been heard, telling us to get out of there in a hurry. Standing complacently in the doorway of the aid station, previously a restaurant, we watched, with little more than mild interest, the advancing soldiers, silhouetted against the sunlit hillside. We recognized them as enemy troops when they were perhaps 200 yards away. There were about fifty of them, but more came over the crest of the hill until approximately eighty were counted. They advanced in approved infantry fashion, irregularly dispersed and about six paces apart. Nonchalantly, and with no effort at concealment, they marched towards us, utterly disregarding our plainly visible light tanks, whose guns were now threateningly trained upon them.
With admirable presence of mind, seen so frequently among tankers, the B Co men held their fire until the enemy was about 50 yards away. By that time, our aid station personnel were so intrigued by the attack, in which no shots had yet been fired, and so confident that our light tanks could annihilate what we thought was simply a large patrol, that no effort was made to escape. Finally, the tanks opened up smartly and in unison, with their .30 caliber bow guns, spraying the thoroughly exposed German infantry mercilessly. Many fell, but many more continued their advance, still marching almost at attention, polished black boots and aluminum mess equipment shining brightly. Then our tanks began firing their 37 millimeter guns loaded with high explosive ammunition, among the foe. More fell, and more advanced, seeking cover behind the buildings on their side of the road. Now the Germans began to fire rifle and other small arms at us, the first round shattering a large mirror behind the doorway we had been standing in. This brought us, the medical section, to the shocking realization that we were not watching a training film, and, in fact, were in the midst of a fire fight. Judiciously, we repaired to the basement, there to discuss our sad predicament. Another wave of enemy infantry came over the hill, followed by others which we did not wait to see. Their mortar support had arrived, and these unbearable missiles crashed around the aid station until it became completely untenable.
The first groups of the attackers had reached cellars in the houses across the street, from whose windows they fired bazookas at our far from impregnable light tanks, knocking two of them out, killing or wounding most of the courageous occupants. A brief and trembling underground council brought us to the decision that we should try to escape by dashing through a barbed wire fence to the slightly sunken railroad bed, thence towards Grand Coo. This we did, but when the sixth man was shot to death by a machine gun, the remaining two aid men returned to the basement, where they spent a harrowing forty-eight hours waiting for us to retake the village, at the same time performing valuable services to the wounded left behind. The rest of us escaped unharmed, and reported the details of the incident. The reconnaissance platoon fared less well, nearly all of them being captured, including Lt Gray and Cpl Dye. In the meantime, the two battle groups were completely cut off, and only the river prevented them from being surrounded.
By utilizing every bit of fire power they had, and by the very close artillery support offered by the 82nd Airborne unit, the main fighting elements of the task force held their ground. We were still in radio communication and Maj Stallings would report at regular intervals that everything was : Just fine, thank you ! Since all of the infantry was with these isolated battle groups, B Co had to launch an attack against the intruders alone. This they did, but it was simply impossible to retake a diligently defended town with nothing but tanks. However, they did lengthen the enemy casualty list and prevented further penetration towards La Gleize. […]
Task Force Lovelady was ordered to move southward to establish a road block on the La Gleize – Stavelot highway east of La Geize, and then drive to the east to assist the 30th Infantry Division, which was fighting in the vicinity of Stavelot with the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate)(US-Norvegian). Task Force MacGeorge was ordered to organize into two forces for the execution of its Mission. Gen Boudinot personally gave the attack order to Maj MacGeorge who commanded one column and to Capt John W. Jordan, who commanded the second column. Capt Jordan was to advance southward, seize Stoumont, then turn east and seize La Gleize in conjunction with Maj MacGeorge’s column who was to advance south toward le village of La Gleize on an axis parallel to and east of Jordan’s route. Task Force Lovelady moved from its area near Spa (La Reid) and proceeded on its mission. The road block east of La Gleize was establi1shed, as ordered after a sharp fight. The column continued to the south, minus the personnel necessary to man the road block, and in the vicinity of Trois-Ponts again struck enemy resistance consisting of tanks/infantry teams. Despite the resistance, another road block was set up and Lovelady continued to move to the south. A third road block was established just north of Grand Coo, and Lovelady turned to the east on the road to Stavelot. The road blocks that he had left behind him in order to protect his rear and keep the road open had employed all of the infantry of his command with the exception of an attached company from the 120th Infantry Regiment (30-ID).
Moving to the east, Lovelady reached Parfondruy but was unable to advance farther. On Dec 22 he held his position but enemy forces which had bypassed him cut him off from his road blocks, overran his aid station, and captured several vehicles. The enemy force which accomplished this were dressed in American uniforms and used American vehicles (Skorzeny 150. Brigade).
This turn of events forced the task force to turn away from Parfondruy and move to the west to the aid of the road blocks. On Dec 23, Lovelady succeeded in reaching Grand Coo, and went into position to attack south where his road block under Maj Stallings was surrounded. The attack began on Dec 23 but progressed only to Petit Coo that day before being halted. However, during the night Lovelady received a company of infantry from the 30th Infantry Division, and on Dec 24 the Task Force reached the cut off road block and took, up a defensive position near Petit Coo. At 2300-H on Dec 24, the Task Force was relieved by elements of the 30th Infantry Division and then moved to an assembly area near Les Forges.
Farther to the north, Maj MacGeorge and Capt Jordan had succeeded in accomplishing their mission after several small but very severe engagements. On Dec 20, Jordan reached the outskirts of Stoumont but was stopped by heavy anti-tank fire and halted for the night. On the same day Maj MacGeorge had reached Borgoumont. His advance had been slow because of the very poor roads, numerous detours from the planned route of advance, and stubborn enemy resistance. On the next day, Jordan’s force was attached to the 119th Infantry Regiment (30-ID) and attacked Stoumont. The little town was strongly defended and the attack met with no success. During the night additional artillery was given the Task Force and on Dec 22, Jordan’s force entered Stoumont. Maj MacGeorge was at this time on the north edge of La Gleize, but had been unable to penetrate the defenses of the town.
The next day, Dec 24, Jordan advanced to the east and attacked La Gleize in conjunction with Maj MacGeorge’s attack from the north. The town was heavily defended by anti-tank guns, tanks, and well hidden mine fields. The lack of infantry combined with poor, terrain which kept the tanks on the roads was a severe handicap in this attack, but on the 24th, the two columns finally succeeded in occupying the town. At 1530-H they were ordered to an assembly, area near Stinval. Elements of the 30th Infantry Division relieved the task forces in La Gleize.
With this action the deepest westward penetration of the entire 6. SS Panzer Army was stopped, and this major German force was put upon the defensive.
CCB reverted to division control on Dec 25. At 0930-H that day, the Commanding General 3rd Armored Division ordered the command to send a force to the aid of CCA in the vicinity of Grandmenil. Task Force MacGeorge was ordered on this mission and was attached to CCA. In the narrative dealing with CCA, we have already seen how this Force seized Grandmenil after attacking with the 3/289th RCT.
CCB, less Task Force MacGeorge moved to the vicinity of Hotton. On Dec 26, the command took over a defensive sector from CCR. This sector ran from Ny to Melreux where the defense was tied in with the 84th Infantry Division. This sector was held by the 290th RCT.
Dec 27 found the units of Task Force MacGeorge in Soy, having been relieved in Grandmenil by the 289th RCT. The rest of CCB was improving the defensive positions held by the 290th RCT.
0n Dec 30, the command was relieved from responsibility for the sector and moved to assembly areas near Modave and prepared to join the remainder of the division.
3rd Armored Division History
On the second day, part of the 30th Infantry joined our light tanks and what few medium tanks were available, retaking Petit Coo, establishing contact with the battle groups, and sending the remnants of the SS Infantry regiment back over the hill. Many of the enemy soldiers were dressed in American uniforms and wore American equipment. Almost all were SS troops, and the most aggressive we had ever met. Maj Stallings reported that they had had a good time and felt that they could kill more Germans when they were attacked on three sides, than when they could fire in only one direction.
The La Gleize pocket had been expertly demolished, and the 30th Infantry Division resumed the attack on Stavelot as Task Force Lovelady moved to another front on Christmas Eve. The crunching of fresh, dry snow added another sound to the ordinary noises that tanks make, as Task Force Lovelady rolled through the crisp, moonlit night. Whole forest of Christmas trees spread out before us, and could have been adorned no more beautifully than by their natural trimmings. Paradoxically, some seemed to be hung with silvery artificial icicles, the same as we used to use on the trees at home. Closer scrutiny revealed these to be bunches of narrow tin-foil strips dropped by Allied bombers to distort enemy radar equipment. Real stars hung over our Christmas trees and they were lighted by the dotted tinsel of exhaust flames from the frequent flights of Buzz Bombs. Shivering in the cold steel of half-tracks, peeps, and tanks, we drove into the night, finally bivouacking in the early morning hours in a grove of scrub spruce. We made our beds on the snow and were worn out sufficiently by the long cold ride to sleep for a few hours. Awakening more from coldness than necessity, we stretched our benumbed legs, beat our arms against our bodies, and halfheartedly wished one another Merry Christmas.
By ten o’clock, we were again on the move, stopping in the afternoon for turkey dinner served from the kitchen trucks. The mess personnel deserved much credit for preparing such a heartening repast under such untoward conditions. Spirits lightened and we set up defenses around Oppagne, sleeping more soundly and comfortably than we had on Christmas Eve.
On Dec 26, we moved a few miles where we instituted strategic defenses from the high ground east of Ny to the railroad tracks in Melreux. Never had the tanks of Task Force Lovelady been so firmly entrenched against an anticipated enemy attack. We had been brought here to thwart the most recent German threat, whose cold steel fingers were already probing the area for a weak spot. Daily the line of defense was elaborated upon. Tank-dozers scooped out tons of earth, where all but the turrets of tanks were thoroughly concealed. Then they were camouflaged so expertly that anyone who did not know they were there would have difficulty finding them. Mines were laid, and concertina wire stretched between trees for hundreds of yards.
During these days, Col Lovelady would go from outpost to outpost inspecting his positions and talking cheerfully with the tankers. His favorite question would be : Have you killed any Germans today ? and were the answer : No, sir !, he would good naturally remind us that the war would end quicker if each of us killed at least one German a day. This usually brought a grin from the prematurely lined faces of the tankers and a hearty retort that : The day isn’t over yet, sir !
A few scattered rounds of artillery was all that reminded us that the enemy was within shooting distance. On Dec 29, we were directed to send reconnaissance in force into Trinal, which appeared to be a center of activity. A platoon from D Co performed this mission, losing one tank to a mine. Retribution was more than equal, for they killed a hundred enemy soldiers in addition to knocking out a self-propelled and an anti-tank gun. Returning to Ny after accomplishing their mission, our artillery took over, singing a Serenade to Trinal, by firing several rounds from every available piece to our sector at the same instant. […]
In summing up the actions of CCB during this period it is apparent that it contributed greatly to stopping the German drive in the La Gleize – Stavelot area. It furnished the 30th Infantry Division with much needed armored support and provided the armored punch which took La Gleize and Stoumont. Later, Task Force MacGeorge seized Grandmenil while attached to CCA after several infantry attacks to take the town had failed. It is hoped that the inclusion of organic tanks in the Infantry Division will provide the Infantry with armor support so that it will not in the future necessary to employ Armored Division in piecemeal fashion in order to provide tank battalions.