The following study of the German situation in the LXXXI Corps sector omits mention of the 275.Infantry-Division and the 49.Infantry-Division. Although subordinate to the LXXXI Corps, these divisions did not participate in operations against the US VII Corps at this time. Several days later, the 275.Infantry-Division was shifted to the southern wing of the LXXXI Corps to plug a gap between the LXXXI and the LXXIV Corps. The division will be described when it enters into this story.
On Sept 16, the organic fighting forces of the 116.Panzer-Division consisted of the 50.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment, the 156.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment and the 116.Panzer-Recon-Battalion, a total of 5 battalions with a combat strength of roughly 1600 men. The term combat strength is employed herein translation of the German Kampfstaerke defined to include only men actually engaged in the fighting or in immediate support of front line fighters forward of a battalion command post. The term Gefechtsstaerke, rendered as fighting strength, applies to all men who fight or support fighters forward of a regimental headquarters. See Gen Order-Nr 1/2000/44 g., 25 Apr 44, OKH/Gen Std H/Org Abt.
In addition the 12.Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion and the 19.Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion, the 453.Grenadier-Training-Battalion, and possibly other elements were attached to the division. The 302.Infantry-Training-Battalion, en route to the front, was about to join these forces under the command of the 116.Panzer-Division. Division armor on Sept 16 was reduced to two Mark IV (PzKpfw IV) tanks and one Mark V (Panther).
The division had one assault gun left; four assault guns of the 394.Assault-Gun-Brigade were attached. Five assault guns of the 217.Assault-Gun-Brigade and elements of the 902.Assault-Gun-Brigade were en route to the division. In other, AT weapons the division possessed nine 75-MM guns of which one was self-propelled. Five additional 75-MM guns were said to be en route from Koenigsberg in East Prussia. The 116.Panzer-Artillery-Regiment had three batteries of 150-MM howitzers and one battery of 105-MM howitzers. Two other 150-MM howitzer batteries were attached – the 2.Battery, 992.Artillery-Regiment and the 3.Battery, 997.Artillery-Regiment.
Tabulation of Armored Vehicles, 116.PD on Sep 16, 1944, and Weekly Strength Report as of 1200 on Sep 16, 1944. LXXXI Corps to 7.Army Sep 22, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. Tabulation: Tanks and AT Weapons LXXXI Corps, 2200 Sep 17. LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B Sep 16, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle Heeresgruppe, Army, use. FM Model to CofS, 7.Army 1350 Sep 16. LXXXI Corps to Cmdr 13. Luft Fort Bn 1850 Sep 17, and Sep 17, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf.
The 116.Panzer-Division also expected the 13.Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion and the 107.Panzer-Battalion. The latter, though intended for the Aachen sector was shifted instead to the Arnhem – Nijmegen area when Operation Market-Garden got underway. As for the 13.Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion (645 men), it was either never attached to the 116.Panzer-Division despite orders or remained with that division for only a few days before appearing on the roster of units of the 9.panzer-Division. Since its arrival in the LXXXI Corps area, Gen Mueller’s 9.PD had been reinforced by additional organic units as well as by the attachment of miscellaneous other forces. On Sept 15, the committed organic strength of 9.PD consisted of the Battalion Schemm made up of the remaining elements of the 10.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment and the 11.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment. This battalion had a combat strength of 5 officers and 136 enlisted men. (Schemm seems to have been the commander of the 11.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment.)
Between Sept 11 and Sept 15, 1944, the following infantry battalions had been attached to the 9.Panzer-Division:
– HQs 253. Grenadier Training Regiment
– 328. Replacement Training Battalion
– 473. Replacement Training Battalion
– Landesschuetzen Battalion I/9
– Landesschuetzen Battalion III/6
– 8. Luftwaffe Fortress Battalion
– Replacement Battalion Nagel
– Replacement Battalion Zorn
– 547. Security Battalion (Remaining Elements)
Of organic armor and AT forces, the 9.Panzer-Division had the 2.Company of the 33.Panzer-Regiment, with 15 Mark V Panthers (of which only 8 were operationally fit), elements of the 50.AT-Battalion with 6 assault guns and about 15 75-MM AT guns. Attached were the remaining elements of the 105.Panzer-Brigade with 5 Mark V Panthers and 3 assault guns, the 105.Panzer-Grenadier-Battalion, and 3 assault guns of the 394.Assault-Gun-Brigade.
In addition, the 9.Panzer-Division expected 6 assault guns of the 217.Assault-Gun-Brigade and 10 tanks which were supposed to be en route to Düren. The organic artillery of 9.Panzer-Division consisted of 2 batteries of 150-MM howitzers, the 2.Battalion of the 102.Panzer-Artillery-Regiment with 3 batteries of 5 105-MM howitzers each, + 1 reinforced battery of the 287.Flak-Battalion with 1 88-MM, 3 37-MM, and 3 20-MM AAA guns, 2 of which were quadruple-mounted. Attached to the 9.Panzer-Division’s Artillery were 1 battery of the 12.SS-Panzer-Division with 5 105-MM howitzers and the 490.Heavy-Howitzer-Battalion – 3 batteries with a total of 9 150-MM howitzers. As for engineer forces, the 2.Company of the 16.Panzer-Engineer-Battalion was also attached to the Division.
Strength Reports, 9.Pz Div to LXXXI Corps 16 and 21 Sep and Comments on Strength Report of 9.Pz Div; LXXXI Corps G-3 Off, 16 Sep 44; LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div; Tabulation of Tanks and AT Weapons, LXXXI Corps, 2200 on 17 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Report, Gen Brandenberger to Army Gp B, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: Heeresgruppe, Army, usw.; LXXXI Corps to 9.Pz Div, 1500 on 15 Sep 44 and FM Model to CofS, 7.Army, 1350 on 16 Sep 44, and 17 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; TWX (Weekly Strength Report as of 1200 on 16 Sep 44), LXXXI Corps to 7.Army, 22 Sep 44, and Tabulation of Armored Vehicles, LXXXI Corps, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. usw.; TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 2350 on 22 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations-Befehle.
To sum up, on Sept 15, the 9.Panzer-Division with attached units had an infantry combat strength of roughly 2500 men, approximately 200 machine guns, 13 Mark V Panthers, 12 assault guns, about 15 75-MM AT guns, 15 150-MM howitzers, 20 105-MM howitzers, 1 88-MM, 3 37-MM, and 3 20-MM AAA guns. As a result of the highly inadequate signal communications, the frontage of the 9.Panzer-Division had proved too wide for the effective exercise of command.
To remedy this condition the LXXXI Corps committed the HQs 353.Infantry-Division with 2 companies of Landesschuetzen (possibly Landesschuetzen Bn II/6) in the southern half of the 9.Panzer-Division sector. The new boundary between the 9.Panzer and the 353.Infantry extended from Schevenhuette, Jaegerfahrt (north of Zweifall), Vennwegen, Hahn, and Schmidthof to Raeren. In the south the new sector of the 353.Infantry was defined by the boundary between the LXXXI and the LXXIV Corps.
For the defense of this sector, elements of the 9.Panzer-Division were attached to the 353.Infantry-Division, the HQs 253.Grenadier-Training-Regiment under Col Feind with the 328.Replacement-Training-Battalion, Replacement Battalion Nagel, remaining elements of the almost completely smashed Landesschuetzen Bn I/9 and of the 547.Security-Battalion, a heavy weapons company, about 8 75-MM AT guns and one battery of 3 150-MM howitzers.
With these forces the combat strength of 353.Infantry-Division rose to roughly 700 men. The 9.Panzer-Division was left with a combat strength of 56 officers and 1941 enlisted men, organized in two Kampfgruppen under the command, respectively, of Maj Volker and Col Max Sperling (presumable commander of 33.Panzer-Regiment). The rear area functions of 353.Infantry-Division were assumed by Kampfgruppe Jungklaus, a rear area headquarters subordinate to the LXXXI Corps, with orders to rally all stragglers in the communications zone and to begin work on a blocking line between the Geilenkirchen – Rheydt Rail Line and the left boundary of the LXXXI Corps, the Roer Position or Schlieffen Line.
Late in the evening of Sept 15, Gen Schack received the cheering news that the first elements of 12.Infantry-Division would arrive at Jülich and Düren during the night and that the transport of the entire division would be completed some 30 hours later. The LXXXI Corps ordered the division to assemble in the Aldenhoven, Pattern, Inden, Lamersdorf, Eschweiler, Laurensberg area.
As elements of the division arrived, they were to be readied immediately so as to be available at any time for counter-attacks in a southerly and southwesterly direction. Corps, however, assured Col Gerhard Engel that there was no intention to commit his division before it was fully assembled unless developments compelled a piecemeal commitment of these forces.
Arriving among the exhausted and understrength forces of the LXXXI Corps, the 12.Infantry-Division made a deep impression on both military and the civilian population. Here was the first full-strength, rested, and fresh division, composed of young, healthy, and well-trained men that the Germans in the West had seen in a long time. The appearance of this division greatly boosted the morale of the troops and the civilians in the area.
Organized along the lines of a Type 1944 Infantry Division, the 12.Infantry-Division numbered 14800 men, of whom roughly one quarter (about 3800 men) were combat strength. This infantry strength was divided among the 27.Fusilier-Regiment, the 48. and the 89.Grenadier-Regiments, and the 12.Fusilier-Battalion. The division was fully equipped except for its twenty authorized assault guns (FM Model ordered 17 assault guns of 102.Assault-Gun-Brigade attached to 12.Infantry-Division). The 12.Artillery-Regiment had its authorized strength of 9 batteries of 105-MM howitzers and 3 batteries of 150-MM howitzers. The division’s antitank battalion possessed 12 75-MM AT guns.
In view of the desperate situation in the Aachen area, FM von Rundstedt had requested the 12.Infantry-Division be moved at top speed. Thanks to this priority and the prevailing misty, rainy weather the division had been able to travel across Germany (from East Prussia to the Aachen area) undetected and un-attacked by Allied aircraft and had thus maintained intact the all important element of surprise. In his Order for the Conduct of Operations and Order of Battle in the West Wall of Sept 16 1944, Gen Brandenberger wrote ‘The enemy is expected to continue to make his main effort in the penetration area east of Aachen. The 7.Army will defend the positions from northeast of Maastricht to Aachen and the West Wall to the last man and the last bullet. The penetrations achieved by the enemy will be wiped out. The forward line of bunkers, the Scharnhorst Line, will be regained’.
Specifically the mission of the LXXXI Corps was two fold. First, its forces were to wipe out American penetrations of the Schill Line east of Aachen. This achieved, the Germans would counter-attack on a large scale to throw US forces out of the area eastand south of Aachen and to regain full control of the Scharnhorst Line. For this purpose, the 12.Infantry-Division had been attached to the LXXXI Corps. For greater effectiveness the the LXXXI Corps sector was shortened, the 353.Infantry-Division with attached elements was now subordinated to the LXXIV Corps so that the new boundary line between the two corps extended now from Eupen via Zweifall and Düren to Cologne. Thus, on Sept 16, opposite US VII Corps Gen Schackhad at his disposal the 116. and the 9.Panzer-Divisions and the elements of 12.Infantry-Division now arriving in the area. After the 12.Infantry-Division was fully committed, intentions were for the 116.Panzer to be disengaged and assembled around Eschweiler as corps reserve. Then the 9.Panzer also would be relieved and assembled in the area southeast of Düren at the disposal of 7.Army.
After a strong artillery preparation during the night of Sept 15/16, American forces infiltrated the 116.Panzer-Division’s lines south of Verlautenheide in the morning of Sept 16 and achieved a penetration by capturing several bunkers just south of the village. The division charged bitterly that local defense units and stragglers committed in the West Wall fortifications have no combat value, no ability to stand their ground’. While the Americans pushed into Verlautenheide and captured the village, another US armored force jumped off from south of Eilendorf and drove eastward into Atsch at 0515. In the Stolberg Corridor, American tanks and infantry assembled during the night between Mausbach and Diepenlinchen while heavy American artillery fire hit the area north of Mausbach and the vicinity of Eschweiler. The Germans also reported American tanks southwest of Schevenhuette and at a hunting lodge south of Zweifall (LXXIV Corps). From these signs the Germans predicted a very wide push north and northeastward at daybreak aimed toward Eschweiler.
At Mausbach and on the Weissenberg Hill there was little American ground activity during the morning. The Germans stopped some recon patrols probing northeastward from Mausbach toward Werth and Gressenich. Early in the morning of Sept 16 the eagerly awaited first elements of 12.Infantry-Division arrived. The situation was now too critical for the LXXXI Corps to keep its promise to Col Engel to give him an opportunity for assembling his entire division before it was committed.
In view of the American penetration in the area of Verlautenheide and Atsch and the imminently expected drive on Eschweiler, Gen Schack ordered the 27.Fusilier-Regiment to go into action straight from the railroad station. As soon as its 1.Battalion and AT Company had detrained at Jülich, they were moved to the Verlautenheide area by all military and civilian means of transport available – personnel carriers, mail trucks, buses, and the like. The 3.Battalion, arriving in Düren, received orders to move from Eschweiler to the edge of the woods southwest of Schwarzenbruch in the Wuerseler Forest. The 12.Infantry-Division artillery was not expected until 2200 on Sept 16. Until then the 27.Fusilier-Regiment had to rely on cooperation with the 9.Panzer and the 116.Panzer-Divisions’ artillery.
In the sector of the 116.Panzer, the counter-attack of the 27.Fusilier-Regiment took the US VII Corps forces by surprise and was successful. The 1.Battalion pushed the American spearhead out of Verlautenheide and captured the strategically important high ground around this village. The battalion continued its drive toward Eilendorf and recaptured most of the bunkers along the Verlautenheide – Eilendorf road. Before reaching Eilendorf, however, the attack bogged down in the face of American resistance.
Shortly after noon on Sept 16, the Americans resumed their drive toward Eschweiler. A two-pronged attack from west and south converged on Buesbach, capturing the village. American forces exerted pressure against the Stolberg area with attacks on Hamm, Schneidmuehle, Muensterbusch and the southern outskirts of Stolberg itself. From the salient at Mausbach and at the Weissenberg Hill, US armor jumped off in a northerly and northeasterly direction. In bitter tank battles which lasted throughout the afternoon the VII Corps forces achieved their deepest penetration of the Stolberg Corridor to date when they captured Diepenlinchen and Gressenich, Krewinkel and Schevenhuette. The 3.Battalion of the 27.Fusilier-Regiment had moved rapidly through Eschweiler toward the endangered Stolberg area. The battalion captured Atsch at 1330. Continuing south, the battalion was able to regain control of Buesbach – but only for a few hours. By evening, Buesbach was once more American.
In the face of the strong American assault in the Stolberg Corridor the forces of the 27.Fusilier did not suffice to re-establish a coherent German front from Stolberg to Zweifall and to wipe out the American bridgeheads across the Vicht River. The big German counter thrust had to wait until the 12.Iinfantry-Division could move its own artyllery and its other two infantry regiments into the combat area. In the meantime the 27.Fusilier could do no more than seal off the latest American penetrations with the aid of the remaining elements of 9.Panzer. In view of the very critical situation in this sector German forces were consolidated under one command renamed Kampfgruppe Sperling, the remaining elements of the 9.Panzer temporarily lost their division status. Effective 2000 on Sept 16, Kampfgruppe Sperling was attached to the 12.Infantry-Division with the prevision that its forces would be released once the 12.Infantry was fully committed.
LXXXI Corps to 12.Inf Div 1725 on Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf.
Order, LXXXI Corps to all divs at 2000 on Sep 16 44 LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. Report, Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B, Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeresgruppe, Army, usw.
There was another motive for attaching the elements of 9.Panzer-Division to the 12.Infantry-Division. In the morning of Sept 16, Gen Brandenberger had visited the 9.Panzer-Division command post and had asked routine questions regarding the German G-2 estimate of the American situation in the division sector, the location of the 9.Panzer front lines, disposition and strength of 9.Panzer forces, etc.
In attempting to answer these questions Gen Mueller revealed himself as ignorant of the situation in his own sector, whereupon Gen Brandenberger relieved him of his command on a charge of incompetence. The senior regimental commander, Col Max Sperling, assumed command of 9.Panzer until evening of Sept 16. In this study the designation 9.Panzer will continue to be used in reference to these units.
Col Engel now commanded the former sector of 9.Panzer-Division from the Verlautenheide area to the LXXXI Corps southern boundary. By capturing the strategic high ground of Verlautenheide, the 12.Infantry-Division had established a coherent front on its right and had firm contact with 116.Panzer-Division.
On the left, however, the German flank lay exposed all the way to Schevenhuette. The most important immediate task was to establish contact with the northern wing of 353.Infantry-Division in the Zweifall – Huertgen area. The combat mission of 12.Infantry-Division was to launch a major counter-attack from the Eschweiler – Wenau line to regain the second band of the West Wall fortifications from Geisberg Hill to Zweifall. South of Aachen, minor American attacks toward the city on Sept 16 were warded off by the 60.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment. A small American penetration south of Steinebrueck was wiped out when the 453.Replacement-Training-Battalion counter-attacked late in the day and recaptured two bunkers. Police and Party had returned to Aachen during the night from Sept 14/15, and the evacuation was once more in full swing.
Gen von Schwerin was in big trouble. When US forces had failed to capture the city contrary to his expectation his compromising letter to the American commander had fallen into the hands of Nazi officials. Because of both this letter and his effort to stop the chaotic exodus from Aachen, von Schwerin was relieved of his command and ordered to stand trial before Hitler’s People’s Court. Rather than comply, von Schwerin decided to remain with his division until the fall of Aachen. He felt that his men would know how to protect him against Nazi henchmen. While his senior regimental commander, Gen Voigtsberger, assumed the duties of division commander until the arrival of Gen von Waldenburg, von Schwerin hid out in a farmer’s home in Kohlscheid, northeast of Laurensberg. The recon platoon of 60.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment surrounded the farmhouse with a cordon of machine guns. No police detachment trying to arrest their division commander would have escaped alive. When the capture of Aachen did not materialize, Gen von Schwerin finally decided to present himself at the 7.Army headquarters to appear before a military court.
FM Model to OB WEST, 2330, on Sep 15 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations-Befehle. G-1 to G-3, LXXXI Corps, 1045, on Sep 16 44. 7.Army to LXXXI Corps, 1945, on Sep 17 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf.
Gen Gerhard von Schwerin; apparently FM von Rundstedt interceded on Gen von Schwerin’s behalf and even proposed – in vain – that the latter be reinstated as Commanding General of 116.Panzer-Division. After some months in the OK Officer Pool (doghouse), von Schwerin was appointed Commanding Officer of 90.Panzer-Grenadier-Division and later Commanding General of LXXVI Panzer Corps in Italy.
Early in the morning of Sept 17, the 27.Fusilier-Regiment of the 12.Infantry-Division, committed in the Verlautenheide – Stolberg area, resumed its attack to regain the West Wall positions southeast of Eilendorf. In this endeavor the regiment failed. After gaining insignificant ground and recapturing a few bunkers, the regiment bogged down in the face of heavy American artillery fire and suffered considerable casualties. It also ran short of ammunition and was forced to assume a defensive role for the rest of the day.
In the defense, it was more successful. Its 1.Battalion strengthened the contact with the 116.Panzer-Division at Verlautenheide, while the 3.Battalion, on the left, came to the aid of the remaining elements of the 9.Panzer-Division and the 105.Panzer-Brigade who had orders to hold Stolberg at all costs. Between Verlautenheide and Stolberg the 27.Fusilier-Regiment, the 9.Panzer-Division and the 105.Panzer-Brigade repulsed all American attacks launched from the Eilendorf area on Sept 17 and thus enabled the other regiments of the 12.Infantry-Division to carry out their counter thrust against the Mausbach salient without danger to their right flank.
During the morning hours of Sept 17 first the 48.Grenadier-Regiment and shortly afterwards the 89.Grenadier-Regiment detrained in Düren. With these forces the 12.Infantry-Division was supposed to recapture Mausbach and to restore a coherent German front from Stolberg to Zweifall. The 89.Grenadier-Regiment received orders to assemble southeast of Eschweiler and to launch its attack via Hastenrath – Scherpenseel toward Werth, the Weissenberg Hill and Diepenlinchen. The mission of the 48.Grenadier-Regiment was to move through Heistern, Venau, Hamich, and to jump off from Hamich toward Gressenich and Krewinkel, capture Mausbach and reach the Stolberg – Vicht road. According to orders, the 48.Grenadier-Regiment jumped off from Hamich and captured Gressenich, holding it against immediate American counter-attacks from the direction of Schevenhuette. The battalion on the left attacked toward Krewinkel but ran into determined resistance and developed a temporary ammunition shortage so that it was forced to halt its attack. The battalion on the right, driving toward the Mausbach Diepenlinchen line, had a stroke of unusually good luck.
At a point halfway between Mausbach and Diepenlinchen it smashed into the flank of an American attack launched from Mausbach apparently in the general direction of Eschweiler. Coming from an unexpected direction the assault took the Americans by surprise. The 48.Grenadier-Regiment was able to knock out 9 US tanks and to capture fifty-seven Americans including one colonel (a regimental commander, according to German sources). But after achieving this success the German attack bogged down just east of Diepenlinchen in the face of tenacious American resistance. The 89.Grenadier-Regiment had meanwhile launched its attack from the Hastenrath – Scherpenseel area. Instead of waiting for only all its forces to assemble there, it jumped off at noon with one battalion in order to meet the threatening American drive on Eschweiler. The battalion pushed south through Werth; in exceedingly bitter fighting it captured the Weissenberg Hill at 1330 then reached the eastern periphery of Diepenlinchen an hour later. There it also encountered such strong American resistance that its attack bogged down.
In view of the strong American pressure from Krewinkel and probably also the threat to its left flank from Schevenhuette and the Wenau Forest (US 9-ID), the 12.Infantry-Division decided to shift its weight from right to left and to make its main effort through Krewinkel rather than through Diepenlinchen. Permission was asked and granted to call off the attack while the German forces regrouped. By this time the 2.Battalion of the 89.Grenadier-Regiment, additional artillery and antitank forces had arrived on the battlefield. Thus reinforced the Germans resumed their attack at dusk. The main effort drive on the left pushed through the Krewinkel woods into Krewinkel, while on the right the forces pressing south from the Weissenberg Hill and the vicinity of Diepenlinchen penetrated the northern part of Mausbach. This achieved, the 12.Infantry-Division halted for the night.
On Sept 18, the 27.Fusilier-Regiment was to continue its efforts to capture additional bunkers near Muensterbusch, while the 89.Grenadier-Regiment, which had suffered heavy casualties, would regroup and hold its line. The day’s events proved that the 12.Infantry-Division would not find it easy to dislodge the Americans from their salient beyond the Schill Line, once they had recovered from the initial surprise of being hit by unexpectedly formidable German forces, the Americans lost no time before launching powerful, well-supported counter-attacks.
After American artillery had shot the Germans out of Mausbach and Diepenlinchen during the night, two American task forces launched an attack at midnight from the Mausbach area toward Stolberg, while a hail of artillery fire pounded the 1.Battalion of the 48.Grenadier-Regiment east of Mausbach with apparent intent to secure the American right flank. US forces advanced to the southern and southeastern outskirts of Stolberg. They captured the Hammerberg Hill, Burgholzerhof, and the West Wall bunkers along the Vicht River as far as Dinsfeld at 0400 and continued their drive toward the Donnerberg Hill. Another US combat command jumped off toward Stolberg from the Brander Forest and drove as far as the church in Muensterbusch, just west of Stolberg. Perceiving the threatening double envelopment of Stolberg, Col Engel decided not to continue the Mausbach Krewinkel attack (which no longer looked like an easy thing, anyway) in the morning of Sept 18, but rather to shift his main effort against the Americans driving on Stolberg. The LXXXI Corps immediately approved his new intentions. As a result German resistance in the Stolberg area stiffened. Though the Germans were unable to gain more than insignificant ground, they successfully stopped all American attacks.
During the morning, the 27.Fusilier-Regiment repulsed a minor American attack against Verlautenheide, while German artillery hit US positions on the Geisberg Hill. The American drive on the Donnerberg Hill was thrown back with heavy losses; the German counter-attack recaptured two bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. The Germans in Stolberg also repulsed an American attack against the southern periphery of the town at 1200, but not before some streets of Stolberg had become a battleground for the first time.
Near Diepenlinchen on Sept 18, American forces badly mauled the 89.Grenadier-Regiment. Its 1.Battalion had orders to attack through Diepenlinchen and penetrate the woods west of that village. Earlier in the morning strong American forces had moved into Diepenlinchen after US artillery had swept the Germans out of there. The 1.Battalion suffered very heavy casualties in the face of the American batteries. After a bitter battle the Germans succeeded in capturing Diepenlinchen again, but under murderous artillery fire their attack bogged down just west of the village. Relentless, American fire reduced the 1.Battalion of the 89.Grenadier-Regiment to one hundred men, about a fifth of its initial combat strength. At 1730, an American counter-attack was able to capture Diepenlinchen once more. An American attack from Schevenhuette toward Gressenich was repulsed.
LXXXI Corps, at 2100, Sep 18 44. LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. A Gp B, at 0200 Sep 19 44. A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen.
According to MSS # A-971 (Engel) and B-816 (Schack) the 2./48.GR launched an attack toward Schevenhuette just before dawn on Sept 18 and surprised American troops there just as they were being relieved by new forces. Thus the Germans were able to capture Schevenhuette in furious house-to-house and hand-to-hand fighting. By an immediate counter-attack, however, the Americans surrounded the two German companies in Schevenhuette; the Germans dug in but were unable to hold out. After suffering heavy losses, they finally fought their way back to their own lines. By evening Schevenhuette was in American hands again and continued to threaten the flank of 12.ID. The story of this operation has been relegated to this footnote because the writer entertains serious doubt as to whether it ever took place. It seems highly probable that Gen Schack and Col Engel, on whose postwar accounts this story is based, confused it with a very similar operation which definitely took place on Sept 22. The German contemporary documents contain no record of any German operations in Schevenhuette on Sept 18 beyond one solitary hint, in one document, of a later date, which speaks of losses sustained in Schevenhuette on Sept 18. But for this single straw, the writer would have simply dismissed the story as one of many historical inaccuracies to be found in the German postwar accounts and it may well be just that!
In the evening of Sept 18, the 12.Infantry Division front line extended from the southern periphery of Verlautenheide, Hamm, the western edge of Stolberg, the Hammerberg Hill, Niederhof, the Weissenberg Hill and Gressenich. By evening the division had also assembled its fusilier battalion and its engineer battalion. The attack on Diepenlinchen would continue ‘perhaps a regrouping period of twenty-four hours will be required first’. Late in the evening of Sept 18, the Germans outlined their plan for further operations against the Mausbach salient. Since Stolberg was the key to the 12.Infantry-Division operations, all elements of the 9.Panzer-Division would be committed against the American forces which had penetrated the factory areas north and west of Stolberg. After careful recon, the 12.ID engineer battalion would jump off at daybreak on Sept 20 through the woods toward Schevenhuette.
With both flanks (Stolberg and Schevenhuette) thus secured, both battalions of the 89.Grenadier-Regiment were to attack southwestward across Diepenlinchen. The Fusilier Battalion supported by 10 Mark V Panthers would proceed southeast from the Stolberg area and wheel into the West Wall toward Mausbach. Then all forces were to converge and attack along the West Wall (Vicht River) toward Zweifall. On the Aachen front, American forces made no serious attacks toward the city on the 17 and 18 Sept. Aside from minor attacks at Steinebrueck and Burtscheid, which were repulsed by the 116.Panzer-Division, they contented themselves with an almost ceaseless barrage of artillery fire against German positions in and around the city.
The scene of American operations against the 116.PD was shifting northward where the US XIX Corps was engaged in its effort to envelop Aachen from the north. The division’s armor situation was improved on Sept 18 by the addition of 15 assault guns of the 902.Assault-Gun-Brigade. The division also counted a new American jeep among its vehicles because a German prisoner of war had escaped his captors in the stolen jeep. No doubt the man was cock of the walk in his company that day. The events of Sept 19, similar to many days of fighting on the Western Front, were shaped by the fact that the Germans were in the habit of attacking early in the morning, while the Americans chose the afternoon to launch their operations.
The main actions of the day took place in the Stolberg area. At 1100, forces of the 9.Panzer-Division and the 12.Infantry-Division were able to recapture the factory belt west of Stolberg as well as three bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill southeast of that town. Sporadic fighting in the area continued past noon. Shortly thereafter the Americans began the usual very heavy artillery preparation signaling their impending attack. The American operation in the afternoon of Sept 19 was two-pronged and aimed at an envelopment of Stolberg. On the American, left strong infantry and armor jumped off from a Muensterbusch – Buesbach base line in a northeasterly direction toward Stolberg. This attack succeeded in recapturing the factory area and in achieving some penetrations in the western part of Stolberg proper. On the American right, other US forces launched their attack from the woods northwest of Mausbach and captured Niederhof, Burgholzerhof and some bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. In the face of heavy American artillery fire ranging as far as Hastenrath elements of one of the 12.Infantry-Division battalion and 6 Mark V Panthers launched a flanking counter-attack from the woods southwest of Hastenrath and drove down the road via Hochwegerhof toward Niederhof.
This counter-attack apparently was less than successful, for during the night American troops supported by 5 tanks were able to extend their gains northeastward when they captured Hochwegerhof (about one mile north of Diepenlinchen) at 0200 on Sept 20. West of Stolberg, on the other hand, the see-saw battle continued : late in the evening of Sept 19, German troops managed to retake three bunkers. Two of these were located near the railroad running along the southeastern edge of the Würselen Forest (just east of Hamm and Kohlbusch) while the third was at the western end of that forest. The Aachen sector was rather quiet on Sept 19. Early in the morning, the 116.Panzer-Division reported increased American recon activity northwest of Rothe Erde, but aside from that the Americans artillery limited themselves to harassing fire against the German MLR and rear areas for the remainder of the day.
All day, on Sept 19, the fate of the 12.Infantry-Division counter-attack, planned for the morrow, hung in the balance. For one thing, the division faced a serious ammunition shortage. Delivery of at least 6100 rounds of 105-MM ammunition was essential before the division could carry out its projected attack. Since the LXXXI Corps was unable to supply this ammunition, it turned to the 7.Army for help. The army transport officer reported that an ammunition supply train was expected at Düren during the night from the 19 to 20 Sept, but that its content was unknown.
LXXXI Corps to 12.Inf Div at 0200 on Sep 19 44. 7.Army to LXXXI Corps at 0310 and 0400 on Sep 19 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. (It is not clear whether or not this train evetually helped to ease the shortage, since the attack was called off, anyway, and the reasons are complex, involving, among other factors, a change in command at the corps command level).
To complicate matters further, the 9.PD, whose forces were needed to help restore the situation around Eilendorf, was short of fuel. Nevertheless, in the evening of Sept 19 plans still called for the 12.ID to go ahead with its attack, although Gen Schack remarked that ‘the attack by the 12.ID tomorrow morning will have little success’. In addition to its other problems the 12.ID already faced a personnel shortage. In the morning of September 20, Col Engel oriented his new corps commander, Gen Friedrich J. M. Koechling about the situation. In stressing the gravity of his situation, Col Engel stated that only 400 men of the 89.Grenadier-Regiment were still available for the defense of the sector east of Stolberg. One engineer company of the 12.ID, intended to close the gap near Duffenter (American salient at Hochwegerhof) had not arrived and its where-abouts were still unknown.
On September 20 1944, Gen Schack was relieved as commander of the LXXXI Corps (in connection with the Schwerin affair) and was replaced by Gen Koechling. Gen Koechling to Col Engel at 0700 on Sep 20 44, LXXII Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf.
In view of the critical operational and logistical situation the new corps commander countermanded Gen Schack’s order for a large-scale 12.Infantry-Division attack on Sept 20 and stated that ‘in view of the heavy losses sustained and the mighty material superiority of the enemy, he will, in the future, order an attack only when it promises more success; aside from that the main mission will be to hold the line and to avoid unnecessary losses’.
All night long American medium and heavy guns shot harassing fire against the entire LXXXI Corps sector. In the sector of the 116.Panzer-Division an American combat patrol, favored by the early morning mist, attacked the German MLR south of Burtscheid at 0800 on Sept 20 and was repulsed. Aside from that, action in the Aachen sector was again limited to an artillery duel which lasted all day. Between Muensterbusch and Gressenich the forces of the 12.Infantry-Division spent a very busy day trying to defeat American endeavors to envelop Stolberg and to push further up the Stolberg Corridor toward Eschweiler. American operations on Sept 20 began with an armored infantry drive from Diepenlinchen northeastward toward Werth.
Fearing a penetration at the boundary between the 89. and the 48.Grenadier-Regiments, Col Engel ordered an immediate counter-attack. This attack, launched at noon on a fairly broad front, succeeded not only inturning back the American attack toward Werth but also in closing the gap between Stolberg and Duffenter and sealing off the American penetration at Hochwegerhof east of Duffenter. The 12.Infantry-Division established a coherent front line from the southern edge of Stolberg – Duffenter – eastward on the Duffenter-Werth road as far as Hochwegerhof – southward to Weissenberg – southern periphery of Gressenich – northern periphery of Schevenhuette.
Later in the afternoon, American forces embarked on the inevitable daily assault on Stolberg. Again they attacked on both sides of the German-held town. West of Stolberg American forces achieved a penetration at the site of the Stolberg Gun Factory. Driving northward from the Buesbach area American tanks and infantry attacked the Donnerberg Hill, held by one and a half companies of the 12.Engineer-Battalion. The engineers were able to halt the American attack at first, but soon US forces had thrown a ring around the Donnerberg Hill. Two German combat patrols, one from the northwest, the other from the northeast tried to crack this ring but failed. American forces fanned out from the Donnerberg Hill: US infantry attacked from the Donnerberg Hill westward toward Stolberg while US tanks sat on the western slope of the hill spewing fire at the city below. In the meantime, other American forces had driven north from the vicinity of Muensterbusch and soon their tanks were plowing up the small vegetable gardens west of the Stolberg factory belt.
LXXXI Corps to 12.Inf Div at 2010 on Sep 20 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. (The gardens mentioned were in all likelihood small Victory type gardens cultivated by factory workers and owned communally. This institution is found all over Germany in peace and war and is called Schrebergarten.)
As the day changed to night, American troops entered Stolberg, and the situation developed into confused, disorganized house-to-house fighting in the city. At dawn on Sept 21, American armor was observed assembling south of the Donnerberg Hill preparatory to a renewal of the attack. When it came the Germans were ready and stopped the American attack, launched mostly by infantry with some tanks in support, at 0800. Two hours later, US forces in battalion strength attacked northeastward toward Duffenter. In conjunction with this drive American troops captured the remaining bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. With this strategic height in American hands, southern Stolberg was extremely vulnerable to a US assault from the east. In the event that the southern half of the town could not be held, the German forces in Stolberg (9.PD with attached units) proceeded to establish a switch position across the center of the town, from the Stolberg Mill west of Stolberg cutting across the town to the road junction southwest of Duffenter.
The Germans were able to repulse one attack against the southern edge of Stolberg and knocked out 2 US tanks in the process. Late in the afternoon the expected major attack came out of the east, and came so fast that the forces of Kampfgruppe Volker (9.PD) in the southern part of Stolberg were cut off before they had had a chance to withdraw northward to the switch position. In very bitter fighting in the streets of Stolberg these elements finally battled their way out of the pocket and joined the Kampfgruppe Schemm at the defense line cutting across Stolberg. Half of Stolberg was now in US hands and the attacks, mounting in intensity, continued into the evening. West of the town strong American forces achieved new penetrations in the factory belt while to the east the Americans gained the western slope of the Donnerberg Hill – as on the previous day – and immediately wheeled northwestward to attack the switch position which barred their way into northern Stolberg.
LXXXI Corps at 1120 on Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen. LXXXI Corps to Col Engel at 1530 on Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampferlauf. (According to the 9.PD official report on the Battle of Stolberg, September 23 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungender Div., US forces on September 20 1944 had knocked out 8 of the twelve bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill by means of demolition charges and heaviest caliber artillery fire. In most instances the bunkers had had to be destroyed along with their garrisons, which had refused to surrender.
American successes on both sides of Stolberg threatened to envelop the Stolberg Mill – Duffenter Line, and the Germans feared the final collapse of their Stolberg front. Later in the evening the American envelopment (especially the prong west of Stolberg) forced them to withdraw to a new switch line cutting across the northern sector of Stolberg from the vicinity of Schneidmuehle – Atsch southeastward to the village of Donnerberg. South of Aachen, the 156.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment (116.PD) consolidated its defense line on Sept 21 to free some reserves. The front line of the regiment was re-established to extend from Vaelser Quartier (probably point of contact with the 60.Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment) half a mile north of Hill 321 and half a mile north-northeast of the Steinebrueck railroad station. This move disengaged the 453.Replacement-Training-Battalion which was to take over a part of the 12.Infantry-Division sector in accordance with the LXXXI Corps orders.
In relieving the 1.Battalion of the 27.Fusilier-Regiment, the 453.Replacement-Training-Battalion (116.Panzer-Division) took over the sector from Verlautenheide to the railroad overpass one mile west-southwest of Verlautenheide in the evening of Sept 21. From there, the LXXXI Corps front line continued past the northern edge of the Stolberg factory belt, along the switch position across northern Stolberg to the northern edge of the Donnerberg Hill; from there via Duffenter along the Duffenter – Werth road to half a mile west of Werth – Weissenberg Hill – western and southern edge of Gressenich – nortnern edge of Schevenhuette. The new boundary line between the 116.Panzer-Division and the 12.Infantry-Division extended, in the combat zone, from Eschweiler (12.ID) via the railroad overpass one mile west-southwest of Verlautenheide to Brand (116.PD). Immediately following its relief by the 453.Replacement-Training-Battalion, the 1.Battalion of the 27.Fusilier-Regiment was moved by motor transport to Eschweiler where it was to assemble for a counter-attack, to be launched out of movement with intent to close the gap between Stolberg and Donnerberg.
During the night, considerable recon activity took place on both sides. The Germans spotted in numbers of US tanks everywhere and noted much digging and improvement of positions in the vicinity of Hochwegerhof and Niederhof. At 0330, the 12.Infantry-Division repulsed an attack by five US armored cars against Bunker 708 on the Donnerberg Hill. Panzerfaust destroyed two of the armored cars. At 0730, on Sept 22, one American armored company (1 tank and a few armored cars) was able to exploit the early morning fog to bypass the Stolberg switch position between Stolberg and Donnerberg and to push north as far as Zinkhuette (zinc mine) and Birkengang east of Stolberg. At the same time, US forces launched repeated attacks with about 50 tanks from the south, southwest, and southeast toward Duffenter and the southern slope of the Donnerberg Hill.
After the unsuccessful attempt earlier in the morning to capture Bunker 708, 10 US tanks lumbered up to the bunker and surrounded it. They stayed there for several hours without being able to crack the pillbox. Massed German artillery fire finally destroyed 1 tank and forced the rest to withdraw. German fire was also effective against American assemblies south and southwest of the Donnerberg Hill.
The Germans who had but 1 Mark V Panther and 1 assault gun on the Donnerberg Hill this morning were afraid the counter-attack of 1.Battalion of the 27.Fusilier-Regiment, would come too late to plug the gap. The 9.Panzer-Division cried for AT weapons. This division, which had been promised relief days ago, was still defending the battered ruins of Stolberg as best it could; it took a terrible beating in the process. In only forty hours – from 1800 on Sept 20 until 1200 on Sept 22, the division had lost 841 men, 18 of whom were officers. At noon on Sept 22, the factory belt west of Stolberg was once again in American hands. With its last reserves the 9.Panzer-Division established an AT defense line facing west and running parallel to the main streets of Stolberg. American attacks at the Donnerberg and southwest of Duffenter continued. In the nick of time the reinforced 1.Battalion of the 27.Fusilier-Regiment arrived from its assembly area at Eschweiler and in a surprise attack descended on the US forces which had penetrated to Zinkhuette and Birkengang early in the morning.
Attacking at 1300, the German battalion jumped off from the woods east of Birkengang on a broad front toward Birkengang and the village of Donnerberg. Despite heavy American fire the Germans were able to recapture these places rapidly and to continue their attack against the Americans on the western slope of the Donnerberg Hill. Once more, the 12.Infantry-Division defended a coherent front line. All through the afternoon American forces continued to hurl themselves against the German line, but in vain. Jumping off at 1430, US forces attacked from the south into the city at Stolberg. The exhausted elements of the 9.Panzer-Division were able to repulse them in bitter street fighting. At 1700, 12 US tanks renewed their efforts to break through the switch position in the city and achieved a local penetration. But on the whole the Germans heldfast. On that day they inflicted on the Americans the loss of 10 tanks, 2 armored cars, and 2 210-MM self-propelled guns in the Stolberg sector.
While the battle for Stolberg reached a climax in intensity, the central sector of the 12.Infantry-Division front was quiet except for a German artillery barrage aimed at smashing US concentrations in the Diepenlinchen – Mausbach area. At the eastern end of the front, however, fighting was as bitter as in Stolberg, with the difference that here the Americans, on the defensive, also demonstrated the ability to stand their ground and to inflict terrific punishment on the attacking enemy. Before dawn on Sept 22, the 2.Battalion of the 48.Grenadier-Regiment had jumped off from Gressenich on a mission to wipe out the American bridgehead at Schevenhuette. Following a thorough artillery preparation the two German infantry companies executed an elaborate enveloping maneuver and attacked Schevenhuette from the northeast and southeast. The American outposts on the eastern perimeter of the village offered such tenacious resistance that the Germans had to kill them to the last man.
Upon penetrating the eastern part of the village, the Germans were immediately engaged in such bitter and bloody fighting that they sustained murderous losses. When all officers of the battalion had been killed or wounded, the Germans were forced to discontinue the attack and to withdraw from the eastern part of Schevenhuette, which they had briefly captured. Back in Gressenich the survivors reported that US forces had converted Schevenhuette into a veritable fortress, fully secured by minefields and barbed wire and tenaciously defended by 600 to 700 men.
On the basis of this experience Gen Koechling decided that the gap between Gressenich and the boundary with the LXXIV Corps merited special attention. The arrival several days earlier of the 183.Volks-Grenadier-Division and its commitment in the Geilenkirchen area on the northern wing of the LXXXI Corps made it possible to disengage the remaining elements of the 275.Infantry-Division and to commit them, somewhat reinforced, to close the gap on the corps southern wing. The 275.ID (Gen Hans Schmidt) spent the night Sept 22/23 in disengaging its forces from the front and moving them to Düren for assembly.
These elements consisted of about 1800 men combat strength, 11 75-MM AT guns, 1 organic battery of 105-MM howitzers and 3 attached batteries of 105-MM howitzers. In its new sector in the Wenau Forest the following forces were to join the division : 1.SS-Guards-Company, 1.Battalion Legion Vlanderen (Flemish troops), formerly attached to Kampfgruppe Jungklaus, Kampfgruppe Riedl, and the personnel of the 668.Heavy-AT-Battalion. The 275.Infantry-Division artillery was reinforced by the so-called Russian Artillery Group of the 49.Infantry consisting of 2 batteries equipped with the Russian 76.2-MM infantry cannon and one battery with the Russian 122-MM guns.
Having lost its weapons, this battalion was to be equipped with short-range antitank weapons (Bazookas, Panzerschrecks and Panzerfausts) until the arrival of new guns. No information is available about the composition of Kampfgruppe Riedl.
The division received orders to commit its organic troops and Kampfgruppe Riedl in the front line to plug the gap between the 12.Infantry-Division and the 353.Infantry-Division (LXXIV Corps) while the troops attached from Kampfgruppe Jungklaus were to improve the bridgehead positions at Düren. The new boundaries of the 275.Infantry-Division were : in the north with the 12.Iinfantry-Division in Arnoldsweiler, Birkesdorf, Schlich, Schevenhuette and Vicht; to the south with the LXXIV Corps, south of Düren to the south of Zweifall.
On Sept 23, the 275.Infantry-Division established its command post in Düren and occupied its new sector. Late in the afternoon its troops had all but closed the gap, having secured contact with the 12.Infantry-Division, but were still marching the Wenau Forest for contact with elements of 353.Infantry-Division. The day brought localized fighting in the Aachen and Stolberg sectors, as did the days to follow, but all actions remained inconclusive. The German front, as established on Sept 22, held against all attacks. The crescendo at Stolberg on Sept 22 in fact marked the end of the VII Corps recon in force in the LXXXI Corps sector. The Americans had deeply penetrated both bands of the West Wall, especially in the Stolberg Corridor, but on the whole the Germans had scored a defensive success in denying the VII Corps a decisive breakthrough via Eschweiler to Jülich, Düren and Cologne. The Germans had both emotional and materialistic incentives for offering such tenacious resistance in this particular area.
They were defending the famous West Wall, their own soil and such historic cities as Aachen. At the same time the contested area was highly industrialized and contained many vital war production plants. For instance, a plant in the little town of Weisweiler (two miles east of Eschweiler) produced 40% of the national output of an alloy essential to the entire German steel production. From this point of view also the situation demands that the enemy penetration east of Aachen be wiped out, wrote Gen Brandenberger in a report to FM Model.
Much of the credit for the German defensive success undoubtedly belongs to the German communications and logistics. Had the exhausted elements of the LXXXI Corps which fell back to the West Wall about mid-September been left to shift for themselves, there can be no doubt that American forces would have broken through to Cologne in a very short time. But in spite of the extremely heavy losses the Germans suffered, their situation on Sept 23 was actually much better than it had been one week earlier. In the space of that week, the Germans had accomplished the extraordinary feat of moving three full-strength divisions to the Aachen area. Of these divisions, the 12.Infantry-Division and the 183.Volks-Grenadier-Division had arrived and been committed. A third of the 246.Volks-Grenadier-Division entrained on Sept 23 in Bohemia with the mission to relieve, at long last, the 116.Panzer-Division and the 9.Panzer-Division. This relief was scheduled to get under way on Sept 23, even before the arrival of the 246.Volks-Grenadier-Division, with replacement units going into the line. The 116.Panzer-Division received orders to assemble in the Jülich – Düren area as Army Group B reserve.
Thanks to the relative quiet in the sector of the 116.Panzer-Division during the week from the 16 to the 23 Sept, this division had not sustained any appreciable losses and had been rehabilitated to some extent while still in the line. Attachment of 6 battalions had more than doubled its organic combat strength. There were five times as many tanks and assault guns as there had been a week earlier. The fuel situation, on the other hand, was critical, with division reserves down to about five hundred gallons; as a result division armor and motor transport were nearly immobilized.
On Sept 23, the 9.Panzer-Division also received orders to disengage its forces but to leave its armor with the 12.Infantry-Division. The 9.Panzer-Division, with the 105.Panzer-Brigade and miscellaneous attached units, had taken the worst beating of all the German divisions in the area. In one week, Sept 14 to Sept 22, the division had lost 21 officers and 1040 enlisted men. These casualties made up over two thirds of the combat strength of Kampfgruppe Sperling (the 9.Panzer-Division less forces attached to the 353.Infantry-Division on Sept 15.
On Sept 22, the combat strength of the Kampfgruppe was down to 35 officers and 796 enlisted men. These forces were exhausted and suffered from severe combat fatigue, as evidenced by the fact that they abandoned their positions frequently even when supported by armor, and were quite impervious to dire threats from their superiors. The out-standing factor responsible for the heavy German casualties and the shattered combat morale of the survivors, according to German observers, was the murderously efficient American artillery fire.
Some units had been wiped out almost completely in three weeks of fighting. Thus, for example, the 105.Panzer-Grenadier-Battalion had gone into the line on Sept 3 with 22 officers and 716 enlisted men. Most of this strength, 11 officers and 611 enlisted men, had been lost from the 3 to the 22 Sept, leaving the battalion with 11 officers and 105 enlisted men. The 12.Infantry-Division had also taken terrible punishment during the week from the 16 to the 23 Sept. In that single week the division had lost half of its combat strength (from a combat strength of 3800 men it was down to about 1900). According to Col Engel the heaviest casualties had been incurred during the first two days (17 and 18 Sept) on the Aachen front.
In those two days of German counter-attack the 89.Grenadier-Regiment had lost one third of its combat strength. The 2.Battalion of the 48.Grenadier-Regiment lost half of its strength in Schevenhuette. The heavy losses were due chiefly to the massed and well-directed American artillery fire and to the bloody street and house-to-house fighting in Verlautenheide, Stolberg, and Schevenhuette. In summing up his division’s first week of action on the Western Front Gen Engel writes that the division adjusted rapidly to the different conditions in that theater. He finds the reasons for the relatively successful defense in the high morale and physical fitness of the 12.Infantry-Division.
The LXXIV Corps Defense
Lammersdorf Corridor & West Wall
Although the Battle of the Stolberg Corridor definitely constituted the VII Corps main effort from the 12 to the 23 of Sept, this study of the German side would not be complete without an account of the forces facing the US 9-ID and the 4-CG in the Lamnmersdorf, Monschau and the Elsenborn area. This sector of the West Wall had been assigned to the LXXIV Corps, under the command of Gen Erich Straube. When the VII Corps launched its recon in force on September 12, the elements subordinate to the LXXIV Corps were still fighting forward of the West Wall fortifications. These forces consisted of the exhausted remnants of two divisions, the 89.Infantry-Division commanded by Col Roesler, and the 347.Infantry-Division under Gen Wolf Trierenberg.
The 89.Infantry-Division had hardly any organic forces left. Its 1055.Infantry-Regiment had been completely destroyed in France. Of the 1056.Infantry-Regiment about 350 men were all that remained. The division had lost its entire artillery in France. The artillerymen, engineers, signal, and service troops had long ago been absorbed into the infantry. Shortly before the 89.Infantry-Division reached the West Wall as the so-called Ost-Bataillon (East Battalion) of Russian ‘Volunteers’ was attached. This battalion consisted of 400 to 500 men, was well-trained, fairly well equipped, and possessed 4 Russian 122-MM howitzers. In addition, a Landesschuetzen battalion that had done railway guard duty in Belgium was attached to the division. Like all such battalions, it was composed of middle-aged, untrained, and poorly armed men. A little later the division also received two companies composed of stragglers and one platoon of military police. The West Wall sector assigned to the division lay in the northern half of the LXXIV Corps sector.
The division boundary in the north was identical to the LXXIV Corps boundary with the LXXXI Corps, Zülpich, Schmidt, and Roetgen. In the south, the 89.Infantry-Division boundary with the 347.Infantry-Division extended from south of Schleiden via Arenberg to about Camp d’Elsenborn. Until the arrival of the 89.Infantry-Division the West Wall was occupied by the 416.Grenadier-Training-Regiment (526.Reserve-Division). This regiment consisted of 1200 to 1500 infantry replacements of all shades of value and fitness. Its artillery situation was so poor as to appear comical. The regiment boasted 1 German 105-MM howitzer and 1 Italian medium (ca. 150-MM) howitzer. There was only one prime mover to pull both guns. After two days in action, the Italian piece ran out of ammunition and from then on served psychological warfare as a ‘phantom gun’. Whenever the prime mover was not needed for more important purposes, the Italian howitzer was hitched on and dragged around the front to be shown off to the enemy. When the 89.Infantry-Division took over the West Wall sector, the 416.Grenadier-Training-Regiment was attached to the division. Intent on building up its strength to two infantry regiments again, the 89.Ifantry-Division maintained the regiment as a unit and later made it organic. On that occasion the 416.Grenadier-Training-Regiment received the designation of the late 1055.Infantry-Regiment. In addition to this regiment, the 5.Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion, the 9.LFB, and the 14.LFB were attached to the 89.Infantry-Division. In AT weapons the division had 14 75-MM AT guns.
The southern half of the LXXIV Corps sector was assigned to the 347.Infantry-Division. The remaining organic combat strength of this division consisted of 100 men of the 860.Infantry-Regiment and 30 men of the 861.Infantry-Regiment. On Sept 10, this little band was reinforced by 40 men of a bicycle company. These elements were organized into a Kampfgruppe under the command of Col von Rochow, probably commander of 860.Infantry-Regiment. After reaching the West Wall, Kampfgruppe von Rochow was redesignated 3.Battalion, 860.Infantry-Regiment, and was gradually rehabilitated to serve as a nucleus for a full-strength regiment. Besides these infantry elements the 347.Infantry-Division still possessed 2 organic self-propelled 150-MM infantry cannon. When the 347.Infantry-Division took over its West Wall sector, the 536.Grenadier-Training-Regiment (526.Reserve-Division) with about 1200 infantry replacements, the 7.Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion, and the Stomach Battalion were attached to the division. (All officers and men of the Stomach Battalion suffered from ailments of the digestive tract and received a special diet. German testimonies regarding its value in combat differ so widely as to contradict one another)
It also received additional artillery with the 76.Artillery-Reserve-Battalion (6 105-MM howitzers and 3 150-MM howitzers). In AT weapons the 347.Infantry-Division possessed 17 75-MM AT guns. The 347.Infantry-Division may be dealt with very briefly here because it saw very little action during the last half of Sept 1944. On Sept 14, Kampfgruppe von Rochow was able to break out of an American encirclement near Camp d’Elsenborn, throw American forces out of Rocherath, and assume command of its West Wall sector. Aside from recon and combat patrol activity centering around Losheimergraben, the sector remained quiet enough for the division to devote itself to the urgent task of rehabilitation and reorganization.
The sector of 89.Infantry-Division was the scene of the US 9-ID’s effort to drive through the Lammersdorf Corridor and gain the Roer River in Sept 1944. On Sept 12, the elements of 89.Infantry-Division, split up in isolated groups, were committed from west of Muetzenich to southwest of Kalterherberg. Both flanks of the division were exposed but American pressure was so minor that Col Roesler saw no compelling reason to withdraw to the West Wall. On Sept 13, the division reported that American armored spearheads advancing along the Eupen – Monschau road toward Monschau had reached the edge of the woods north and south of Neu-Hattlich.
The next day, other US forces pushing north from Bütgenbach in the sector of 347.Infantry-Division reached the southern periphery of Kalterherberg at 1100. Elements of 89.Infantry-Diivision established a screening line in Monschau and Hoefen. While fighting began in Kalterherberg, the 89.Infantry-Division repulsed an American attack on Lammersdorf.
The US 9-ID’s push had begun. Konzen was recaptured, and along the Eupen – Muetzenich road American armored units attacked toward the Zollhaus (customs house) at Muetzenich. An American pincer movement aimed at the capture of Monschau emerged clearly, with one prong driving east on the Eupen – Monschau (Ternel – Hattlich) road while the other pushed up on the Bütgenbach – Kalterherberg road. Both drives made progress on Sept 14. On the evening of the 14 of Sept, American forces captured the customs house at Muetzenich and crossed the German border. US infantry captured Kalterherberg and continued in a north – northeasterly direction toward Monschau while behind them American tanks and armored cars rumbled up the winding road from Kalterherberg to Monschau during the night from the 14 to the 15 of Sept.
On Sept 15, the 89.Infantry-Division decided to withdraw all its elements to the West Wall. The 416.Grenadier-Training-Regiment (later redesignated 1055.Infantry-Regiment) was committed in the northern half of the division sector – Lammersdorf – Monschau area while the remaining elements of the 1056.Infantry-Regiment were committed in the Hoefen – Alzen sector. The Russian battalion secured the division’s northern flank and the boundary with the 353.Infantry-Division. The Landesschuetzen were committed on the southern flank and boundary with the 347.Infantry-Division. The Luftwaffe Fortress Battalions were not considered battle-worthy and, hence, were employed to man the Schill Line, at this time still well to the rear of the division combat zone. The American pincers continued to close on Monschau. Late in the afternoon on Sept 15, American forces which had advanced up the road from Kalterberg entered Monschau.
While a battle ensued in the town, American armor on the Eupen – Monschau road crossed the railroad tracks east of Muetzenich and headed for a juncture with US forces in Monschau. The town fell to the Americans during the night from Sep 15 to 16, and the US 9-ID achieved its first penetration of the West Wall when its forces thrust northeastward from Monschau toward Imgenbroich. Then the Germans rallied to the defense. They recaptured Konzen and Bicierath and reported that they had knocked out one American tank at Muetzenich.
On Sept 16, the 353.Infantry-Division with its sector was attached to the LXXIV Corps. In the sector of the 89.Infantry-Division the day was uneventful except for an American attack west of Lammersdorf which the Germans repulsed. In the Monschau area, the Americans were apparently busy consolidating their gains and contented themselves with continuous and very heavy artillery fire on the German MLR (West Wall). During the night, US forces renewed their attack in the northern sector of the 89.Infantry-Division and this time succeeded in penetrating Lammersdorf. In the south American troops entered Hoefen. The see-saw fighting which now began lasted for several days. In the small hours of the morning on Sept 17, the Germans launched counter-attacks to wipe out these penetrations. In both areas they achieved.
By the morning on Sept 17, their counter-attack had regained the first line of bunkers near Lammersdorf. At noon, however, the Americans renewed their drive north of Lammersdorf with strong infantry and armor and achieved fresh penetrations in the Scharnhorst Line. Another US attack, at Pastenbach south of Lammersdorf, was repulsed. At Hoefen fighting was very bitter. The village changed hands several times during the day. By evening, elements of the 89.Infantry-Division had captured the southern part of Hoefen. Their counter-attack continued on Sept 18 in the morning only one bunker north of Hoefen remained in American hands; by noon the Germans had regained the complete bunker line at Hoefen and had captured 14 Americans. But their success was short-lived.
At 1600 on Sept 18, 15 to 20 American tanks broke through the MLR at Hoefen from the north and achieved a penetration east and south of Hoefen. The Germans were able to seal off this penetration by evening. In the north of the 89.-ID sector two American battalions supported by tanks launched an attack at about 1700 and broke through the West Wall at Lammersdorf, penetrating 3 miles in a south-southeasterly direction to the Kall River valley. There this penetration also was sealed off.
The Americans renewed their attack southeast of Lammersdorf at 0930 on September 19 but ran a foul of a German fortified road block established during the night at the road junction half a mile southeast of Lammersdorf. Here this attack ground to a halt. Another American attack at Paustenbach was also repulsed. There the 89.-ID destroyed 2 US tanks and recaptured a Bunker. The Germans noted that the Americans were building up their strength in Monschau. Additional forces including 14 tanks had moved into the town.
A Gp B at 2045 on Sep 19 44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. (The Germans were very well informed about what was going on behind the American lines. Col Neitzel gives a rather amusing account of the constant traffic across the German MLR into and out of American-held territory. German soldiers in civilian clothing paid regular visits to Roetgen and Monschau. From the American prisoner collecting point at Roetgen these visitors usually managed to bring back one or two German prisoners of war along with some American rations. From Monschau every move the Americans made was reported back to the G-2 section of 89.Infantry-Division.
On Sept 20, the US 9-ID launched two armored attacks against Paustenbach. The Germans repulsed both and inflicted heavy losses on the attackers. Action in the LXXIV Corps sector shifted to the north where the Battle of the Stolberg Corridor fanned out southward to draw the 353.Infantry-Division and the 89.Infantry-Division into its orbit. At 1630 on Sept 20, American tanks jumping off from south-west of Zweifall penetrated to the monument located about 3 miles east of that village. Both, the 89.Infantry-Division and the 353.Infantry-Division immediately launched a counter-attack against this salient. The Americans however, were not to be dislodged easily. On Sept 21, a US tank attack in the woods east of Zweifall threw the Germans back to the Weisser-Veh Creek 1 mile west of Huertgen. A few American tanks reached Germeter. To help restore the situation as soon as possible, the 7.Army ordered the 341.Assault-Gun-Brigade shifted from the LXXXI Corps to the 353.Infantry-Division. During the night from Sept 21 to 22, the division intended to move this assault gun brigade, one infantry and one engineer battalion, one artillery battery and five 75-MM AT guns to the area with plans to counter-attack on Sept 22.
LXXXI Corps to 353.Inf Div at 1720, Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf. 7.Army to LXXXI Corps at 1940, Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle: Heeresgruppe, Armee, use. A Gp B at 1840, Sep 21 44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung. A Gp B at 0110 on Sep 22 44, A Gp B KTB,Tagesmeldungen.
The German counter-attack to wipe out the first American penetration of the Huertgen Forest apparently did not make any spectacular headway on Sept 22. On the second day of the attack (Sept 23) the forces of 353.Infantry-Division pushed the Americans back to within 3 miles southeast of Zweifall and recaptured one bunker. 3 American tank attacks launched in the Rollesbroich – Huertgen Forest three miles northeast of Lammersdorf were beaten back. As for the Russian ‘Volunteers’ committed here, the first encounter with US tanks proved to be too much for them. After an appeal by several Russian deserters who rode American tanks into the Rollesbroich Forest and broadcast to their countrymen over a public address system, two-thirds of the Russian battalion went over to the Americans in a body. This incident decided the Germans that they were through experimenting with ‘Osttruppen’ (Eastern Troops). The remaining Russians were moved to the rear where they were disarmed and employed as laborers.
During the last week of September, American combat activity gradually died down in the LXXIV Corps sector. The first American drive for the Roer had been stopped. No one – friend or foe – as yet anticipated the tragic significance which the name Huertgen Forest would acquire in the bloody battles for the Roer River Dams of October and November 1944.