VII Corps, Breaching the Siegfried Line (September 1944)

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In the early afternoon the German attack bogged down in the face of the American artillery preparation. Under the heavy American artillery, tank, and mortar fire the division sustained serious losses and was unable to execute any movements. The Germans sensed that the American attack was imminent. At 1550 on September 15, American tanks and infantry jumped off from their assembly area at Breinig and headed for Mausbach. A furious battle ensued in which the Americans lost six tanks, but were finally able to capture Mausbach and the Weissenberg Hill. An attempt to continue the drive was stopped by a German counterattack launched from Gressenich. At 1600 the Americans threw a second punch against 9.-PD. Forty tanks jumped off from the Eilendorf – Brander Forest assembly area and rolled east. Fifteen minutes later they faced the German obstacle wall. Although they were unable to achieve a penetration there, the 9.-PD – had to report that : our infantry was smashed in the Mausbach area and in the east of Eilendorf. On the extreme left, southern wing of 9.-PD, where the 328.-RT-Bn had occupied the Scharnhorst Line, American forces also achieved a penetration at 1730 and captured one strong point. In the right and central sectors of the 9.-PD weak organic elements of the division, the 105.-P-Brigade, and two training battalions (the 473.-RT-Bn and March Bn Zorn) held the second belt of the West Wall fortifications except for the American penetrations east of Eilendorf and at Mausbach.

[- Tagesmeldungen. 9. Pz Div
at 1910 on September 15 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps
at 2100 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB -]

In the 116.-PD and 9.-PD sectors the front lines had not changed much over the previous day. Nevertheless, fighting had been extremely bitter on September 15, and both sides had suffered heavy losses. The 9.-PD alone had accounted for forty-two US tanks. The Germans had also sustained serious casualties. Army Group B issued an order for all battle worthy elements of 9.-PD still in the assembly area at St Wendel to move up to the front immediately.

[- A Gp B
at 1345 on September 16 1944, A Gp B KTB, LetzteMeldung -]
[- 7. Armee to LXXXI Corps
(relaying Order, A Gp B to 7. Armee), at 2340 on September 15 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeres-gruppe, Armee -]

The LXXXI Corps Situation in Mid-September 1944
The following study of the German situation in the LXXXI Corps sector omits mention of the 275.-ID and the 49.-ID. Although subordinate to the LXXXI Corps, these divisions did not participate in operations against the US VII Corps at this time. Several days later, the 275.-ID was shifted to the southern wing of the LXXXI Corps to plug a gap between the LXXXI and the LXXIV Corps. The division will be described when it enters into this story. On September 16 1944, the organic fighting forces of 116.-PD consisted of the 50.-PG-Regt, the 156.-PG-Regt and the 116.-P-Rcn-Bn, a total of 5 battalions with a combat strength of roughly 1600 men.

The term combat strength is employed here in translation of the German Kampfstaerke, defined to include only men actually engaged in the fighting or in immediate support of front line fighters forward of a battalion command post. The term Gefechtsstaerke, rendered as fighting strength, applies to all men who fight or support fighters forward of a regimental headquarters. See : Gen Order Nr. 1/2000/44 g., 25 Apr 44, OKH/Gen St d H/Org Abt.

In addition the the 12.-LF-Bn and the 19.-LF-Bn, the 453.-GT-Bn, and possibly other elements were attached to the division. The 302.-IT-Bn, en route to the front, was about to join these forces under the command of 116.-PD. Division armor on September 16 was reduced to two Mark IV tanks and one Panther (Mark V). The division had one assault gun left; four assault guns of the 394.-Assault-Gun-Brigade were attached. Five assault guns of the 217.-Assault-Gun-Brigade and elements of the 902.-Assault-Gun-Brigade were en route to the division. In other anti-tank weapons the division possessed nine 75-MM Pak AT guns, of which one was self-propelled. Five additional 75-MM Pak AT guns were said to be en route from Koenigsberg in East Prussia. The 116.-Panzer-Artillery-Regt had three batteries of 150-MM howitzers and one battery of 105-MM howitzers. Two other 150-MM howitzer batteries were attached – the 2. Btry, 992.-Artillery-Regt and the 3d Btry, 997.-Artillery-Regt.

[- Tabulation of Armored Vehicles, 116.-PD
on Sep 16 1944, and Weekly Strength Report as of 1200 on Sep 16 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps to 7. Armee
Sep 22 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
[- Tabulation of Tanks and Antitank Weapons
LXXXI Corps, 2200 on Sep 17 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B
Sep 16 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw -]
[- FM Model to CofS, 7. Armee
1350 on Sep 16 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps to Cmdr 13. Luft Fort Bn
1850 on Sep 17 1944, and Sep 17 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]

The 116.PD also expected the 13.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Bn and the 107.-Pz-Bn. The latter, though intended for the Aachen sector, was shifted instead to the Arnhem – Nijmegen area when Operation Market-Garden got underway. As for the 13.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Bn (645 men), it was either never attached to 116.-PD despite orders, or remained with that division for only a few days before appearing on the roster of units of 9.-PD.

Since its arrival in the LXXXI Corps area Gen Mueller’s 9.-PD had been reinforced by additional organic units as well as by the attachment of miscellaneous other forces. On September 15 1944 the committed organic strength of 9.-PD consisted of the Battalion Schemm made up of the remaining elements of the 10. and the 11.-PG-Regts. This battalion had a combat strength of 5 officers and 136 enlisted men.

Schemm seems to have been the commander of 11.-Pz-Gren-Regt

Between Sept 11 and Sept 15 1944 the following infantry battalions had been attached to 9.-PD :

    HQs 253. Grenadier Training Regiment
    328. Replacement Training Battalion
    473. Replacement Training Battalion
    Landesschuetzen Battalion I/9
    Landesschuetzen Battalion III/6
    8. Luftwaffe Fortress Battalion
    Replacement Battalion Nagel
    Replacement Battalion Zorn
    547. Security Battalion (Remaining Elements)

Of organic armor and antitank forces the 9.-PD had the 2.-Co or the 33.-Panzer-Regiment, with 15 Panthers (of which only 8 were operationally fit), and elements of the 50.-Aantitank-Bn with 6 assault guns and about 15 75-MM Pak AT guns. Attached were remaining elements of 105.-Panzer-Brigade with 5 Panthers and 3 assault guns, the 105.-Panzer-Grenadier-Bn, and 3 assault guns of the 394.-Assault-Gun-Brigade. In addition the 9.-PD expected 6 assault guns of the 217.-Assault-Gun-Brigade and 10 tanks which were supposedly en route to Dueren. The organic artillery of 9.-PD consisted of 2 batteries of 150-MM howitzers, the 2nd Bn of the 102.-Panzer-Artillery-Regiment with 3 batteries of 5 105-MM howitzers each, + 1 reinforced battery of the 287.-Flak-Battalion with 1 88-MM, 3 37-MM and 3 20-MM AA guns, 2 of which were quadruple-mounted. Attached to the 9.-Pz-Div-Artillery were 1 battery of the 12.-SS-PD with 5 105-MM howitzers and the 490.-Heavy-Howitzer-Battalion – 3 batteries with a total of 9 150-MM howitzers. As for engineer forces, the 2. Co, 16.-Panzer-Engineer-Battalion was attached to 9.-PD.

[- Strength Rpts, 9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps
16 and 21 Sep 44, and Comments on Strength Report of 9. Pz Div -]
[- LXXXI Corps G-3 Off, 16 Sep 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
[- Tabulation of Tanks and AT Weapons, LXXXI Corps, 2200 on 17 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Report, Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw.; LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div, 1500 on 15 Sep 44, and FM Model to CofS, 7.Armee, 1350 on 16 Sep 44, and 17 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; TWX (Weekly Strength Report as of 1200 on 16 Sep 44), LXXXI Corps to 7. Armee, 22 Sep 44, and Tabulation of Armored Vehicles, LXXXI Corps, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. usw.; TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 2350 on 22 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations-Befehle -]

Young-German-POW-1944

Troops_of_US_504th_Parachute_Infantry_Regiment_move_thru_Aachen_Germany_1944

US_Soldiers_Advance_through_the_streets_of__Weisweiler_Germany_1944

To sum up : on September 15 1944 the 9.-PD with attached units had an infantry combat strength of roughly 2500 men, approximately 200 machine guns, 13 Panther tanks, 12 assault guns, about 15 75-MM Pak AT guns, 15 150-MM howitzers, 20 105-MM howitzers, 1 88-MM, 3 37-MM and 3 20-MM AAA guns. As a result of the highly inadequate signal communications, the frontage of 9.-PD had proved too wide for effective exercise of command. To remedy this condition the LXXXI Corps committed HQs 353.-ID with 2 companies of Landesschuetzen (possibly Landesschuetzen Bn II/6) in the southern half of the 9.-PD sector. The new boundary between thz 9.-PD and the 353.-ID extended from Schevenhuette – Jaegerfahrt (north of Zweifall) – Vennwegen – Hahn – Schmidthof to Raeren. In the south the new sector of 353.-ID was defined by the boundary between the LXXXI and the LXXIV Corps. For the defense of this sector some elements of 9.-PD were attached to 353.- ID : HQs of the 253.-Grenadier-Training-Regt under Col Feind with the 328.-Replacement-Training-Bn, Replacement Bn Nagel, remaining elements of the almost completely smashed Landesschuetzen Bn I/9 and of the 547. Security-Bn, a heavy weapons company, about 8 75-MM AT guns and one battery of 3 150-MM howitzers. With these forces the combat strength of 353.-ID rose to roughly 700 men. The 9.-PD was left with a combat strength of 56 officers and 1941 enlisted men, organized in two Kampfgruppen under the command,respectively, of Maj Volker and Col Max Sperling (presumably commander of 33.-Panzer-Regt). The rear area functions of 353.-ID were assumed by Gruppe Jungklaus, a rear area headquarters subordinate to the LXXXI Corps, with orders to rally all stragglers in the communications zone and to begin work on a blocking line between the Geilenkirchen – Rheydt Rail Line and the left boundary of the LXXXI Corps – the Roer Position or Schlieffen Line.

[- LXXI Corps to Gruppe Jungklaus
1830 on 15 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]

Late in the evening of September 15, Gen Schack received the cheering news that the first elements of 12.-ID would arrive at Juelich and Dueren during the night and that the transport of the entire division would be completed some 30 hours later. The LXXXI Corps ordered the division to assemble in the Aldenhoven – Pattern – Inden – Lamersdorf – Eschweiler – Laurensberg area. As elements of the division arrived, they were to be readied immediately so as to be available at any time for counterattacks in a southerly and southwesterly direction. Corps, however, assured Col Gerhard Engel that there was no intention to commit his division before it was fully assembled, unless developments compelled a piecemeal commitment of these forces.

[- Col Gerhard Engel, Commander of the 12. Infantry Division, was military adjutant to Hitler from 1937 until 1944. In 1944 he joined the 12. Infantry Division to command the 27. Fusilier Regiment and then rose to the position of division commander. At war’s end he had attained the rank of brigadier general. -]

0001-Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-J28344,_Westfront,_Grenadiere_gehen_bei_Aachen_vor

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Arriving among the exhausted and understrength forces of LXXXI Corps, the 12.-ID made a deep impression on both military and civilian population. Here was the first full-strength, rested and fresh division, composed of young, healthy and well-trained men, that the Germans in the West had seen in a long time. The appearance of this division greatly boosted the morale of the troops and the civilians in the area. Organized along the lines of a Type 1944 Infantry Division, the 12.-Infantry-Division numbered 14800 men, of whom roughly one quarter (about 3,800 men) were combat strength. This infantry strength was divided among the 27.-Fusilier-Regiment, the 48. and the 89.-Grenadier-Regiments, and the 12.-Fusilier-Battalion. The division was fully equipped except for its twenty authorized assault guns (FM Model ordered 17 assault guns of 102.-Assault-Gun-Brigade attached to 12.-ID). The 12.-Artillery-Regiment had its authorized strength of 9 batteries of 105-MM howitzers and 3 batteries of 150-MM howitzers. The division’s antitank battalion possessed 12 75-MM Pak AT guns. In view of the desperate situation in the Aachen area, FM von Rundstedt had requested the 12.-ID be moved at top speed. Thanks to this priority and the prevailing misty, rainy weather the division had been able to travel across Germany (from East Prussia to the Aachen area) undetected and un-attacked by Allied aircraft and had thus maintained intact the all important element of surprise. In his Order for the Conduct of Operations and Order of Battle in the West Wall of September 16 1944, Gen Brandenberger wrote :

    The enemy is expected to continue to make his main effort in the penetration area east of Aachen […] The 7. Armee will defend the positions from northeast of Maastricht to Aachen and the West Wall to the last man and the last bullet. The penetrations achieved by the enemy will be wiped out. The forward line of bunkers, the Scharnhorst Line, will be regained.

Specifically the mission of LXXXI Corps was two fold. First, its forces were to wipe out American penetrations of the Schill Line east of Aachen. This achieved, the Germans would counter-attack on a large scale to throw US forces out of the area eastand south of Aachen and to regain full control of the Scharnhorst Line. For this purpose the 12.-ID had been attached to the LXXXI Corps. For greater effectiveness the the LXXXI Corps sector was shortened : the 353.-ID with attached elements was now subordinated to LXXIV Corps so that the new boundary line between the two corps extended now from Eupen via Zweifall and Dueren to Cologne. Thus on September 16 opposite US VII Corps Gen Schackhad at his disposal 116. and 9.-PDs and the elements of 12.-ID now arriving in the area. After the 12.-ID was fully committed, intentions were for the 116.-PD to be disengaged and assembled around Eschweiler as corps reserve. Then the 9.-PD also would be relieved and assembled in the area southeast of Dueren at the disposal of 7. Armee.

the-siegfried-line-7-638

LCXXI Corps Counterattack and Stalemate
After a strong artillery preparation during the night 15/16 Sep 1944 American forces infiltrated the 116.-PD lines south of Verlautenheide in the morning of September 16 and achieved a penetration by capturing several bunkers just south of the village. The division charged bitterly, “Local defense units and stragglers committed in West Wall fortifications have no combat value, no ability to stand their ground”. While the Americans pushed into Verlautenheide and captured the village, another US armored force jumped off from south of Eilendorf and drove eastward into Atsch at 0515. In the Stolberg Corridor American tanks and infantry assembled during the night between Mausbach and Diepenlinchen while heavy American artillery fire hit the area north of Mausbach and the vicinity of Eschweiler. The Germans also reported American tanks southwest of Schevenhuette and at a hunting lodge south of Zweifall (LXXIV Corps). From these signs the Germans predicted a very wide push north and northeastward at daybreak aimed toward Eschweiler. At Mausbach and on the Weissenberg Hill there was little American ground activity during the morning. The Germans stopped some reconnaissance patrols probing northeastward from Mausbach toward Werth and Gressenich. Early in the morning of September 16 the eagerly awaited first elements of 12.-ID arrived. The situation was now too critical for the LXXXI Corps to keep its promise to Col Engel to give him an opportunity for assembling his entire division before it was committed. In view of the American penetration in the area of Verlautenheide and Atsch and the imminently expected drive on Eschweiler, Gen Schack ordered the 27.-Fus-Regt to go into action straight from the railroad station. As soon as its 1st Bn and AT company had detrained at Juelich, they were moved to the Verlautenheide area by all military and civilian means of transport available – personnel carriers, mail trucks, buses, and the like. The 3. Battalion, arriving in Dueren, received orders to move from Eschweiler to the edge of the woods southwest of Schwarzenbruch in the Wuerseler Forest. The 12.-ID artillery was not expected until 2200 on September 16. Until then the 27.-Fusiliers had to rely on cooperation with the 9. and the 116.-PDs’ artillery.

In the sector of 116.-PD the counterattack of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt took the US VII Corps forces by surprise and was successful. The 1. Bn pushed the American spearhead out of Verlautenheide and captured the strategically important high ground around this village. The battalion continued its drive toward Eilendorf and recaptured most of the bunkers along the Verlautenheide – Eilendorf road. Before reaching Eilendorf, however, the attack bogged down in the face of American resistance. Shortly after noon on September 16, the Americans resumed their drive toward Eschweiler. A two-pronged attack from west and south converged on Buesbach, capturing the village. American forces exerted pressure against the Stolberg area with attacks on Hamm, Schneidmuehle, Muensterbusch and the southern outskirts of Stolberg itself. From the salient at Mausbach and at thez Weissenberg Hill US armor jumped off in a northerly and northeasterly direction. In bitter tank battles which lasted throughout the afternoon VII Corps forces achieved their deepest penetration of the Stolberg Corridor to date when they captured Diepenlinchen and Gressenich, Krewinkel and Schevenhuette. The 3. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt had moved rapidly through Eschweiler toward the endangered Stolberg area. The battalion captured Atsch at 1330. Continuing south, the battalion was able to regain control of Buesbach – but only for a few hours. By evening Buesbach was once more American. In the face of the strong American assault in the Stolberg Corridor the forces of the 27.-FR did not suffice to re-establish a coherent German front from Stolberg to Zweifall and to wipe out the American bridgeheads across the Vicht River. The big German counter thrust had to wait until the 12.-ID could move its own artyllery and its other two infantry regiments into the combat area. In the meantime the 27.-FR could do no more than seal off the latest American penetrations with the aid of the remaining elements of 9.-PD. In view of the very critical situation in this sector German forces were consolidated under one command renamed Kampfgruppe Sperling, the remaining elements of 9.-PD temporarily lost their division status. Effective 2000 on September 16, KG Sperling was attached to the 12.-ID with the prevision that its forces would be released once 12.-ID was fully committed.

[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 1725 on Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- Order, LXXXI Corps to all divs
at 2000 on Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
Report, Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B, Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw.
There was another motive for attaching the elements of 9. Panzer Division to 12. Infantry Division. In the morning of September 16 1944. Gen Brandenberger had visited the 9. Panzer Division command post and had asked routine questions regarding the German G-2 estimate of the American situation in the division sector, the location of the 9. Panzer Division front lines, disposition and strength of 9. Panzer Division forces, etc. In attempting to answer these questions Gen Mueller revealed himself as ignorant of the situation in his own sector, whereupon Gen Brandenberger relieved him of his command on a charge of incompetence. The senior regimental commander, Col Max Sperling, assumed command of 9. Panzer Division until evening of September 16. In this study the designation 9.-PD will continue to be used in reference to these units.

Col Engel now commanded the former sector of 9.-PD from the Verlautenheide area to the LXXXI Corps southern boundary. By capturing the strategic high ground of Verlautenheide, the 12.-ID had established a coherent front on its right and had firm contact with 116.-PD. On the left, however, the German flank lay exposed all the way to Schevenhuette. The most important immediate task was to establish contact with the northern wing of 353.-ID in the Zweifall – Huertgen area. The combat mission of 12.-ID was to launch a major counterattack from the Eschweiler – Wenau line to regain the second band of West Wall fortifications from Geisberg Hill to Zweifall. South of Aachen, minor American attacks toward the city on September 16 were warded off by the 60.-Panzer-Grenadier-Regt. A small American penetration south of Steinebrueck was wiped out when the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn counterattacked late in the day and recaptured two bunkers. Police and Party had returned to Aachen during the night from the 14 to 15 September, and the evacuation was once more in full swing. Gen von Schwerin was in big trouble. When US forces had failed to capture the city contrary to his expectation his compromising letter to the American commander had fallen into the hands of Nazi officials. Because of both this letter and his effort to stop the chaotic exodus from Aachen, von Schwerin was relieved of his command and ordered to stand trial before Hitler’s People’s Court. Rather than comply, von Schwerin decided to remain with his division until the fall of Aachen. He felt that his men would know how to protect him against Nazi henchmen.

While his senior regimental commander, Gen Voigtsberger, assumed the duties of division commander until the arrival of Gen von Waldenburg von Schwerin hid out in a farmer’s home in Kohlscheid, northeast of Laurensberg. The reconnaissance platoon of 60. Panzer Grenadier Regiment surrounded the farmhouse with a cordon of machine guns. No police detachment trying to arrest their division commander would have escaped alive. When the capture of Aachen did not materialize, Gen von Schwerin finally decided to present himself at 7. Armee headquarters to appear before a military court.

[- FM Model to OB WEST
2330 on Sep 15 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations-Befehle -]
[- G-1 to G-3, LXXXI Corps
1045 on Sep 16 44 -]
[- 7. Armee to LXXXI Corps
1945 on Sep 17 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- Gen Lt Graf Gerhard von Schwerin; (Schwerin) Apparently FM von Rundstedt interceded on General von Schwerin’s behalf and even proposed – in vain – that the latter be reinstated as Commanding General of 116.-PD. After some months in the OK Officer Pool [doghouse], von Schwerin was appointed Commanding Officer of 90.-Panzer-Grenadier-Division and later Commanding General of LXXVI Panzer Corps in Italy -]

Early in the morning of September 17 the 27.-Fusilier-Regt of the 12.-ID, committed in the Verlautenheide – Stolberg area, resumed its attack to regain the West Wall positions southeast of Eilendorf. In this endeavor the regiment failed. After gaining insignificant ground and recapturing a few bunkers, the regiment bogged down in the face of heavy American artillery fire and suffered considerable casualties. It also ran short of ammunition and was forced to assume a defensive role for the rest of the day. In the defense it was more successful. Its 1. Battalion strengthened the contact with 116.-PD at Verlautenheide, while the 3. Battalion, on the left, came to the aid of the remaining elements of 9.-PD and 105.-Pz-Brigade who had orders to hold Stolberg at all cost. Between Verlautenheide and Stolberg the 27.-Fusilier-Regt, 9.-PD and 105.-Pz-Brigade repulsed all American attacks launched from the Eilendorf area on September 17 and thus enabled the other regiments of 12.-ID to carry out their counter thrust against the Mausbach salient without danger to their right flank. During the morning hours of September 17 first the 48.-Grenadier-Regt and shortly afterwards the 89.-Grenadier-Regt detrained in Dueren. With these forces the 12.-ID was supposed to recapture Mausbach and to restore a coherent German front from Stolberg to Zweifall. The 89.-Grenadier-Regt received orders to assemble southeast of Eschweiler and to launch its attack via Hastenrath – Scherpenseel toward Werth, the Weissenberg Hill and Diepenlinchen. The mission of 48.-Grenadier-Regt was to move through Heistern – Venau – Hamich, and to jump off from Hamich toward Gressenich and Krewinkel, capture Mausbach and reach the Stolberg – Vicht road.

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According to orders, the 48.-Grenadier-Regt jumped off from Hamich and captured Gressenich, holding it against immediate American counterattacks from the direction of Schevenhuette. The battalion on the left attacked toward Krewinkel but ran into determined resistance and developed a temporary ammunition shortage so that it was forced to halt its attack. The battalion on the right, driving toward the Mausbach – Diepenlinchen line, had a stroke of unusually good luck. At a point halfway between Mausbach and Diepenlinchen it smashed into the flank of an American attack launched from Mausbach apparently in the general direction of Eschweiler. Coming from an unexpected direction the assault took the Americans by surprise. The 48.-Grenadier-Regt was able to knock out 9 US tanks and to capture fifty-seven Americans including one colonel (a regimental commander, according to German sources). But after achieving this success the German attack bogged down just east of Diepenlinchen in the face of tenacious American resistance. The 89.-Grenadier-Regt had meanwhile launched its attack from the Hastenrath – Scherpenseel area. Instead of waiting for only all its forces to assemble there, it umped off at noon with one battalion in order to meet the threatening American drive on Eschweiler. The battalion pushed south through Werth; in exceedingly bitter fighting it captured the Weissenberg Hill at 1330 and reached the eastern periphery of Diepenlinchen an hour later. There it also encountered such strong American resistance that its attack bogged down.

In view of strong American pressure from Krewinkel and probably also the threat to its left flank from Schevenhuette and the Wenau Forest (US 9th Infantry Division), the 12.-ID decided to shift its weight from right to left and to make its main effort through Krewinkel rather than through Diepenlinchen. Permission was asked and granted to call off the attack while the German forces regrouped. By this time the 2. Bn of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt and additional artillery and antitank forces had arrived on the battlefield. Thus reinforced the Germans resumed their attack at dusk. The main effort drive on the left pushed through the Krewinkel woods into Krewinkel, while on the right the forces pressing south from the Weissenberg Hill and the vicinity of Diepenlinchen penetrated the northern part of Mausbach. This achieved, the 12.-ID halted for the night.

On September 18, the 27.-Fusilier-Regt was to continue its efforts to capture additional bunkers near Muensterbusch, while the 89.-Grenadier-Regt, which had suffered heavy casualties, would regroup and hold its line. The day’s events proved that 12.-ID would not find it easy to dislodge the Americans from their salient beyond the Schill Line, once they had recovered from the initial surprise of being hit by unexpectedly formidable German forces, the Americans lost no time before launching powerful, well supported counterattacks. After American artillery had shot the Germans out of Mausbach and Diepenlinchen during the night, two American task forces launched an attack at midnight from the Mausbach area toward Stolberg, while a hail of artillery fire pounded the 1. Bn of 48.-Grenadier-Regt east of Mausbach with apparent intent to secure the American right flank.

US forces advanced to the southern and southeastern outskirts of Stolberg. They captured the Hammerberg Hill, Burgholzerhof, and the West Wall bunkers along the Vicht River as far as Dinsfeld at 0400 and continued their drive toward the Donnerberg Hill. Another US combat command jumped off toward Stolberg from the Brander Forest and drove as far as the church in Muensterbusch, just west of Stolberg. Perceiving the threatening double envelopment of Stolberg, Col Engel decided not to continue the Mausbach – Krewinkel attack (which no longer looked like an easy thing, anyway) in the morning of September 18, but rather to shift his main effort against the Americans driving on Stolberg. The LXXXI Corps immediately approved his new intentions. As a result German resistance in the Stolberg area stiffened. Though the Germans were unable to gain more than insignificant ground, they successfully stopped all American attacks. During the morning the 27.-Fusilier-Regt repulsed a minor American attack against Verlautenheide, while German artillery hit US positions on the Geisberg Hill. The American drive on the Donnerberg Hill was thrown back with heavy losses; the German counterattack recaptured two bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. The Germans in Stolberg also repulsed an American attack against the southern periphery of the town at 1200, but not before some streets of Stolberg had become a battleground for the first time.

[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 1500 on Sep 18 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; LXXXI Corps
at 1625 on Sep 18 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]

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Stolberg-Corridor-sept-1944-01

Photos above (a) Diepenlinchen, September 1944, (b) Diepenlinchen, September 1944, (c) Stolberg and the Corridor. Photos made during the battle by Capt Metcalfe. Source : (36thair3ad.homestead.com)

Near Diepenlinchen on September 18, American forces badly mauled the 89.-Grenadier-Regt. Its 1. Bn had orders to attack through Diepenlinchen and penetrate the woods west of that village. Earlier in the morning strong American forces had moved into Diepenlinchen after US artillery had swept the Germans out of there. The 1. Bn suffered very heavy casualties in the face of the American batteries. After a bitter battle the Germans succeeded in capturing Diepenlinchen again, but under murderous artillery fire their attack bogged down just west of the village. Relentless American fire reduced the 1. Bn of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt to one hundred men, about a fifth of its initial combat strength. At 1730, an American counterattack was able to capture Diepenlinchen once more. An American attack from Schevenhuette toward Gressenich was repulsed.

[- LXXXI Corps, at 2100, Sep 18 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- A Gp B, at 0200 Sep 19 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]

According to MSS # A-971 (Engel) and B-816 (Schack) the 2. Bn of the 48.-Grenadier-Regt launched an attack toward Schevenhuette just before dawn on September 18 and surprised American troops there just as they were being relieved by new forces. Thus the Germans were able to capture Schevenhuette in furious house-to-house and hand-to-hand fighting. By an immediate counterattack, however, the Americans surrounded the two German companies in Schevenhuette; the Germans dug in but were unable to hold out. After suffering heavy losses, they finally fought their way back to their own lines. By evening Schevenhuette was in American hands again and continued to threaten the flank of 12.-ID. The story of the above operation has been relegated to this footnote because the writer entertains serious doubt as to whether it ever took place. It seems highly probable that Generals Schackand and Engel, on whose postwar accounts this story is based, confused it with a very similar operation which definitely took place on Sep 22 1944. The German contemporary documents contain no record of any German operations in Schevenhuette on September 18 beyond one solitary hint, in one document, of a later date, which speaks of […] losses sustained in Schevenhuette on September 18 […] But for this single straw, the writer would have simply dismissed the story as one of many historical inaccuracies to be found in the German postwar accounts and it may well be just that !

Aachen-Vicinity-Map

In the evening of September 18, the 12. Infantry Division front line extended from the southern periphery of Verlautenheide – Hamm, the western edge of Stolberg – the Hammerberg Hill – Niederhof – the Weissenberg Hill – Gressenich. By evening the division had also assembled its fusilier battalion and its engineer battalion. The attack on Diepenlinchen would continue – “perhaps a regrouping period of twenty-four hours will be required first”. Late in the evening of September 18, the Germans outlined their plan for further operations against the Mausbach salient. Since Stolberg was the key to the 12.-ID operations, all elements of the 9.-PD would be committed against the American forces which had penetrated the factory areas north and west of Stolberg. After careful reconnaissance the 12.-ID engineer battalion would jump off at daybreak on September 20 1944 through the woods toward Schevenhuette. With both flanks (Stolberg and Schevenhuette) thus secured, both battalions of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt were to attack southwestward across Diepenlinchen. The Fusilier Battalion supported by 10 Panthers would proceed southeast from the Stolberg area and wheel into the West Wall toward Mausbach. Then all forces were to converge and attack along the West Wall (Vicht River) toward Zweifall.

On the Aachen front American forces made no serious attacks toward the city on the 17 and 18 September. Aside from minor attacks at Steinebrueck and Burtscheid, which were repulsed by the 116.-PD, they contented themselves with an almost ceaseless barrage of artillery fire against German positions in and around the city. The scene of American operations against the 116.-PD was shifting northward where the US XIX Corps was engaged in its effort to envelop Aachen from the north. The division’s armor situation was improved on September 18 by the addition of 15 assault guns of the 902.-Assault-Gun-Brigade. The division also counted a new American jeep among its vehicles – a German prisoner of war had escaped his captors in the stolen jeep. No doubt the man was cock of the walk in his company that day. The events of September 19 1944 – similar to many days of fighting on the Western Front – were shaped by the fact that the Germans were in the habit of attacking early in the morning, while the Americans chose the afternoon to launch their operations. The main actions of the day took place in the Stolberg area. At 1100, forces of the 9.-PD and the 12.-ID were able to recapture the factory belt west of Stolberg as well as three bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill southeast of that town. Sporadic fighting in the area continued past noon.

Shortly thereafter the Americans began the usual very heavy artillery preparation signaling their impending attack. The American operation in the afternoon of September 19 was two-pronged and aimed at an envelopment of Stolberg. On the [American] left strong infantry and armor jumped off from a Muensterbusch – Buesbach base line in a northeasterly direction toward Stolberg. This attack succeeded in recapturing the factory area and in achieving some penetrations in the western part of Stolberg proper. On the [American] right other US forces launched their attack from the woods northwest of Mausbach and captured Niederhof, Burgholzerhof and some bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. In the face of heavy American artillery fire ranging as far as Hastenrath elements of one of the 12. Infantry Division battalion and 6 Panthers launched a flanking counterattack from the woods southwest of Hastenrath and drove down the road via Hochwegerhof toward Niederhof.

[- LXXXI Corps to the 12. Inf Div
at 1800 and 2010 on Sep 19 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps, at 2215 on Sep 19 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]

KT-OFF-Elsdorf-Aachen

1st/Sergeant Walter Petrovich standing in front of a knocked out German Panther tank with an American jeep in the background. According to historian and author Timm Haasler : this picture is showing Panther 132 of 105.-Panzer-Brigade which was lost in September 1944 in Münsterbusch west of Stolberg. The tank was under the command of 1/Lt Crisandt, the company commander of the 1. Company on the day when it was damaged by tanks of the US 3rd Armored Division. With no chance to recover the tank, Crisandt blew up his tank and managed to reach the German lines together with his crew. Crisandt later died during the Battle of the Bulge as a company commander of 33.-Panzer-Regt, 9.-Panzer-Division.

GermanArmorKIA

Another German Tiger I tank out of action in Elsdorf, Germany (September 1944)

This counterattack apparently was less than successful, for during the night American troops supported by 5 tanks were able to extend their gains northeastward when they captured Hochwegerhof (about one mile north of Diepenlinchen) at 0200 on September 20. West of Stolberg, on the other hand, the see-saw battle continued : late in the evening of September 19 German troops managed to retake three bunkers. Two of these were located near the railroad running along the southeastern edge of the Wuerselen Forest (just east of Hamm and Kohlbusch) while the third was at the western end of that forest. The Aachen sector was rather quiet on September 19. Early in the morning, the 116.-PD reported increased American reconnaissance activity northwest of Rothe Erde, but aside from that the Americans artillery limited themselves to harassing fire against the German MLR and rear areas for the remainder of the day. All day on September 19 the fate of the 12.-ID counterattack, planned for the morrow, hung in the balance. For one thing, the division faced a serious ammunition shortage. Delivery of at least 6,100 rounds of 105-MM ammunition was essential before the division could carry out its projected attack. Since LXXXI Corps was unable to supply this ammunition, it turned to the 7. Armee for help. The army transport officer reported that an ammunition supply train was expected at Dueren during the night from the 19 to 20 September, but that its contents were unknown.

[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 0200 on Sep 19 44 -]
[- 7. Armee to LXXXI Corps
at 0310 and 0400 on Sep 19 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
It is not clear whether or not this train evetually helped to ease the shortage, since the attack was called off, anyway, and the reasons are complex, involving, among other factors, a change in command at the corps command level

To complicate matters further, the 9.-PD, whose forces were needed to help restore the situation around Eilendorf, was short of fuel. Nevertheless, in the evening of September 19 plans still called for the 12.-ID to go ahead with its attack, although Gen Schack remarked that “the attack by the 12.-ID tomorrow morning will have little success”. In addition to its other problems the 12.-ID already faced a personnel shortage. In the morning of September 20, Col Engel oriented his new corps commander, Gen Friedrich J.M. Koechling about the situation. In stressing the gravity of his situation, Col Engel stated that only 400 men of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt were still available for the defense of the sector east of Stolberg. One engineer company of the 12.-ID, intended to close the gap near Duffenter (American salient at Hochwegerhof) had not arrived and its where-abouts were still unknown.

[- On September 20 1944, Gen Schack was relieved as commander of the LXXXI Corps (in connection with the Schwerin affair) and was replaced by Gen Koechling -]

In view of the critical operational and logistical situation the new corps commander countermanded Gen Schack’s order for a large-scale 12.-ID attack on September 20 and stated that, “in view of the heavy losses sustained and the mighty material superiority of the enemy, he will, in the future, order an attack only when it promises more success; aside from that the main mission will be to hold the line and to avoid unnecessary losses”

[- Gen Koechling to Col Engel
at 0700 on Sep 20 44, LXXII Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]

All night long American medium and heavy guns shot harassing fire against the entire LXXXI Corps sector. In the sector of the ll6.-PD an American combat patrol, favored by the early morning mist, attacked the German MLR south of Burtscheid at 0800 on September 20 and was repulsed. Aside from that, action in the Aachen sector was again limited to an artillery duel which lasted all day. Between Muensterbusch and Gressenich the forces of the 12.-ID spent a very busy day trying to defeat American endeavors to envelop Stolberg and to push further up the Stolberg Corridor toward Eschweiler. American operations on September 20 began with an armored infantry drive from Diepenlinchen northeastward toward Werth. Fearing a penetration at the boundary between the 89. and the 48.-Grenadier-Regts, Col Engel ordered an immediate counterattack. This attack, launched at noon on a fairly broad front, succeeded not only inturning back the American attack toward Werth but also in closing the gap between Stolberg and Duffenter and sealing off the American penetration at Hochwegerhof east of Duffenter. The 12. Infantry Division established a coherent front line from the southern edgeof Stolberg – Duffenter – eastward on the Duffenter-Werth road as far as Hochwegerhof – southward to Weissenberg – southern periphery of Gressenich – northern periphery of Schevenhuette. Later in the afternoon American forces embarked on the inevitable daily assault on Stolberg. Again they attacked on both sides of the German-held town. West of Stolberg American forces achieved a penetration at the site of the Stolberg Gun Factory. Driving northward from the Buesbach area American tanks and infantry attacked the Donnerberg Hill, held by one and a half companies of the 12.-Engineer-Bn. The engineers were able to halt the American attack at first, but soon US forces had thrown a ring around the Donnerberg Hill. Two German combat patrols, one from the northwest, the other from the northeast tried to crack this ring but failed. American forces fanned out from the Donnerberg Hill : US infantry attacked from the Donnerberg Hill westward toward Stolberg while US tanks sat on the western slope of the hill spewing fire at the city below. In the meantime other American forces had driven north from the vicinity of Muensterbusch and soon their tanks were plowing up the small vegetable gardens west of the Stolberg factory belt.

[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 2010 on Sep 20 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
The gardens mentioned were in all likelihood small Victory type gardens cultivated by factory workers and owned communally. This institution is found all over Germany in peace and war and is called Schrebergarten

2-26-RL-Crew

As the day changed to night, American troops entered Stolberg, and the situation developed into confused, disorganized house-to-house fighting in the city. At dawn on September 21, American armor was observed assembling south of the Donnerberg Hill preparatory to a renewal of the attack. When it came the Germans were ready and stopped the American attack, launched mostly by infantry with some tanks in support, at 0800. Two hours later US forces in battalion strength attacked northeastward toward Duffenter. In conjunction with this drive American troops captured the remaining bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. With this strategic height in American hands, southern Stolberg was extremely vulnerable to a US assault from the east. In the event that the southern half of the town could not be held, the German forces in Stolberg (9.-PD with attached units) proceeded to establish a switch position across the center of the town, from the Stolberg Mill west of Stolberg cutting across the town to the road junction southwest of Duffenter. The Germans were able to repulse one attack against the southern edge of Stolberg and knocked out 2 US tanks in the process. Late in the afternoon the expected major attack came out of the east, and came so fast that the forces of 9.-PD (Kampfgruppe Volker) in the southern part of Stolberg were cut off before they had had a chance to withdraw northward to the switch position. In very bitter fighting in the streets of Stolberg these elements finally battled their way out of the pocket and joined Kampfgruppe Schemm at the defense line cutting across Stolberg. Half of Stolberg was now in US hands and the attacks, mounting in intensity, continued into the evening. West of the town strong American forces achieved new penetrations in the factory belt while to the east the Americans gained the western slope of the Donnerberg Hill – as on the previous day – and immediately wheeled northwestward to attack the switch position which barred their way into northern Stolberg.

[- LXXXI Corps
at 1120 on Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- LXXXI Corps to Col Engel
at 1530 on Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampferlauf -]
According to the 9.-PD official report on the Battle of Stolberg, September 23 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungender Div., US forces on September 20 1944 had knocked out 8 of the twelve bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill by means of demolition charges and heaviest caliber artillery fire. In most instances the bunkers had had to be destroyed along with their garrisons, which had refused to surrender.

American successes on both sides of Stolberg threatened to envelop the Stolberg Mill – Duffenter Line, and the Germans feared the final collapse of their Stolberg front. Later in the evening the American envelopment (especially the prong west of Stolberg) forced them to withdraw to a new switch line cutting across the northern sector of Stolberg from the vicinity of Schneidmuehle – Atsch southeastward to the village of Donnerberg.

South of Aachen the 156.-Panzer-Grenadier-Regt of the 116.-PD consolidated its defense line on September 21 to free some reserves. The front line of the regiment was re-established to extend from Vaelser Quartier (probably point of contact with 60.-Panzer-Grenadier-Regt) – half a mile north of Hill 321 – half a mile north-northeast of the Steinebrueck railroad station. This move disengaged the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn which was to take over a part of the 12.-ID sector in accordance with the LXXXI Corps orders. In relieving the 1. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt, the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn of the 116.-PD took over the sector from Verlautenheide to the railroad overpass one mile west-southwest of Verlautenheide in the evening of September 21. From there the LXXXI Corps front line continued past the northern edge of the Stolberg factory belt, along the switch position across northern Stolberg to the northern edge of the Donnerberg Hill; from there via Duffenter along the Duffenter – Werth road to half a mile west of Werth – Weissenberg Hill – western and southern edge of Gressenich – nortnern edge of Schevenhuette. The new boundary line between the 116.-PD and the 12.-ID extended, in the combat zone, from Eschweiler (12.-ID) via the railroad overpass one mile west-southwest of Verlautenheide to Brand (116.-PD). Immediately following its relief by the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn, the 1. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt was moved by motor transport to Eschweiler where it was to assemble for a counterattack, to be launched out of movement with intent to close the gap between Stolberg and Donnerberg. During the night considerable reconnaissance activity took place on both sides. The Germans spotted in numbers of US tanks everywhere and noted much digging and improvement of positions in the vicinity of Hochwegerhof and Niederhof. At 0330, the 12. Infantry Division repulsed an attack by five US armored cars against the Bunker 708 on the Donnerberg Hill. Panzerfaust destroyed two of the armored cars.

At 0730 on September 22, one American armored company (1 tank and a few armored cars) was able to exploit the early morning fog to bypass the Stolberg switch position between Stolberg and Donnerberg and to push north as far as Zinkhuette (zinc mine) and Birkengang east of Stolberg. At the same time, US forces launched repeated attacks with about 50 tanks from the south, southwest, and southeast toward Duffenter and the southern slope of the Donnerberg Hill. After the unsuccessful attempt earlier in the morning to capture Bunker 708, 10 US tanks lumbered up to the bunker and surrounded it. They stayed there for several hours without being able to crack the pillbox. Massed German artillery fire finally destroyed 1 tank and forced the rest to withdraw. German fire was also effective against American assemblies south and southwest of the Donnerberg Hill.

[- 12. Inf Div, at 1120 on Sep 22 44, 12. Inf Div, Sep 22 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- Off Rpt, Battle of Stolberg, 9. Pz Div, Sep 23 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]

At the same time, US forces launched repeated attacks with about fifty tanks from the south, southwest, and southeast toward Duffenter and the southern slope of the Donnerberg Hill. After the unsuccessful attempt earlier in the morning to capture Bunker 708, ten US tanks lumbered up to the bunker and surrounded it. They stayed there for several hours without being able to crack the pillbox. Massed German artillery fire finally destroyed one tank and forced the rest to withdraw. German fire was also effective against American assemblies south and southwest of the Donnerberg Hill. The Germans who had but 1 Panther and 1 assault gun on the Donnerberg Hill this morning were afraid the counterattack of 1. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt, would come too late to plug the gap. The 9.-PD cried for antitank weapons. This division, which had been promised relief days ago, was still defending the battered ruins of Stolberg as best it could; it took a terrible beating in the process. In only forty hours – from 1800 on September 20 until 1200 on September 22 1944 – the division had lost 841 men, 18 of whom were officers.

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