Operations : 1st Plat, B Co, 401st Glider Infantry
101st Airborne Division, Bastogne, Belgium, Dec 25 1944
(Personal Experience of a Platoon Leader)
Capt John T. O’Halloran
In late autumn of 1944, as the Allied Armies approached the formidable defenses of Western Germany, Allied strategy for penetrating these defenses was molded. The Allies would continue the offensive, striking the enemy at the Ruhr and Saar. In carrying out these separate offensive thrusts it would be necessary to hold thinly some sectors of the front in order to build up strength at the attack points. Before this decision was finally consummated, the Allied High Command carefully considered the capabilities of the enemy. It was felt by Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, that before Germany submitted to total defeat she would concentrate her every effort in an attempt to regain the initiative lost with the Allied landings in Normandy. The conclusion reached was that this attempt would, in all probability, be made in the Ardennes sector.
Josef Mengele was born the eldest of three children on 16 March 1911 to Karl and Walburga (Hupfauer) Mengele in Günzburg, Bavaria, Germany. His younger brothers were Karl Jr and Alois. Mengele’s father was founder of the Karl Mengele & Sons company, producers of farm machinery. Mengele did well in school and developed an interest in music, art, and skiing. He completed high school in April 1930 and went on to study medicine at Goethe University Frankfurt and philosophy at the University of Munich. Munich was the headquarters of the Nazi Party. In 1931 Mengele joined the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten, a paramilitary organization that was in 1934 absorbed into the Nazi Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment; SA). In 1935, Mengele earned a PhD in anthropology from the University of Munich. In January 1937, at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt, he became the assistant to Dr. Otmar Freiherr von Verschuer, a scientist conducting genetics research, with a particular interest in twins. As an assistant to von Verschuer, Mengele focused on the genetic factors resulting in a cleft lip and palate or cleft chin. His thesis on the subject earned him a cum laude doctorate in medicine in 1938. Both of his degrees were later rescinded by the issuing universities. In a letter of recommendation, von Verschuer praised Mengele’s reliability and his ability to verbally present complex material in a clear manner. The American author Robert Jay Lifton notes that Mengele’s published works did not deviate much from the scientific mainstream of the time, and would probably have been viewed as valid scientific efforts even outside the borders of Nazi Germany.
US Department of Justice, Criminal Division
In the Matter of Josef Mengele
Report to the Attorney General
United States of America
Exhibits Prepared by : Office of Special Investigations Criminal Division, Neal M. Sher Director, Eli M. Rosenbaum Principal Deputy Director
Josef Mengele was an SS physician, infamous for his inhumane medical experimentation upon concentration camp prisoners at Auschwitz. Born on March 16, 1911, in Günzburg, near Ulm, he was the eldest son of Karl Mengele, a prosperous manufacturer of farming implements. In 1935, Mengele earned a Ph.D. in physical anthropology from the University of Munich. In January 1937, at the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Frankfurt, he became the assistant of Dr. Otmar von Verschuer, a leading scientific figure widely known for his research with twins. In 1937 Mengele joined the Nazi Party. The following year, the same year in which he received his medical degree, he joined the SS. In June 1940, Mengele was drafted into the army, and thereafter volunteered into the medical service of the Combat Waffen-SS. Although documentation is scant and often contradictory regarding Mengele’s activities between this time and early 1943, it is clear that he first functioned as a medical expert for the Race and Settlement Main Office [Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt, or RuSHA] in summer 1940 at the Central Immigration Office [Einwandererstelle] North-East in Posen (today Poznan) and thereafter served as a medical officer with the SS Division Wiking (SS Pioneer Battalion V), with which he saw action on the Eastern Front. Wounded while on campaign, Mengele returned to Germany in January 1943, and began work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (KWI) for Anthropology, Human Genetics, and Eugenics, directed by his former mentor von Verschuer. In April of 1943, he received a promotion to the rank of SS captain; this advancement shortly preceded Mengele’s transfer to Auschwitz, on May 30, 1943.
Early in the month of December 1944 two of the greatest armies the world, has ever seen were facing each other in northern Europe. One army, the German, was tired, beaten back, but as yet undefeated. The other, the American First Army had enjoyed great success on the continent and was somewhat over-confident. The result of this situation was the greatest single battle fought by American troops in World War II, the Ardennes Campaign. During this battle three German Armies, two of which were Panzer, penetrated the sector of the First US Army in the region of Luxembourg and Belgium, and only after over a month of the bitterest fighting were thrown back to a line approximating, that from which they had started. A total of 56 divisions, 29 US and 27 German, participated in this battle. Among these 29 American divisions were 10 Armored divisions, as well as numerous separate tank battalions. As a mute testimony of the savage fighting, 85.000 casualties were suffered on each side before the battle ended.
The 3rd Armored Division moved from Somerset through Southampton and Weymouth and debarked across Omaha Beach. After collecting itself and organizing into combat commands, it attacked to seize Villiers-Fossard. Villiers-Fossard, strongly defended by the Germans in thick hedgerow terrain, formed a salient into American lines threatening progress towards Saint-Lô. On Jun 29, CCA, reinforced by elements of the 29th Infantry Division, attacked to reduce this salient. The enemy had zeroed artillery in on road intersections and covered gaps in the hedgerows with machine-guns and anti-tank weapons. The Americans did not yet have many dozer tanks, and had not yet fully integrated infantry and armor. They did have infantry and artillery tightly integrated, however, and improvised squad tactics to move forward in the compartmented terrain. By Jun 30 Villiers-Fossard had fallen, and the American tankers hurriedly absorbed lessons learned.
December 1944, Belgium, Context & Situation
Soldier’s which were involved in the massive German counterattack are the best witnesses to report about general front line situation during the period just before December 16 1944. It goes exactly in same way for the Battle of the Bulge.