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.
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.
On December 16 1944 : Should the German cracks the defenses in the North Shoulder, their forces would be able to surround the 101st Airborne Division and attached units in the Southern Shoulder (Bastogne area), eliminates the US Troops in the Center Shoulder but also cuts the Main Supply Road (Manay – Vielsalm). This would stop not only the US 1st Army but the entire Bradley’s 12th Army Group in the Belgian Ardennes !
1 – The Facts
Reported on the actual map (bellow), the Northern Shoulder of the Allies break true Germany forces at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge (December 16 1944) can be drawn in the following way :
a. the center axis located at the Losheimer Gap
b. the extreme North flank located in Mutzenich – Imgenbroich – Monschau
c. the extreme South, the Luxemburger border at Ouren
2 – North Shoulder – Allied (mainly US)
Allied Side from North to South
– Höfen, Germany, 99th Infantry Division
– Mutzenich, Germany, 9th Infantry Division
– Monschau, Germany, 9th Infantry Division
– Kuchelscheid, Germany, 2nd Infantry Division
– Wallerscheid, Germany, 2nd Infantry Division
– Krinkelt-Rocherath, Belgium, 99th Infantry Division
– Losheim, Germany, 99th Infantry Division
– Lanzerath, Belgium, 99th Infantry Division
– Manderfeld, Belgium, 106th Infantry Division
– Andler, Belgium, 14th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mez)
– Auw, Belgium, 106th Infantry Division
– St Vith, Belgium, 106th Infantry Division + 1 CC (9-AD)
– Ouren, Belgium, 28th Infantry Division
(note : Services Units and Attached Units not included)
The VT Fuze is the most important new development in the ammunition field,
since the introduction of high-explosive projectiles
(Gen Benjamin Lear)
I think when all armies get this shell
we will have to devise some new method of warfare
(Gen George S. Patton Jr)
Adm Lewis L. Strauss wrote : One of the most original and effective military developments in World War II was the proximity, or VT fuse. It was of incalculable value to both the Army and Navy, and it helped save London from obliteration. While no one invention won the war, the proximity fuse must be listed among the very small group of developments, such as radar, upon which victory very largely depended.
The proximity fuze was a dramatic improvement over previously used contact fuzes or timed fuzes, against both aircraft and land targets. Gen George S. Patton Jr called its effects devastating on the enemy, and said that the proximity fuze won the Battle of the Bulge for us.
One of the first practical proximity fuzes was codenamed the VT Fuze and nicknamed : Pozit ! Buck Rogers ! Special Influence ! Bonzo !, an acronym of Variable Time Fuze, as deliberate camouflage for its operating principle. The VT fuze concept in the context of artillery shells originated in the UK with British researchers (Samuel Curran and W. A. S. Butement, whose schematic design for a radar proximity fuze was used with only minor variations and was developed under the direction of physicist Merle A. Tuve at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. The Germans were supposedly also working on proximity fuses in the 1930s, based on capacitive effects rather than radar. Research and prototype work at Rheinmetall were halted in 1940 to devote available resources to projects deemed more necessary.