Beginning November 1943, Peiper’s unit arrived on the Eastern Front, where it took part in combat in the area of Zhytomyr. On Nov 20, Georg Schönberger was killed in action, and Peiper took his place as commander of the 1. SS Panzer Regiment, a position he held until the end of the war. Peiper was 28 years old. Under his command, the regiment fought through the winter and was engaged in numerous night assaults against the Red Army. His Panzer unit played an essential role in stalling the Soviet offensive in the area of Zhytomyr. Peiper led actions by attacking the rear of enemy lines and captured four division headquarters. For this action he was awarded the Oak Leaves of the Knight’s Cross. Peiper’s aggressiveness and regiment command appointment caused resentment by some against him. In the mean time, brutal combat involving his unit continued. On December 5 and 6 1943, the unit killed 2280 Russian soldiers and took only three prisoners. During heavy fighting, the village of Pekartschina was completely burned with flamethrowers and its inhabitants killed. On Jan 20 1944, Peiper was withdrawn from the front. He left his unit and went directly to Hitler’s Headquarters where he was awarded the Oak Leaves to be added to his Knight’s Cross. Shortly afterwards, on his 29th birthday, Peiper was promoted to SS-Obersturmbannführer. However, Peiper was physically and mentally exhausted. A medical examination carried out by SS doctors in Dachau reached the conclusion that he needed rest. Therefore, he went to see his wife in Bavaria. In March 1944, the LSSAH was withdrawn from the Eastern Front. The transfer of all its units was not completed before May 24. Peiper joined his unit in April. The battles in the east had caused heavy losses of men and material. The new recruits were not of the same caliber as the pre-war volunteers, who’d been recruited according to strict criteria. In Belgium, five young recruits accused of stealing poultry and ham from civilians were sentenced to death by a court-martial. The verdict seemed out of proportion to the offense, especially when looking at similar cases. Peiper ordered the five shot on May 28 1944 and had the other young recruits marched past the corpses; but the executions actually had a negative impact on the morale of the regiment. The stay in the Belgian Limburg was devoted mainly to drills and refit, made more difficult due to the lack of material and gasoline.
General d. Panzertruppe Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel has agreed at several joint press conferences that for the German counter-offensive of the month of December 1944 in Belgium and Luxembourg, to be successful at least three things had to happen :
(a) the German attack had to be a surprise (b) the weather to be such as to prevent strikes by allied aircraft on the German columns coming through the Ardennes (c) the progress of the German main effort through and beyond St Vith must be rapid and not delayed. Requirements a. and b. were met. Requirement c. was not met because of the defensive and delaying action of Brig Gen Robert W. Hasbrouck’s Luky Seventh, the 7th Armored Division and the attached troops in the St Vith area from December 17 to December 23 1944. His timetable called for the capture of St Vith by 1800 hours on December 17. He did not capture it until the night of December 21 and did not control the St Vith area until December 23 when CCB withdrew on order. On December 22 1964, at a press conference in Watertown, New York, Gen von Manteuffel stated : on the evening of December 24 1944 I recommended to Hitler’s Adjutant that the German Army give up the attack and return to the West Wall. The reason for this recommendation was due to the time lost by his 5. Panzer-Army in the St Vith area. Hitler did not accept von Manteuffel’s recommendation.
644th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Operations in the Ardennes
The 644th Tank Destroyer Battalion (SP)(Self Propelled) commanded by Lt Col Ephriam F. Gaham, sailed from the USA on January 2 1944, on board of the HMT Aquitania. The battalion landed in northern Ireland on January 13 and there continued its training with emphasis placed on indirect fire. The 644-TDB left the USA equipped with the 3 inch (76.2-MM) motor gun carriage, M-10, the vehicle it retained throughout its operations in Europe. On May 10 the battalion moved to Hungerford, England, where, along with more training, preparations were made for the move to the Normandy Peninsula. On July 11, the major part of the battalion moved across the English Channel while the remainder of the unit, under the control of its executive officer, Maj Edward R. Garton, landed also on Utah Beach one day later. On July 15, the 644-TDB was attached to the 8th Infantry Division and although elements of the battalion were from time to time attached to other divisions, the battalion itself remained so attached until early December 1944.
Official US Army War Report
First Army Antiaircraft in the Battle of the Bulge
Personal Experience of an Army AA Staff Officer
Lt Col Paul C. Davis
First Army AA at its peak consisted of 56 battalions; it is therefore manifestly impossible to discuss all AA action with the Army. I shall therefore highlight the battle by discussing only the following pertinent subjects and actions :
The Liège Diver Belt-(V-1 Defense)
Army AA in the Ground Role
AA in the Primary role, which is subdivided into :
(a) The Air and Airborne Attacks on V and Vll Corps-16 to 20 December
(b) The Air Attack on Communications Centers West of the Meuse River
(c) The New Year’s Day Raid
The V-1 Attack
Order of Withdrawal of 7-AD West of Salm River
The following order, published subsequent to Operations Instructions, Hq 7-AD, 230015A Dec 44 (Annex 3) was the final withdrawal order for the 7th Armored Division and attached units)
HQ 7TH ARMD DIV (TAC)
230200A DEC 44