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On Nov 10, 1944, the 99th Reconnaissance Troop (99th Infantry Division) through intermittent rain and snow moved 40 miles to the south and east on slippery surfaced roads from St Jean Sart (Aubel – Belgium) to Elsenborn (Belgium). From there, the 3rd Plat moved to Kalterherberg, dug in on a hill, and created that now famous thing – The Hole -, two machine gun emplacements dug in and under enemy fire, here for the next month. To be exact, until Dec 11, as they held out there on a defensive line as reserves. In this month much was learned both by the men at Elsenborn and those at Kalterherberg. At Elsenborn every day at least two members of each platoon, making a 10 man total, accompanied the 395th Infantry Regiment patrols into the Siegfried Line. The experience was invaluable. On one occasion one of these patrols was to seize a Siegfried Line pillbox knocked out by a rocket round fired by their patrol. This gave promise of bigger things yet to come. The 2nd Plat, while digging in additional defensive positions at Kalterherberg for the reserve line of the 3rd Plat, received eight rounds of Jerry mortar fire coming in as also did the 3rd. It was then the Troop as a unit received its baptism of fire. It was on Nov 15. On the lighter side of things, although the drama of the movies was missing and the Reconnoiters were coming one by one to admit Gen Sherman’s dictum on war, with the added qualification frozen hell, Roberts and Birdsong got themselves into the movies during a patrol, on which a cameraman came along and kept them candid company, thus even the glamorous had become the same hell to live with and the disillusionment of a frozen life became complete.
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.
Original Unit Designation : 505th Engineer Light Ponton Company
Date of Organization : May 15 1942
Place of Organization : Camp Gordon, Georgia
Authority of Organization : General Order #15, Hq Eastern Defense Command and First Army, dated May 15 1942.
Sources from which original personnel were obtained.
Company Commander, Capt Archibald E. Sutton (0-304319), C.E. by transfer from the Engineer Replacement Training Center, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
Executive Officer : 1st Lt Gerald L. Bilbro, C.E. by transfer from the 75th Engineer Light Ponton Company, Camp Beauregard, La.
Platoon Commanders and Motor Officer : By assignment from the Fourth Engineer Officer Candidate School, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, as follow :
Francis F. Carnes, 2nd Lt, C.E. (0-1100038)
James J. Carnes, Jr, 2nd Lt, (0-1100039)
Burrel D. Carney, Jr, 2nd Lt, C.E. (0-1100041)
Francis M. Carson, 2nd Lt, C.E. (0-1100043)
This is a really nice set of photos (Belgium – Battle of the Bulge), never published before, and sent to me from my friend Frank Warner in Pottstown, USA.
Belgian civilians in Aywaille, Belgium, watch the start of an air battle in late December 1944, just north of Harzé, Belgium. Cpl Ralph Salmon of the 54th Signal Battalion took the photograph.
Army Pfc Thomas E. Warner, 54th Signal Battalion, in a jeep during training at Camp McQuaide, California, in May 1942. Warner was from Easton, Pennsylvania.
Combat History – 561st Field Artillery Battalion
December 17 1944 : Defying the murky skies, the tiny liaison plane circled low as Lt David E. Runden dropped a note in the battalion area. German tanks are in Setz (Belgium), heading our way, the message read. The Battle of the Bulge was on! Marshalling his crack troops for a last, all-out offensive, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt wheeled his Panzers west in a surprise move that was designed to split open the Allied forces, drive through to Liège and on to Antwerp. The 561st Field Artillery Battalion was backing up the 106th Infantry Division at the exact spot where von Rundstedt chose to break through the line. C Battery, dug in atop a hill, poured direct fire on German tanks in the valley below. Lower and lower the tubes were depressed. Gun crews were forced to dig away the earth so the tubes could be dropped even further down. Then came orders from Group to displace to the rear. Lt Col Robert C. White, battalion CO, told battery commanders to evacuate all guns, vehicles and personnel; to destroy all equipment that could not be pulled back in time. A Battery, with all of its vehicles at ordnance, was forced to leave all personal and organizational equipment behind. C Battery, which covered the withdrawal for the remainder of the battalion, found it necessary to destroy 3 guns. Not only did the battery keep the 155s blazing until the last possible moment, but it was hopeless to move the guns in the mud.
Operation, 2AD, Ardenne Offensive
– a Movement Dec 21 Roer River (GER)/Eastern Belgium
– b Battle of Humain and the Celles’ Pocket
– c Drive on Houffalize, 1A and 3A connection
Howard N. Bressler, Captain, Cavalry
The beginning of the Ardennes offensive on December 16 1944 found the 2nd Armored Division in defensive positions along the Roer River in the vicinity of Jülich – Düren. On December 20, the entire division had been relieved of responsibility for the Roer River defensive line by the 29th Infantry Division. By order of the Commanding General, Ninth Army (9A), the Division reverted to Army reserve where it could be readily available to oppose possible enemy attack in that area.
After the landing in Normandy, followed by some weeks later with the landing in the Provence (South France), the US Army Air Force started to move ahead it’s Airfields to reduce the fly distances between the bombing targets assigned in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany and the home’s Airfields in the UK. This started with the North part of France on Jun 7 1944 then in the South part when the troops landed on the beaches.
Official File – Brig Gen R. MCCLure, Chief PWD SHAEF (Main) (For Mr. C. D. Jackson)
From : Brigadier A. C. Neville, BGS (P&W), Main HQ, 21st Army Group
Report on Atrocities committed by the Germans against the Civilian Population in Belgium
This report was originally published in December 1944 by Headquarters 21st Army Group under the tittle of “Report on German Atrocities”. It has now been decided to publish that part of the original report which deal with atrocities committed by the Germans against the civilian population in Belgium. Since the original report was published certain additional information regarding German atrocities against the civilian population has become available and has been included in this edition.
The following abbreviations occur in the report :
SS – Schutz Staffel (Originally mean bodyguards, now signifies Nazi Party troops)
SD – Sicherheitsdienst (German Security Service)
SP – Sicherheitspolizei (German Security Police)
GFP – Geheime Feldpolizei (German Field Police)
VNV – Vlaamish Nationaal Verbond (Belgian (Vlaamishe) pro-German movement)
MNB – Mouvement National Belge (Belgian Resistance Movement)
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.