In the early years of World War Two, the German Army amply demonstrated its ability to exploit victory to the fullest. After the tide had turned against the Germans, it became apparent that they also possessed the more outstanding ability to quickly recover from a defeat before their opponents could thoroughly exploit their success. Less than a month after suffering inapparently decisive defeat in which it was crushed and battered beyond recognition, German 7. Armee established a coherent front line from the Meuse River to the Schnee Eifel Range in September 1944. Committed in this wide arc and supported by a motley conglomeration of last ditch reserves, the army’s remaining elements successfully defended the approaches to the Reich. During its withdrawal from Falaise to the West Wall, the 7. Armee passed through three distinct phases.
– 7. Armee rout following narrowly averted annihilation in the Falaise Pocket, 7. Armee ceased to exist as an independent organization, 7. Armee shattered remnants were attached to the 5. Panzer Armee until the September 4 1944, 7. Armee was apparently reconstituted under the command of Gen d. Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger
– 7. Armee then passed through the phase of delaying action while it reorganized its forces and re-established the semblance of a front line. Despite persistent orders from above to defend every foot of ground, Gen Brandenberger realized that a fairly rapid withdrawal was called for, if his forces were to reach the West Wall ahead of American spearheads
– delaying action ended officially on September 9 1944 when the the 7. Armee was charged with the defense of the West Wall in the Maastricht – Aachen – Bitburg sectors. Along with the fortifications the army took over all headquarters and troops stationed in this area. Of the the 7. Armee 3 corps, the LXXXI Corps was assigned the northern sector of the West Wall, from Herzogenrath to Düren witch position to Rollesbroich and the Huertgen Forest sector
LXXIV Corps was committed in the center, from Roetgen to Ormont and the 1. SS Panzerkorps was to defend the West Wall in the Schnee Eifel sector, from Ormont to the boundary with the 1. Armee at Diekirch.
When the US VII Corps launched its reconnaissance in force on Sept 12, the 7. Armee was in the midst of this process of transition. While some of its elements had already occupied their assigned West Wall sectors, others were still fighting a delaying action well forward of the bunker line.
Defense of Aachen and the Stolberg Corridor
On Sept 12, the forces of LXXXI Corps, under the command of Gen Lt Friedrich-August Schack, were committed from Breust on the Meuse River eastward to Hombourg and Moresnet, thence south along the West Wall to the boundary with LXXIV Corps Eupen – Roetgen – Zülpich – Bonn. Four badly mauled, understrength divisions were committed in the LXXXI Corps front line. In the northwestern sector, between the Meuse River and the Aachen area, the 275. Infanterie Division and the 49. Infanterie Division held the line against the US XIX Corps. In the southeastern half of the LXXXI Corps zone, opposite the US VII Corps, the 116. Panzer Division and the 9. Panzer Division faced the US 1st Infantry Division and the 3d Armored Division. The sector of the 116. Panzer Division was defined in the northwest by the boundary with the 49. Infanterie Division : Hombourg – Schneeberg Hill – along the West Wall to Bardenberg. In the southeast the boundary with the 9. Panzer Division Welkenraedt via Hauset and Brand to Stolberg. The organic strength of the 116. Panzer Division under the command of Gen Graf Gerhard von Schwerin, was organized in two armored regiments – the 60. Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the 156. Panzer Grenadier Regiment – the 116. Panzer Aufklarung Abteilung and the 116. Panzer Artillerie Regiment.
Commanded by Gen Maj Gerhard Mueller, the 9. Panzer Division had only arrived in the LXXXI Corps zone on Sept 11. Its sector extended from the boundary with the 116. Panzer Division to the boundary with the LXXIV Corps. According to Gen Brandenberger its first wave had consisted of but 3 companies of panzer grenadiers (advance detachment of either the 10. Panzer Grenadier Regiment or the 11. Panzer Grenadier Regiment), 1 engineer company, and 2 batteries of artillery. Gen Schack amalgamated these elements with the remaining forces of the 105. Panzer Brigade (Maj Volker). Since its attachment to the LXXXI Corps on Sept 3 this tank brigade had lost most of its armored infantry battalion and all but ten of its tanks. Instead of committing the weak elements of the 9. Panzer Division in the West Wall, the LXXXI Corps had found it necessary to send these forces into the front line. Badly mauled on their first day of action – as was to be expected – the remaining elements of the Kampfgruppe 9. Panzer had assembled in Eynatten during the night of Sept 11/12. They were to fight a delaying action back to their West Wall sector while all other elements of the division still en route from their assembly area at Kaiserslautern were to be committed immediately in the West Wall upon arrival. In addition to the units enumerated above, the LXXXI Corps also commanded the 353. Infanterie Division (Gen Paul Mahlmann). This division was exhausted and possessed very few organic contingents. Far to weak to be committed in a front line sector, its headquarters and remaining elements were moved to the assigned West Wall sectors of the 116. Panzer and the 9. Panzer to establish liaison with the various headquarters and local defense units in the rear of the LXXXI Corps.
On Sept 9, the 7. Armee had attached to the LXXXI Corps the Wehrmachtbefehlshaber [Military Governor] for Belgium and Nortnern France with his staff and troops, the Kampfkommandant of Aachen (Col von Osterroth), the 253. Grenadier Training Regiment of the 526. Reserve Division, (the other two regiments of the 526., the 416. Gren Training Regiment and the 536. Grenadier Training Regiment, were attached to the LXXIV Corps while the division headquarters, at Euskirchen, remained directly subordinated to the 7. Armee) and a strange assortment of independent battalions representing the proverbial bottom of the barrel. Some of these were Luftwaffe Fortress Battalions (Luftwaffe ground troops hastily organized in infantry battalions usually without sufficient training, poorly armed, and of little combat value); others were called Landesschuetzen Battalions (the term is vaguely equivalent to home guard and these Landesschuetzen Bns were usually composed of men from fifty to sixty years old) which were quite inadequately armed, without heavy weapons, and composed of men as old as the hills. The situation in the LXXXI Corps area was complicated further by the presence of police and Hitler Youth detachments who attempted to make themselves useful by doing such work on the West Wall fortifications as they saw fit, but refused to cooperate with the military.
The various independent battalions described above were subordinated to the 353. Infanterie Division prior to their commitment with the front line divisions. By order of FM Walter Model (Commander in Chief, Army Group B) the newly arrived 8. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn, 12. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn, and 19. Luftwaffe fortress Bn were attached to 353. Infanterie Division on condition that they would be employed only in defense of the West Wall. The division reported that by 1800 on Sept 12, the Schill Line eastern and more strongly fortified bunker belt of the West Wall – would be occupied by the 19. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn, committed in the area northwest of Wuerselen northeast of Aachen, the 3. Landesschuetz Bn in the area northwest of Stolberg, the 12. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn in the vicinity of Stolberg, and the 2. Landesschuetz Bn south of Stolberg. The 8. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn was designated 353. Infanterie Division reserve.
Gen Schack learned on Sept 12 that the first of three full strength divisions, the 12.-ID, the 183.-VGD and the 246.-VGD, destined to reinforce the Aachen area during September 1944 would arrive in the LXXXI Corps sector in a few days. Hitler had ordered 12.-ID (Col Gerhard Engel), just rehabilitated in East Prussia after service on the Eastern Front, to begin entraining for the Aachen sector at 0001 on Sept 14. Southwest of Aachen the forces of the 116.-PD enjoyed an uneventful night from Sept 11 to Sept 12. This enabled them at 0800 on Sept 12 to occupy positions along the railroad from Hombourg to Moresnet, and from Moresnet along the Gueule River Creek via Hergenrath to Hauset. The object was to establish a coherent defense line which, based on a railway tunnel and a creek, would facilitate antitank defense. The division committed the 156.-PG-Regt on the right, between Hombourg and Moresnet, and the 60.-PG-Regt on the left along the Gueule River. The 116.-P-Rcn-Bn was disengaged and recommitted at day break north of the Gueule River with the mission to establish contact with the 9.-PD at Eynatten.
The forces of the 116.-PD found their mobility greatly restricted by the work of overeager German demolition engineers who had destroyed all the Gueule Creek crossings from Moresnet to the north of Eynatten and had blocked all roads leading to the West Wall with the exception of the Moresnet – Gemmenich – Aachen road. These obstacles seriously interfered with Gen von Schwerin’s intention to withdraw to the West Wall on September 12. But during the morning Gen Schack ordered von Schwerin not to occupy his West Wall sector before receiving special orders from the LXXXI Corps, and to hold out in front of the West Wall generally as long as possible. The lull enjoyed by the 116.-PD was shattered at noon on September 12 when American tanks probed German defenses north of Montzen and Hombourg.
Shortly thereafter the storm broke over the heads of the Germans. The American reconnaissance was followed up by a tank attack toward Hombourg. At the same time American armor crossed the railway between Hombourg and Moresnet. American infantry pushed up the road from Hombourg to Voelkerich and Bleyberg. While the 156.-PG-Regt fell back before these attacks, American troops crossed the Gueule River Creek between Moresnet and Hergenrath in the early afternoon and infiltrateded the lines of the 60.-PG-Regt. Gen von Schwerin was forced to withdraw at about 1530 in a northwesterly direction from Moresnet along the Gueule River Creek. The peculiar direction of this withdrawal was probably necessitated by the fact that German engineers had blocked the roads leading northeast. While the US 1st Infantry Division launched its drive on Aachen and broke through the lines of 116.-PD, the US 3rd Armored Division jumped off from Eupen toward Eynatten and crossed the German border at Roetgen in the sector of 9.-PD.
33-AIB/3-AD : Picture bellow – Driving the Jeep is T/5 Charles D. Hiller, sitting next to him is Henri Souvee, a Belgian patriot (in an American uniform)
West of the Eupen – Aachen road the Americans took Lontzen and Walhorn; east of the road they pushed into Raeren. From Walhorn they launched a tank attack toward Eynatten, which fell into American hands at 1345. Elements of Kampfgruppe 9.-PD there withdrew northeastward. These elements and the local defense units under the command of 353.-ID were unable to interfere seriously with American operations. Later in the afternoon Gen Schack was disturbed by a civilian report that American forces had occupied Rott at 1800, conveying the impression that they had broken through the West Wall south of Rott. The rumor that the Americans were just south of Rott caused panic among the men of a Luftwaffe AA artillery unit committed at Rott. The 3.-Btry (889.-Regt) of the 7.-FD smashed the optical equipment of their three 20-MM antiaircraft guns, abandoned their positions, guns, equipment, and belongings, and fled. The cause of the false alarm seems to have been an American armored rcn patrol on the Aachen – Monschau road.
In the evening of Sept 12, the 353.-ID reported American armor converging on Roetgen from the west. Elements of the 253.-GT-Regt observed American tanks and jeeps, followed by strong infantry detachments on personnel carriers moving along the Raeren – Roetgen road. Two American tanks and four armored cars accompanied by infantry pushed into Roetgen. One platoon of the security company in Roetgen (the 328.-RT-Bn of the 253.-GT-Regt) was pushed into the southern part of the town. Intensive infantry fighting developed as American armor advanced to the northern periphery of Roetgen. Keeping out of the range of German AT weapons, the tanks fired into the West Wall bunker embrasures, while American infantry guns laid down a heavy barrage in front of the obstacle wall. Low-flying aircraft attacked the obstacles and defense positions. By 1900 the volume of American artillery and tank fire began to dwindle. The Germans remained in possession of all the West Wall fortifications. An hour later German reconnaissance found that the Americans had left Roetgen. At 2000, Sept 12, American tanks and infantry advancing between the Hergenrath – Aachen and the Eupen – Aachen roads toward the Scharnhorst Line – the first (western) band of West Wall fortifications – captured Bunker 161 on the Brandenberg Hill, two miles north of Hauset. Forces under the Kampfkommandant of Aachen were immediately committed in a counterattack to wipe out this American penetration of the West Wall. They failed in this endeavor but were able to stop the American attack temporarily. At the same time American armored cars and a few tanks also reached the West Wall about half a mile southeast of Schmidthof and apparently decided to lager there for the night. Late in the evening of September 12, Gen Schack issued an order to his divisions which defined their assigned West Wall sectors and outlined the further conduct of operations. The 116.-PD was charged with defending the city of Aachen. The Kampfkommandant of Aachen with attached troops was subordinated to 116.-PD, as were all elements of the 353.-ID and the 526.-RD in the sector. The 8., 12. and 19.-Luft-Bns as well as the 453.-GT-Bn (253.-GT-Regt). The armored elements of 116.-PD were to fall back to the West Wall only in the face of superior American pressure while the attached forces would move into the fortifications ahead of the main body in order to complete the improvement of the positions. The 9.-PD, with attached remaining elements of 105.-P-Brigade, was assigned to the defense of the sector between the 116.-PD and the boundary with the LXXIV Corps – the Stolberg Corridor and northern the Wenau Forest. All elements of 353.-ID and the 526.-RD in this sector of the West Wall were attached to the 9.-PD. These were the HQs 253.-GT-Regt (Col Feind), the 328.-RT-Bn and the 473.-RT-Bn. The division was authorized to withdraw its organic elements to the West Wall only in the face of overwhelming American attacks. In the West Wall the main effort of resistance would center around the roads leading toward the fortifications from the south and southeast. The divisions were ordered to station strong outposts forward of the MLR (Main Line of Resistance), equipped with heavy infantry weapons and antitank guns, who were to do all in their power to delay the American advance.
[- LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div
at 1500 Sep 15 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; Sitrep, 9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps;
on Sep 16 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
The geographic location of the 9. Pz Div sector fated this division to bear the brunt of the Battle of the Stolberg Corridor. Never possessed of organic elements sufficient for an adequate defense, the division also sustained very heavy losses in this action Thus it had to be shored up regularly by all kinds of reinforcements, sometimes of a very dubious value. The designation 9. Pz Div became a collective term for a veritable hodgepodge of unrelated armor, antitank, infantry, and artillery units.
In the sectors of the 116.-PD and the 9.-PD this outpost line was to extend from west of Gemmenich – west of Hauset – east of Raeren to west of Roetgen. The 353.-ID received orders to relinquish control of the Scharnhorst Line and all elements committed there to the 116.-PD and 9.-PD. Three Land Bns (1/9, 2/6, and 3/6) remained temporarily attached to 353.-ID for special assignments. (Land Bns 1/9 and 3/6 were attached to the 9.-PD two days later).
Following its arrival in the LXXXI Corps zone the anxiously awaited 394. Assault Gun Brigade (six or seven assault guns) was to assemble in the vicinity of Brand. In corps reserve, this assault gun brigade would be ready to participate on snort notice in counterattacks with both 116. and 9.-PDs. The Arty Group Aachen, composed of the artillery regiments of 116.-PD and 353.-ID and the Flak Group Aachen was placed under the command of Col Pean (Commander, 116.-P-Arty-Regt) and received orders to collaborate closely with the 49.-ID, the 116.-PD and the 9.-PD in coordinating its fire with the main effort of defense.
[- LXXXI Corps to all Divs;
at 2230 on Sep 12 44 LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
The night from the 12/13 September passed quietly. During the small hours of the morning the 8., the 12., and the 19.-LF-Bns were attached to the Kampfkommandant of Aachen in order to be committed at daybreak in a counterattack against the American penetration of the Scharnhorst Line on the Brandenberg Hill south of Aachen. At 0600 September 13, the 116.-PD and the 9.-PD assumed command of their new West Wall sectors. With some local defense units in the front line, Gen von Schwerin disengaged the organic forces of 116.-PD – badly in need of regrouping and some rest – in order to assemble them in the Richterich – Wuerselen area northeast of Aachen. That move made it impossible to commit these forces against the penetration on the Brandenberg Hill before the afternoon. In addition, if the enemy continued to advance and exploit his success, which had to be expected in any event, he could not be prevented from entering the town [Aachen] from the south by noon.
Tagesmeldungen, 116. Pz Div, Sep 13 44, LXXXI Corps KTB. -]
During the night from the 12/13 September, the city of Aachen had been in the grip of chaos. Since Gen von Schwerin was to assume control on September 13, he drove into Aachen the evening before on the way to his command post at Laurensberg. He found the population in panic. It was the picture Hitler had made all too familiar in Europe – but now, for the first time, the shoe was on the other foot. Women, with small children and babies, had loaded their last possessions on small hand carts and prams and walked into the night without having any idea where to go; they were driven only by fear and the threats of the Party that every person who did not leave the town would be shot as a traitor. Stirred by humane motivations and worried about the effect of the panic and the jammed roads on the morale and mobility of his troops, von Schwerin decided to put an immediate stop to the disorganized flight. When he sent his officers out to contact the police with orders to halt the evacuation, they returned to him with the shocking news that the entire police force and all government and Party officials had left Aachen; not one police station was occupied. Thereupon Gen von Schwerin took matters into his own hands. He sent his officers out once more to persuade the frantic populace to return to their homes. In so doing he exposed himself to the grave charge of having countermanded a Fuehrer order commanding the evacuation of Aachen. In the morning of September 13, the city was nearly calm again for the time being all signs of panic had disappeared. All buildings housing the Party and municipal administration were deserted. South of the city Kampfkommandant Col von Osterroth launched another counterattack against the American penetration at Brandenberg. Osterroth’s attempt of the night before to restore the situation had failed. The Americans were now in possession of the Bunkers 160 and 161 and were feeding additional forces into their salient. All morning attempts by the weak forces under the command of Col von Osterroth to seal off the penetration remained inconclusive.
[- (Schwerin); (7. Armee to LXXXI Corps);
1140 on Sep 13 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
As mentioned above, Gen von Schwerin’s organic forces were executing a maneuver which prevented them from participating in the fighting southwest of Aachen before late afternoon. He believed that the American penetration at the Brandenberg Hill would develop into a main effort attack against the city, and he knew that the Luftwaffe battalions would be no match for their opponents. Convinced that the Americans would have Aachen occupied in a matter of hours, von Schwerin privately thought this the best solution for the old city. After much searching through empty public buildings, von Schwerin finally found one man still at his post, an official of the telephone service. To him Gen Schwerin entrusted a letter, written in English, which the official promised to take to the commanding officer of the American forces as soon as they had occupied Aachen. The letter read as follows :
I stopped the absurd evacuation of this town; therefore, I am responsible for the fate of its inhabitants and I ask you, in the case cf an occupation by your troops, to take care of the unfortunate population in a humane way. I am the last German Commanding Officer in the sector of Aachen
In desiring to spare Aachen the terrors of becoming a battleground, von Schwerin deviated sharply from Hitler’s avowed determination to turn the city of Charlemagne into a fortified stronghold where each house would be fanatically defended to give the Allies a foretaste of what to expect inside Germany.
Meanwhile, however, the tactical situation had changed. Gradually it dawned on the Germans that the Americans were not going to exploit their opportunity to walk into Aachen but that they intended, rather, to envelop the city by driving up the Stolberg Corridor in the direction of Eschweiler. By noon on September 13, von Osterroth’s men had finally succeeded in sealing off the American salient south of Aachen. Col von Osterroth thought he could hold the line against the American tanks if the assault guns of 394.-AG-Brigage just detrained at the Aachen-Nord Railway Station could be committed against them the LXXXI Corps ordered 116.-PD to wipe out the American penetration at the Brandenberg Hill at all cost. Unwillingly von Schwerin ordered his division, which had just arrived in the Richterich – Wuerselen assembly area, to turn around, march back to the other end of Aachen and assemble there for the counterattack. Although some replacements had arrived in the morning, and the battalions had an average strength of about three hundred men, the fighting power of the division was still low. Only about thirty tanks and assault guns were operationally fit, and the troops were tired and battle weary.
[- von Osterroth;
Tagesmeldungen, 116. Pz Div, at 1315 on the 13 Sep 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
[- Rad; (LXXXI Corps to the 116. Pz Div)
at 1230 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Von Schwerin ordered the 156.-PG-Regt to march through the city while the 60.-PG-Regt bypassed Aachen on its southern periphery. At 1600, the division jumped off against the American salient at the Brandenberg Hill.
[- Tagesmeldungen: (116. Pz Div)
on 13 Sep 44, LXXI Corps KTB, Kamnfverlauf -]
It made some headway against American armored reconnaissance which had advanced to the outskirts of the city. The armor withdrew to the break in the German MLR, and 116.-PD was able to close the gap, without attempting to recapture the American-held pillboxes after darkness had set in.
[- Rad; (116. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 2235 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
[- ApB, 0100 on 14 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Anlagen, Tagesmeldungen, 1.IX. -15.X.44. Referred to hereafter as A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
Shortly after noon on the 13 September, the US 3rd Armored Division resumed its drive up the Stolberg Corridor. South of Rott the Americans cracked a number of bunkers and at 1225 achieved a penetration in the MLR. American armor advanced up the road toward Rott, filling in the antitank craters in its path.
[- 9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps;
at 1225 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Less than an hour later hour later US forces were within one mile of Rott, and 9.-PD mustered all its available forces for a counterattack to be launched from Kornelimuenster. Gen Mueller asked the LXXXI Corps Operations Officer to move all available corps reserves to Kornelimuenster.
[- Gen Mueller to LXXXI Corps;
at 1340 on 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Realizing that the Stolberg Corridor, rather than the Aachener Stadtforst [Aachen Municipal Forest south of Aachen], was the scene of the US VII Corps main effort in his sector, Gen Schack ordered 116.-PD to transfer half the assault guns of the 394.-AG-Brigade to 9.-PD at Kornelimuenster.
[- LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div;
at 1420 on the 13 Sep 44, and LXXXI Corps to the 116. Pz Div, at 1430 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
The 3rd Armored Division drive up the Stolberg Corridor was in two-pronged, with one group attacking the direction Schleckheim – Kornelimuenster, the other toward Rott and Mulartshuette. At 1630 ten American tanks appeared before Rott while other US forces had already bypassed the village and were located east thereof. Headquarters and headquarters company of 9.-PD sped to Rott in an effort to hold the line there. Other forces of the division attempted to screen off at Mulartshuette by means of obstacles and demolitions. In the early afternoon American tanks and infantry penetrated a German strong point south of Schleckheim and continued their advance toward that village.
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1630 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1730 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1420 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
A race was now on between US armor and three assault guns of 394.-AG-Brigage driving on Kornelimuenster from different directions. At 1600 eight American tanks were observed on the road from Nuetheim to Kornelimuenster. The German assault guns were expected in Kornelimuenster at 1800. They arrived on schedule, and a battalion of 9.-PD, reinforced by these three assault guns and a few 75-MM Pak AT guns which the division had picked up, began to establish a line of resistance from the northern periphery of Schleckheim via the northern edge of Nuetheim to the southern periphery of Kornelimuenster. Of the first eight US tanks, four were knocked out by Panzerfaust, but fifteen more tanks wheeled off to right and left in an effort to roll up the 9.-PD line.
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1830 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
At 1845, fifteen US tanks broke through the line of bunkers and dragons teeth at Oberforstbach, while American infantry advanced along the road north of the Aachen Reservoir (Langfeld – Nuetheim – Kornelimuenster). Five American tanks attacked the Bunker 109 on this road about halfway between the reservoir and Nuetheim. Somewhat later the Germans reported American forces before Kornelimuenster, near Mulartshuette, and in Hahn. At Rott, the HQs Company of the 9.-PD and 105.-P-Brigade launched a counter-attack in an effort to halt the American drive on Mulartshuette. German engineers hastily began to demolish all crossings over the Vicht River between Stolberg and Zweifall.
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div:
at 1915 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
At the LXXXI Corps headquarters American intentions emerged more clearly. The corps operations officer called Gen Mahlmann of the 353.-ID to inform him that the enemy will probably launch a drive bypassing Aachen from the penetration area near Kornelimuenster and Hahn, toward the second band of defenses [Schill Line]. The three Landesschuetzen battalions under the command of 353. were alerted to stand by for action. The Corps also ordered the 116.-PD to transfer the 8.-LF-Bn and one battery of artillery to 9.-PD.
[- LXXXI Corps to Gen Mahlmann;
at 2040 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 116. Pz Div;
at 2320 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
An American soldier slogs through deep mud carrying ammunition to a waiting Sherman tank of 3rd Armored Division during the battle for control of the Stolberg area, Germany, 1944.
As Sept 13 1944 drew to a close, the American advance against the LXXXI Corps sector had been checked temporarily. The salient north of Hauset was wiped out. The penetrations on both sides of Walheim had been sealed off in the line Kornelimuenster – Hahn. The southern prong of the 3rd Armored Division attack which had advanced across Rott, had been checked at Mulartshuette. The night from the 13 to the 14 September 1944 passed quietly in the entire LXXXI Corps sector. The Germans observed strong American infantry and armored forces assembling in the Schleckheim – Walheim area but found Oberforstbach unoccupied. In the southern outskirts of Aachen, American reconnaissance in the morning of the 14 September probed the 116.-PD front line at Bildchen toward Bunker 189 and Grenzhof. Then American infantry with strong artillery support jumped off against the entire division front and broke through the bunker line in many places. The bunkers were bypassed singly and fought down from flank and rear by US infantry while American tanks followed up the attack. After noon the bunkers at Bildchen and Koepfchen, southwest and south of Aachen respectively, were in American hands. The 116.-PD forces were now defending a semi circle around Aachen, from the Vaelser Quartier west of Aachen to the boundary with 9.-PD southeast of the city. Their intentions were to defend this line and to counterattack southward whenever possible.
[- Rad; (116. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 1255 on 14 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
A short time later the division was forced to admit that all attempts to regain the belt of bunkers had failed because the densely wooded terrain (Aachen Municipal Forest) made adequate tank support and artillery observation impossible. As American forces drew closer to the city, the panic in Aachen reached a new high. According to Gen von Schwerin conditions were catastrophic. No police or civil authorities had yet returned to Aachen. The old museum director of Aachen, accompanied by a few city officials who had stayed at their posts, came to see von Schwerin to tell him that a group of leading citizens had chosen him, the museum director, to form a provisional city government. The general gave orders for the evacuation to proceed, provided rail and motor transport were available, but emphasized that it would only result in clogging up vital thoroughfares. In addition to having to cope with the frantic civilian population, 116.-PD, which on September 14 assumed direct command of all German elements in its sector, also had trouble with the Luftwaffe. In total disregard of the division commander’s orders the Luftwaffe attempted to pull its AAA batteries out of Aachen. FM Gerd von Rundstedt (Commander in Chief West) himself had to interfere, reminding Luftwaffe anti-aircraft troops that they were to take orders, like everybody else, from the superior headquarters to which they were attached. Gen von Schwerin also complained that his Luftwaffe fortress battalions had a tendency to desert their positions in the face of even minor attacks.
[- LXXXI Corps to Gen von Schwerin:
at 0930, September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- Rpt, A Gp B to OB WEST
at 1200, September 14 1944, OB VWEST KTB -]
[- Rad; (116. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 1310, September 14, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
MS # B-058 (Voigtsberger). Gen Maj Heinrich Voigtsberger commanded the 60. Pz Gren Regt. When Count von Schwerin was relieved of the command of 116. Pz Div on September 15 1944, Gen Voigtsberger became acting division commander until the new commanding officer, Gen Maj Siegfried von Waldenburg, arrived on September 19 1944 -]
Gen Clarence M. Huebner, Commanding General, 1st Infantry Division, Aachen, September 1944
Early in the afternoon of September 14, strong American infantry and armored forces rolled up the bunker line from the direction of Brand, Niederforstbach and Oberforstbach. By 1500 they had gained a line extending from the Beverbach Creek via Linzenshaeuschen (on the Eupen – Aachen Road) to the Friedrichsberg Hill. The 116.-PD, attempting to hold the line from the West Wall to south of the Vaelser Quartier, from there to north of Friedrichsberg Hill – Linzenshaeuschen – the Beverbach Creek, had lost contact with the 9.-PD on its left, southeast of Aachen. The Germans noted that their opponents were employing new tactics to crack the West Wall bunkers : the Americans would launch strong infantry attacks covered by smoke screens while the tanks followed to backup the attack and to support the infantry in knocking out the bunkers one by one. The Americans made heavy use of artillery and smokescreens.
[- LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div;
at 1500 on September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Southeast of Aachen in the sector of 9.-PD, the American combat commands resumed their drive up the Stolberg Corridor in the morning of September 14. Having taken Oberforstbach and Niederforstbach, they captured Kornelimuenster at 1030 and Breinig at 1100. American tanks were observed shortly after noon continuing northeastward from Kornelimuenster toward Buesbach. About the same time the Germans reported an American tank driving from Mulartshuette northeastward toward Zweifall. A few hours later, at 1715, American infantry, tanks, and armored cars entered Zweifall. After fifteen minutes the infantry had captured the first four bunkers (Bunker 330, Bunker 334, Bunker 335, and Bunker 336) in the second band of West Wail fortifications, and the task force continued eastward through the breach in the direction of Vicht and Mausbach.
[- LXXXI Corps to 353. Inf Div;
at 1715 and at 1720 on Sepptember 14 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 2000 on September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
In view of the American breakthrough at Zweifall, the LXXXI Corps ordered the 9.-PD to take command of the second band of the West Wall along with the Landesschuetzen battalions (III/6 and 1/9) committed there. HQs 353.-ID would be disengaged to receive another assignment. Reinforced by the 3 assault guns of the 394.-AG-Brigade, the 9.-PD married these assault guns to a company of motorized infantry and committed these forces in a counterattack against the American task force driving on Mausbach. The LXXXI Corps issued strict orders to the 9.-PD to throw back the Americans before the end of the day and to regain full control of the second belt of the West Wall bunkers. The front line of the 9.-PD now extended from the southern edge of Brand – southern edge of Buesbach – east of Zweifall to the West Wall east of Roetgen. At 1800 the Germans reported that at least two hundred American tanks had assembled in Kornelimuenster. Additional columns were seen moving north from Walheim. Up front the American spearhead reached the southern outskirts of Stolberg at 2000. Apparently the Americans then decided not to continue their advance toward Stolberg and Eschweiler that evening. Instead, they worked on their encirclement of Aachen in the area between Aachen and Stolberg.
[- 9. Pz Div;
at 2030 on September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Late in the afternoon American forces broke through the 116.-PD line between the Beverbach Creek and Lindert, 2 miles west-southwest of Brand, and stabbed into the flank of the 60.-PG-Regt. The 116.-P-Rcn-Bn was committed in support of the division’s flank southeast of the Aachen Municipal Forest. American tanks and armored cars driving north from the Walheim – Oberforstbach – Niederforstbach area pushed through Brand at 1830. Less than an hour later, at 1915, American tanks captured Eilendorf and the steel plant at Rothe Erde [Red Earth] east of Aachen. The city was now ringed on three sides. The LXXXI Corps received reports that sizeable elements of 116.-PD, AAA Group Aachen and the Kampfkommandant were withdrawing to the northeast, supposedly in line with an order issued by Col von Osterroth. Gen Schack immediately ordered that all withdrawing elements be rallied and committed in a counter-attack from the Wuerselen area southward toward Rothe Erde. Contact between 116.-PD and 9.-PD was to be reestablished at all cost through the efforts of all able officers of the 116.-PD HQs. A rear area fortress engineer headquarters received orders to block the Autobahn to Cologne.
[- Gen Schack;
at 2145 on September 14 1944 LXXXI Corps KTB, Kamnpfverlauf -]
By special repeat order from Hitler Aachen was to be evacuated – if necessary, by force. The 116.-PD was ordered to support the evacuation measures by regulating traffic. The police would also be available after 0100 on September 15. They were finally returning to Aachen. The mission of the 116.-PD on September 15 was to hold the Schill Line at all cost and to make an effort to wipe outthe American penetrations at Rothe Erde and Eilendorf.
The Siegfried Line – West Wall
In spite of Gen Schack’s orders the projected counterattack against this salient had not yet been launched at daybreak. The semicircular front around Aachen remained intact from the Vaelser Quartier to Steinebrueck in the morning of September 15 but buckled just east of Steinebrueck when American infantry and armor pushed the 116.-P-Rcn-Bn back to the railroad leading out of Aachen northeast of Burtscheid. Reinforced by the MG-34 Bn which had been rallied after an earlier attempt to withdraw, the reconnaissance battalion established a defense line along this railway embankment. The attackers did not immediately attempt to break through this line. The Americans devoted a large part of the day to the concentration of strong forces in the area south of Burtscheid. Judging from the movements they observed and from American artillery fire, the Germans estimated that at least one infantry division was assembling south of Aachen.
[- Tagesmeldungen 116. Pz Div;
at 2100 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB -]
East of the city, in and south of Eilendorf, American tanks and motor transport also continued to assemble until, according to German estimate, US forces there had been brought up to the strength of about one armored division. In view of the American build-up the Germans expected that VII Corps would launch its all-out attack against Aachen on September 16. Although ground operations seem to have been limited to reconnaissance while this build-up south and east of Aachen was in progress, American artillery subjected Aachen and suburbs to heavy fire. The West Wall bunkers north and the south of the Aachen – Stolberg road in particular received strong rocket projector fire.
[- Tagesmeldungen LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div;
at 0915 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
At 1530 on September 15, American infantry began to infiltrate the bunker line south of Rothe Erde in the direction of the Geisberg Hill. The Landesschuetzen battalion there abandoned its positions, but seven German assault guns held the line behind the pillboxes. At 1700, American forces jumped off in simultaneous attacks from the Buschhaus toward Burtscheid, and from Eilendorf north and northeast in the direction of Verlautenheide and the Geisberg Hill. The defenders were able to repulse both attacks. Thirty American tanks rolling northward from Eilendorf were forced to withdraw in the face of concentrated German artillery fire; the Germans claimed the destruction of two US tanks.
[- LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div:
at 1718 on September 15 1944 -]
[- KTB, Kampfverlauf. 116. Pz Div;
at 2100 on September 15, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldung -]
In turning back the American drive on the Aachen suburb of Burtscheid, the Germans had narrowly prevented the invader from venturing into the streets of the old Imperial City for the first time. To the 116.-PD Gen Schack relayed the Hitler order demanding the fanatic defense of Fortress Aachen : In the event of an enemy penetration of Aachen, each and every house will be defended. A strategic withdrawal from the southern to the northern periphery of tne city is out of the question.
[- LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div:
at 1718 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
Shortly after midnight, on September 15, Gen Schack had repeated his order to the 9.-PD that the Americans must be forced out of the second band of West Wall bunkers near Mausbach at all cost. During the remaining hours of darkness the 9.-PD made such preparations for the counterattack as it was capable of. One replacement battalion was en route to the division; in addition 10 tanks were moving up to the front. In the small hours of the morning the Landesschuetzen battalion committed on the division’s southern wing (probably 1/9) abandoned its positions; it was necessary to move up another battalion (probably the 328. Repl Trg Bn) from Schevenhuette in order to plug the gap.
[- LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div;
at 0015 on September 15, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; -]
[- Rad, (9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 0353 on September 15, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
The division launched its attack against the American salient at dawn and was able to drive away US armor south of Mausbach. Some bunkers were apparently recaptured in the first assault; two bunkers remained in American hands. Two hours later the division headquarters had no news on the outcome of the counter thrust toward Vicht and Zweifall other than the report that the two bunkers south of Mausbach had not been captured yet. For the third time the LXXXI Corps ordered : the 9.-PD armor will attack the enemy and throw him back behind the West Wall. There is no time to lose. In the early afternoon the division was able to report that as a result of its counterattack all bunkers of the MLR from northeast of Buesbach to Zweifall were once more in German hands. An American attack on Buesbach had been repulsed by four tanks of the 105.-P-Brigade and four assault guns of the division’s AT company committed there earlier in the day. The German success, however, was very short lived. Throughout the day the 9.-PD had watched the American build-up with growing apprehension. In the early morning the division had expressed concern about the assembly of two hundred US tanks in Kornelimuenster to which more were steadily being added. At 1500, a German runner reported a concentration of eighty US tanks in Breinig.
[- LXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div;
at 0015 and 1500 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]