Shortly after noon on Sept 13, the US 3-AD resumed its drive up the Stolberg Corridor. South of Rott the Americans cracked a number of bunkers and at 1225 achieved a penetration in the German MLR. American armor advanced up the road toward Rott, filling in the antitank craters in its path.
Less than an hour later hour later US forces were within one mile of Rott, and the 9.Panzer-Division mustered all its available forces for a counter-attack to be launched from Kornelimuenster. Gen Mueller asked the LXXXI Corps Operations Officer to move all available corps reserves to Kornelimuenster.
Realizing that the Stolberg Corridor, rather than the Aachener Stadtforst (Aachen Municipal Forest south of the city), was the scene of the US VII Corps main effort in his sector, Gen Schack ordered the 116.Panzer-Division to transfer half the assault guns of the 394.Assault-Gun-Brigade to the 9.Panzer-Division at Kornelimuenster.
The US 3-AD drive up the Stolberg Corridor was in two-pronged, with one group attacking the direction Schleckheim – Kornelimuenster, the other toward Rott and Mulartshuette. At 1630, ten American tanks appeared before Rott while other US forces had already bypassed the village and were located east thereof. HQs and HQs Company of the 9.Panzer-Division sped to Rott in an effort to hold the line there. Other forces of the division attempted to screen off at Mulartshuette by means of obstacles and demolitions. In the early afternoon American tanks and infantry penetrated a German strong point south of Schleckheim and continued their advance toward that village.
September 13 1944
LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div; at 1630 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div; at 1730 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div; at 1420 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf
A race was now on between US armor and three assault guns of the 394.Assault-Gun-Brigade driving on Kornelimuenster from different directions. At 1600, eight American tanks were observed on the road from Nuetheim to Kornelimuenster. The German assault guns were expected in Kornelimuenster at 1800. They arrived on schedule, and a battalion of the 9.Panzer-Division, reinforced by these three assault guns and a few 75-MM AT guns which the division had picked up, began to establish a line of resistance from the northern periphery of Schleckheim via the northern edge of Nuetheim to the southern periphery of Kornelimuenster. Of the first eight US tanks, four were knocked out by Panzerfaust, but fifteen more tanks wheeled off to right and left in an effort to roll up the 9.Panzer-Division line.
At 1845, fifteen US tanks broke through the line of bunkers and dragons teeth at Oberforstbach while American infantry advanced along the road north of the Aachen Reservoir (Langfeld – Nuetheim – Kornelimuenster). Five American tanks attacked the Bunker 109 on this road about halfway between the reservoir and Nuetheim. Somewhat later the Germans reported American forces before Kornelimuenster, near Mulartshuette, and in Hahn. At Rott, the Hqs Company of the 9.Panzer-Division and the 105.Panzer-Brigade launched a counter-attack in an effort to halt the American drive on Mulartshuette. German engineers hastily began to demolish all crossings over the Vicht River between Stolberg and Zweifall.
At the LXXXI Corps headquarters American intentions emerged more clearly. The corps operations officer called Gen Mahlmann of the 353.Infantry-Division to inform him that the enemy was probably to launch a drive bypassing Aachen from the penetration area near Kornelimuenster and Hahn toward the second band of defenses (Schill Line). The three Landesschuetzen battalions under the command of 353.ID were alerted to stand by for action. The Corps also ordered the 116.Panzer-Division to transfer the 8.Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion and one battery of artillery to the 9.Panzer-Division.
As Sept 13, drew to a close, the American advance against the LXXXI Corps sector had been checked temporarily. The salient north of Hauset was wiped out. The penetrations on both sides of Walheim had been sealed off in the line Kornelimuenster – Hahn. The southern prong of the US 3-AD attack which had advanced across Rott, had been checked at Mulartshuette. The night from Sept 13 to Sept 14 passed quietly in the entire LXXXI Corps sector. The Germans observed strong American infantry and armored forces assembling in the Schleckheim – Walheim area but found Oberforstbach unoccupied.
In the southern outskirts of Aachen, American recon in the morning of Sept 14, probed the 116.Panzer-Division front line at Bildchen toward Bunker 189 and Grenzhof. Then American infantry with strong artillery support jumped off against the entire division front and broke through the bunker line in many places. The bunkers were bypassed singly and fought down from flank and rear by US infantry while American tanks followed up the attack. Afternoon, the bunkers at Bildchen and Koepfchen, southwest and south of Aachen respectively, were in American hands. The 116.Panzer-Division forces were now defending a semi circle around Aachen, from the Vaelser Quartier west of Aachen to the boundary with the 9.Panzer-Division southeast of the city. Their intentions were to defend this line and to counterattack southward whenever possible.
A short time later the division was forced to admit that all attempts to regain the belt of bunkers had failed because the densely wooded terrain (Aachen Municipal Forest) made adequate tank support and artillery observation impossible. As American forces drew closer to the city, the panic in Aachen reached a new high. According to Gen von Schwerin conditions were catastrophic. No police or civil authorities had yet returned to Aachen. The old museum director of Aachen, accompanied by a few city officials who had stayed at their posts, came to see von Schwerin to tell him that a group of leading citizens had chosen him, the museum director, to form a provisional city government. The general gave orders for the evacuation to proceed, provided rail and motor transport were available, but emphasized that it would only result in clogging up vital thoroughfares. In addition to having to cope with the frantic civilian population, the 116.Panzer-Division, which on Sept 14 assumed direct command of all German elements in its sector, also had trouble with the Luftwaffe. In total disregard of the division commander’s orders the Luftwaffe attempted to pull its AAA batteries out of Aachen. FM von Rundstedt (Commander in Chief West) himself had to interfere, reminding Luftwaffe AAA troops that they were to take orders, like everybody else, from the superior headquarters to which they were attached. Gen von Schwerin also complained that his Luftwaffe fortress battalions had a tendency to desert their positions in the face of even minor attacks.
September 14 1944
LXXXI Corps to Gen von Schwerin 0930, Sept 14 LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; Rpt, A Gp B to OB WEST 1200, Sept 14, OB WEST KTB. Rad; (116. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps) 1310 Sept 14, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div. (Schwerin); MS # B-058 (Voigtsberger)
Gen Heinrich Voigtsberger commanded the 60.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment. When Count von Schwerin was relieved of the command of 116.Panzer-Division on Sept 15, Gen Voigtsberger became acting division commander until the new commanding officer, Gen Siegfried von Waldenburg, arrived on Sept 19.
Early in the afternoon of Sept 14, strong American infantry and armored forces rolled up the bunker line from the direction of Brand, Niederforstbach and Oberforstbach. By 1500 they had gained a line extending from the Beverbach Creek via Linzenshaeuschen (Eupen – Aachen Road) to the Friedrichsberg Hill. The 116.Panzer-Division, attempting to hold the line from the West Wall to south of the Vaelser Quartier, from there to north of Friedrichsberg Hill – Linzenshaeuschen – the Beverbach Creek, had lost contact with the 9.Panzer-Division on its left, southeast of Aachen. The Germans noted that their opponents were employing new tactics to crack the West Wall bunkers, the Americans would launch strong infantry attacks covered by smoke screens while the tanks followed to backup the attack and to support the infantry in knocking out the bunkers one by one. The Americans made heavy use of artillery and smoke screens.
Southeast of Aachen in the sector of 9.-PD, the American combat commands resumed their drive up the Stolberg Corridor in the morning of Sept 14. Having taken Oberforstbach and Niederforstbach, they captured Kornelimuenster at 1030 and Breinig at 1100. American tanks were observed shortly after noon continuing northeastward from Kornelimuenster toward Buesbach. About the same time the Germans reported an American tank driving from Mulartshuette northeastward toward Zweifall. A few hours later, at 1715, American infantry, tanks, and armored cars entered Zweifall. After fifteen minutes the infantry had captured the first four bunkers (330, 334, 335, and 336) in the second band of West Wail fortifications, and the task force continued eastward through the breach in the direction of Vicht and Mausbach.
In view of the American breakthrough at Zweifall, the LXXXI Corps ordered the 9.Panzer-Division to take command of the second band of the West Wall along with the Landesschuetzen battalions (3/6 and 1/9) committed there. HQs 353.Infantry-Division would be disengaged to receive another assignment. Reinforced by the 3 assault guns of the 394.Assault-Gun-Brigade, the 9.Panzer-Division married these assault guns to a company of motorized infantry and committed these forces in a counterattack against the American task force driving on Mausbach. The LXXXI Corps issued strict orders to the 9.Panzer-Division to throw back the Americans before the end of the day and to regain full control of the second belt of the West Wall bunkers. The front line of the 9.Panzer-Division now extended from the southern edge of Brand – southern edge of Buesbach – east of Zweifall to the West Wall east of Roetgen.
At 1800 the Germans reported that at least two hundred American tanks had assembled in Kornelimuenster. Additional columns were seen moving north from Walheim. Up front the American spearhead reached the southern outskirts of Stolberg at 2000. Apparently the Americans then decided not to continue their advance toward Stolberg and Eschweiler that evening. Instead, they worked on their encirclement of Aachen in the area between Aachen and Stolberg.
Late in the afternoon American forces broke through the 116.Panzer-Division line between the Beverbach Creek and Lindert, 2 miles west-southwest of Brand, and stabbed into the flank of the 60.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment. The 116.Panzer-Recon-Battalion was committed in support of the division’s flank southeast of the Aachen Municipal Forest. American tanks and armored cars driving north from the Walheim – Oberforstbach – Niederforstbach area pushed through Brand at 1830.
Less than an hour later, at 1915, American tanks captured Eilendorf and the steel plant at Rothe Erde east of Aachen. The city was now ringed on three sides. The LXXXI Corps received reports that sizeable elements of 116.Panzer-Division, AAA Group Aachen and the Kampfkommandant were withdrawing to the northeast, supposedly in line with an order issued by Col von Osterroth. Gen Schack immediately ordered that all withdrawing elements be rallied and committed in a counter-attack from the Wurselen area southward toward Rothe Erde. Contact between 116.Panzer-Division and 9.Panzer-Division was to be reestablished at all cost through the efforts of all able officers of the 116.Panzer-Division Hqs. A rear area fortress engineer headquarters received orders to block the Autobahn to Cologne.
By special repeat order from Hitler Aachen was to be evacuated – if necessary, by force. The 116.Panzer-Division was ordered to support the evacuation measures by regulating traffic. The police would also be available after 0100 on September 15. They were finally returning to Aachen. The mission of the 116.Panzer-Division on September 15 was to hold the Schill Line at all cost and to make an effort to wipe out the American penetrations at Rothe Erde and Eilendorf.
The Siegfried Line – West Wall
In spite of Gen Schack’s orders the projected counter-attack against this salient had not yet been launched at daybreak. The semicircular front around Aachen remained intact from the Vaelser Quartier to Steinebrueck in the morning of Sept 15 but buckled just east of Steinebrueck when American infantry and armor pushed the 116.Panzer-Recon-Battalion back to the railroad leading out of Aachen northeast of Burtscheid. Reinforced by the MG-34 Battalion which had been rallied after an earlier attempt to withdraw, the Recon Battalion established a defense line along this railway embankment. The attackers did not immediately attempt to break through this line. The Americans devoted a large part of the day to the concentration of strong forces in the area south of Burtscheid. Judging from the movements they observed and from American artillery fire, the Germans estimated that at least one infantry division was assembling south of Aachen.
East of the city, in and south of Eilendorf, American tanks, and motor transport also continued to assemble until, according to German estimate, US forces there had been brought up to the strength of about one armored division. In view of the American build-up, the Germans expected that VII Corps would launch its all-out attack against Aachen on Sept 16. Although ground operations seem to have been limited to recon while this build-up south and east of Aachen was in progress, American artillery subjected Aachen and suburbs to heavy fire. The West Wall bunkers north and the south of the Aachen – Stolberg road, in particular, received strong rocket projector fire.
At 1530 on Sept 15, American infantry began to infiltrate the bunker line south of Rothe Erde in the direction of the Geisberg Hill. The Landesschuetzen Battalion there abandoned its positions but seven German assault guns held the line behind the pillboxes. At 1700, American forces jumped off in simultaneous attacks from the Buschhaus toward Burtscheid, and from Eilendorf north and northeast in the direction of Verlautenheide and the Geisberg Hill. The defenders were able to repulse both attacks. Thirty American tanks rolling northward from Eilendorf were forced to withdraw in the face of concentrated German artillery fire; the Germans claimed the destruction of two US tanks.
In turning back the American drive on the Aachen suburb of Burtscheid, the Germans had narrowly prevented the invader from venturing into the streets of the old Imperial City for the first time. To the 116.Panzer-Division, Gen Schack relayed the Hitler order demanding the fanatic defense of Fortress Aachen ‘In the event of an enemy penetration of Aachen, each and every house will be defended. A strategic withdrawal from the southern to the northern periphery of the city is out of the question’.
Shortly after midnight, on Sept 15, Gen Schack had repeated his order to the 9.Panzer-Division that the Americans must be forced out of the second band of West Wall bunkers near Mausbach at all costs. During the remaining hours of darkness the 9.Panzer-Division made such preparations for the counter-attack as it was capable of. One replacement battalion was en route to the division; in addition, 10 tanks were moving up to the front. In the small hours of the morning, the Landesschuetzen Battalion committed on the division’s southern wing (probably 1/9) abandoned its positions; it was necessary to move up another battalion (probably the 328.Replacement-Training-Battalion) from Schevenhuette in order to plug the gap.
The division launched its attack against the American salient at dawn and was able to drive away US armor south of Mausbach. Some bunkers were apparently recaptured in the first assault; two bunkers remained in American hands. Two hours later the division headquarters had no news on the outcome of the counter thrust toward Vicht and Zweifall other than the report that the two bunkers south of Mausbach had not been captured yet.
For the third time, the LXXXI Corps ordered, the 9.Panzer-Division armor will attack the enemy and throw him back behind the West Wall. There is no time to lose. In the early afternoon, the division was able to report that as a result of its counter-attack all bunkers of the MLR from northeast of Buesbach to Zweifall were once more in German hands. An American attack on Buesbach had been repulsed by four tanks of the 105.Panzer-Brigade and four assault guns of the division’s AT Company committed there earlier in the day. The German success, however, was very short-lived. Throughout the day the 9.Panzer-Division had watched the American build-up with growing apprehension. In the early morning, the division had expressed concern about the assembly of two hundred US tanks in Kornelimuenster to which more were steadily being added. At 1500, a German runner reported a concentration of eighty US tanks in Breinig.
In the early afternoon, the German attack bogged down in the face of the American artillery preparation. Under the heavy American artillery, tank, and mortar fire the division sustained serious losses and was unable to execute any movements. The Germans sensed that the American attack was imminent. At 1550 on Sept 15, American tanks and infantry jumped off from their assembly area at Breinig and headed for Mausbach. A furious battle ensued in which the Americans lost six tanks but were finally able to capture Mausbach and the Weissenberg Hill. An attempt to continue the drive was stopped by a German counter-attack launched from Gressenich.
At 1600, the Americans threw a second punch against the 9.Panzer-Division. Forty tanks jumped off from the Eilendorf – Brander Forest assembly area and rolled east. Fifteen minutes later they faced the German obstacle wall. Although they were unable to achieve a penetration there, the 9.Panzer-Division had to report that ‘our infantry was smashed in the Mausbach area and in the east of Eilendorf’. On the extreme left, southern wing of the 9.Panzer-Division where the 328.Reserve-Training-Battalion had occupied the Scharnhorst Line, American forces also achieved a penetration at 1730 and captured one strong point. In the right and central sectors of the 9.Panzer-Division weak organic elements of the division, the 105.Panzer-Brigade and two training battalions (the 473.Reserve-Training-Battalion and the March Battalion Zorn) held the second belt of the West Wall fortifications except for the American penetrations east of Eilendorf and at Mausbach.
In the 116.Panzer-Division and the 9.Panzer-Division sectors the front lines had not changed much over the previous day. Nevertheless, fighting had been extremely bitter on Sept 15, and both sides had suffered heavy losses. The 9.Panzer-Division alone had accounted for forty-two US tanks. The Germans had also sustained serious casualties. Army Group B issued an order for all battle worthy elements of the 9.Panzer-Division still in the assembly area at St Wendel to move up to the front immediately.