54th Signal Battalion, Harzé – Aywaille, December 1944

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.

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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.

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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.

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561-FAB (History of the Unit)

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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.

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Army Air Forces Fields & Bases Europa 1944-1945

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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.

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81st Chemical Mortar Battalion (Motorized) – ETO – 1944-1945

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81-CMBTo give a thorough account of the accomplishments of the Eighty-First Chemical Mortar Battalion (81-CMB) would take thousands of pages.
To detail the heroic deeds and meritorious service of the gallant officers and men of the Eighty-First would also take more thousands of pages.
A booklet the size of this could be written about each enlisted man and each officer. It is believed the history is concise, yet shows the battalion to have lived up to its motto, “Equal To The Task.”

Jack W. Lipphardt
Lt Col, CWS
Commanding

I. Activation and Basic Training
The story of the 81-CMB does not start back in the trusty annals of early American history. Insofar as antiquity and tradition are concerned, it is conspicuously new, but the few years since its activation have been packed with accomplishment, heroism, and battle experience in keeping with the highest traditions of any unit in the United States Army. The 81st was formed when the country was faced with the necessity of creating a highly trained, efficient army in a minimum of time.

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Fort de Breendonk, German Atrocities in Belgium (WW-2)

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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

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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)

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Jarvis Taylor (Pfc), MG Squad, D/99-IB (Separate) Dec 1944

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December 1944, Belgium, Context & Situation

Soldier’s which were involved in the massive German counterattack are the best witnesses to report about the situation in the period before December 16 and after December 16.

Cpl Albert J. Kirkendall
243rd Engineer Combat Battalion

Cpl-Albert-J-Kirkendall-243-ECB-1944-small[…] (around Malmedy, Belgium) runners … you know we had radios and we found out almost immediately you know. Okay there’s a bunch of Germans up there that are panicky that are shooting everything in sight and so watch your left flank and anyway our medics had to go up there, which would be a lousy job. Our medic’s name was Bitscoe. And the German’s thought all our medics could do were just straight out doctors. This one woman came in one night and she had problems. We couldn’t get her to say what the problems were and she said something, well something was wrong with one of her breasts. Okay now, Bitscoe – he’s a pollock and a rough, tough pollock and so from that time on we called him tits Bitscoe [….] most were buildings are either made of rock or brick or a framework that you filled with mud, you see. The framework on houses in Europe … okay and of course as long as we didn’t have to we didn’t, but I was using German teller mines for demolition. We never had any well of course we didn’t have any dynamite over there, but we didn’t have any composition C2. Black powder detonates at about 1800 feet per second and dynamite detonates about 2400 feet per second and what we had, TNT that detonated about 2800 feet per second. This composition C2, well you could take a hand full of it put it up against a steel rail – you didn’t even have to have as big as a walnut – and it would just cut the rail in two. You could put it clear around a tree and it would cut the tree off – it did a pretty sloppy job of it but it would cut it. I was using German teller mines that we had taken out of the ground to blow these walls down because they were the handiest thing to use. We didn’t have any TNT and we didn’t have any composition C2. You just had to use what you had on hand. And that happened to be what we had on hand [….]

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