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 On Jan 20 1944, Peiper was withdrawn from the front.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 In March 1944, the LSSAH was withdrawn from the Eastern Front.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.
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.
In the early years of World War Two, the German Army amply demonstrated its ability to exploit victory to the fullest. After the tide had turned against the Germans, it became apparent that they also possessed the more outstanding ability to quickly recover from a defeat before their opponents could thoroughly exploit their success. Less than a month after suffering inapparently decisive defeat in which it was crushed and battered beyond recognition, German 7. Armee established a coherent front line from the Meuse River to the Schnee Eifel Range in September 1944. Committed in this wide arc and supported by a motley conglomeration of last ditch reserves, the army’s remaining elements successfully defended the approaches to the Reich. During its withdrawal from Falaise to the West Wall, the 7. Armee passed through three distinct phases.
– 7. Armee rout following narrowly averted annihilation in the Falaise Pocket, 7. Armee ceased to exist as an independent organization, 7. Armee shattered remnants were attached to the 5. Panzer Armee until the September 4 1944, 7. Armee was apparently reconstituted under the command of Gen d. Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger
– 7. Armee then passed through the phase of delaying action while it reorganized its forces and re-established the semblance of a front line. Despite persistent orders from above to defend every foot of ground, Gen Brandenberger realized that a fairly rapid withdrawal was called for, if his forces were to reach the West Wall ahead of American spearheads
– delaying action ended officially on September 9 1944 when the the 7. Armee was charged with the defense of the West Wall in the Maastricht – Aachen – Bitburg sectors. Along with the fortifications the army took over all headquarters and troops stationed in this area. Of the the 7. Armee 3 corps, the LXXXI Corps was assigned the northern sector of the West Wall, from Herzogenrath to Düren witch position to Rollesbroich and the Huertgen Forest sector
LXXIV Corps was committed in the center, from Roetgen to Ormont and the 1. SS Panzerkorps was to defend the West Wall in the Schnee Eifel sector, from Ormont to the boundary with the 1. Armee at Diekirch.
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 2nd Infantry Division until Dec 12 1944 was in a holding position along the Siegfried Line with front line units being located in the Schnee Eifel forest on the western border of Germany. On Dec 12 the Division closed in the Elsenborn – Krinkelt – Wirtzfeld area in preparation for an attack eastward. The attack proceeded satisfactorily until the recent German offensive occurred on Dec 16. At this time the Division took up a stubborn defensive position in the Elsenborn – Wirtzfeld – Berg area and aided greatly in stopping the German counteroffensive from advancing further to the north and west. The Division remained in a holding position in the Elsenborn – Berg area at the end of the month.
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.