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 On Jan 20 1944, Peiper was withdrawn from the front.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 In March 1944, the LSSAH was withdrawn from the Eastern Front.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.
The job is quiet simple : Get the hell out of the area you are in (the 3 corners area – Holland – Germany – Belgium), move your entire division to the vicinity of St Vith, and help the elements of the 9th Armored Division to get out of the valley, stop the Krauts while the 9-AD’s Combat Command engaged pass trough your positions then move your division trough the 82nd Airborne Division line somewhere around Lierneux …
After Action Report
7th Armored Division
St Vith & Vicinity, Belgium
The 7th Armored Division was activated on March 1 1942, reorganized on September 20 1943, and sent to the United Kingdom in June 1944. The division landed on Omaha and Utah, on August 13-14 1944, and was assigned to the Third Army (US). The 7-AD drove through Nogent le Rotrou, France in an attack on Chartres which fell August 18. From Chartres, the division advanced to liberate Dreux, then Melun, where they crossed the Seine River, on August 24. The 7-AD then pushed on to bypass Reims, liberated Château-Thierry and Verdun on August 31, then halted briefly for refueling until September 6, when it drove toward to the Moselle and made a crossing near Dornot. This crossing had to be withdrawn in the face of the heavy fortifications around Metz.
Early in the month of December 1944 two of the greatest armies the world, has ever seen were facing each other in northern Europe. One army, the German, was tired, beaten back, but as yet undefeated. The other, the American First Army had enjoyed great success on the continent and was somewhat over-confident. The result of this situation was the greatest single battle fought by American troops in World War II, the Ardennes Campaign. During this battle three German Armies, two of which were Panzer, penetrated the sector of the First US Army in the region of Luxembourg and Belgium, and only after over a month of the bitterest fighting were thrown back to a line approximating, that from which they had started. A total of 56 divisions, 29 US and 27 German, participated in this battle. Among these 29 American divisions were 10 Armored divisions, as well as numerous separate tank battalions. As a mute testimony of the savage fighting, 85.000 casualties were suffered on each side before the battle ended.
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.