1-ID – Butgenbach – 01-1945

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On Jan 1, 1945, the enemy was on an operational see-saw, his original plans of an unchecked drive to the Meuse River had been blocked to the west and his desperate efforts to enlarge his salient to the north by driving the 12.SS-Panzer-Division through the 1st Infantry Division and on up the Butgenbach Eupen road net had failed with serious losses. As a consequence, the four Kampfgruppe of the 1.SS-Panzer-Division (Peiper, Knittel, Sandig, Hansen), particularly Kammpfgruppe Peiper, farther west, had been cut off on its exposed right flank and very roughly handled. The enemy was rapidly losing the advantage of initiative in operations, but he still had sufficient forces to attempt to seize it again, although on a plan considerably revised from his original ambitious strategy. What he could do, and eventually what he did, was to bring in infantry units to hold the salient which he had won while he withdrew his striking forces, the panzer divisions, and assembled them for a new blow, possibly to the north toward Liège. But as so often in his planning, the enemy waited too long before initiating this policy. By the time sufficient infantry forces had been brought into the salient, his armored forces, regrouped in the center of the bulge, had to hurry off to answer the threat of the American penetration from the south in the vicinity of Bastogne. The idea of holding his gains by infantry, however, persisted, and on Jan 1, a prisoner from a Volksgrenadier Division and another one, a Fallschirmjäger Division, were captured along the right flank of the division sector.

Captured Order, 2/9.Fall. Rgt)
2.Bn, 9.Fall Rgt, CP, Jan 5, 1945, Bn Order No 3/1945. It seems that the enemy has penetrated more deeply west of Stavelot. Counter-measures are being undertaken. However, there remains the constant capability that the enemy will attack our division front, in order to tie down our troops or even to force a breakthrough. The small-scale attacks which the enemy undertook on Jan 4, must be considered as feints for the main attack in the Stavelot Marche sector. The division expects the enemy to undertake several small-scale attacks in the next few days. It is a constant necessity, especially during the hours of dawn and dusk, to have reserves available, to improve defensive dugouts, and to have constant and adequate communications with the artillery forward observers. According to an order from the 3.Fall-Artillery-Regiment, dated Jan 2, the division artillery is also responsible for counter-battery fire against heavy mortars. The 3.Fall-Artillery-Regiment will fire at these targets when sufficient ammunition is available. Not a single foot of soil will be relinquished. The enemy’s attack must be stopped immediately at the MLR (Main Line of Resistance) by the concentrated fire of all weapons and by counter-attacks. The enemy’s penetration west of Stavelot was accomplished by tanks with the infantry riding on the armor. The AT defenses are once more to be checked for adequate security in depth. The troops are to be instructed again that we are now on German soil. Theft will be punished as pillage. The inhabitants are to be treated as German ‘Peoples Comrades’. Civilians who are picked up at the MLR or under suspicious circumstances anywhere are to be arrested and evacuated immediately. Signal security will be stressed once more. The Americans are able to listen in on all telephone conversations. Secret messages are to be transmitted by runners only. (signed)(illegible) Captain, Commanding

On Jan 2, a battalion of the German 27.Regiment (12.Infantry-Division), another old acquaintance from Verlautenheide (Aachen) and Gressenich, was identified in the Bullingen area, and on Jan 3, the 1/1055.Regiment (89.Volks-Grenadier-Division) was located south of Dom Butgenbach while the 2/1055.Regiment was checked in the Bullingen Wirtzfeld area. It was probable that the 27.Regiment had dropped off on its way west to protect the stalled panzers and that 1055.Regiment had been moved into the area to hold the line permanently. In any case, there was no question but that the enemy was implementing his capability of trying to hold the line he had gained with infantry while he regrouped his panzers elsewhere for either a concerted attack or, failing that, an integrated withdrawal. It was evident from the activities of the enemy infantry units facing the Division that they held no idea of attacking in force. Our patrols, which were active and frequent, reported that the enemy was digging in, putting up wire, and constructing dugouts. By Jan 5, the enemy position had become more or less stabilized, with the 1/9.Fall.Regiment on the extreme left flank of the 3.Fall.Division (one company held Thirimont), the 8.Fall.Regiment to the east extending to within 1500 yards of the road from Morscheck to Dom Butgenbach, and the 1055.Regiment carrying on from there, through Bullingen to Wirtzfeld. Elements of the 5.Fall.Regiment, believed to be in strategic reserve, were identified in Vielsalm on Jan 7, but prisoners captured on the Division front later in the fighting said that the main body of the 5.Fall.Regiment had relieved the 8.Fall.Regiment on Jan 7.

3.Fall.Div Estimate of the Situation, 3.Fall.Div, Div CP, Jan 4, 1945, G-2, G-2 Report No 1, Estimate of the Enemy Situation. Both the presence of new enemy troops brought up since the beginning of our offensive and the well-sited enemy positions and mines encountered during our attack on Dec 28, show that the enemy has constructed strong defensive lines after regrouping and consolidating the breakthrough. This strong defensive line in front of the Corps sector is supported by strong artillery formations. Enemy intentions are: further entrenching and holding of the Elsenborn apex in order to prevent further progress of our defensive screen towards the north and west. (1) Especially in the direction of St-Vith in order to narrow our bulge in southeastern Belgium. (2) Enemy attacks of greater than merely local significance must be expected in a southeasterly and easterly direction from Elsenborn.
Enemy Methods of Special Note: The enemy is conducting a stubborn defense in well constructed, strategic positions, and is well-armed. (1) He will place his MLR in a locality where there is open ground between his and our positions, at the outer edge of the woods; he will construct strong points along this line, using houses and high ground sometimes located in front of the MLR. A complete system of communication lines. He will construct strong points in the middle of the woods, from which he can dominate the MLR. (2) The enemy defense is in-depth, with the usual thin outpost line. There are strong reserves for counter-thrusts and holding attacks and roadblock defenses, and artillery plans for fire on advancing troops, even far inside his own lines. The MLR has been strongly fortified by mines and log obstacles, which are only superficial and badly camouflaged; the use of mines in depth is rare. Infantry defense in forest fighting is extremely stubborn; the attackers and patrols will remain unmolested until they reach the Immediate vicinity of the enemy, where they will be suddenly taken under fire. Snipers will be employed, and hand-to-hand combat Is probable. (3) AT defense in the woods and along main highways will be exploited by means of single AT guns, bazookas, rapid construction of AT gun positions, and use of armor at places where our troops have to leave the woods for open terrain. The enemy will use HE shells against attacking infantry. (4) Enemy artillery is exceedingly mobile, firing effective concentrations on our movements and congestions with excellent intelligence. He will rely on maps for night firing, Cubs, and forward observers for observed fire. Frequent use of forward observers with infantry, tanks, and planes is usual. (5) Armor has been committed only to a limited extent in front of the Corps sector; it is mostly used as artillery support for infantry troops and fires at a considerable distance from the front lines. Occasionally, tanks are dug in. (6) Enemy Air Support of medium bombers, fighter-bombers, and fighters when weather conditions are favorable (fairly clear weather) is probable. These crafts as well as Cubs will take part in combat. Use of four-engined formations in forward positions is to be expected. (For the Division Commander)

Defense of the Salient, Jan 15 – Jan 30

In the early morning of Jan 15, the 1-ID with the 23-RCT attached jumped off from positions which had been held since the 12.SS-Panzer-Division had tried to force a passage north at the beginning of the German breakthrough. The attack was the reverse swing of the pendulum: the Division was attacking to the south to close off the ambitious enemy salient. During the time between the German breakthrough and the Division’s attack to the south the enemy had seen his best forces shot up, his reserves committed, his drive curbed and turned and his main power slowly draining away by attrition, lack of gasoline and the paralyzing rigors of winter.

By the middle of January he no longer had the initiative of attack; his most pressing concern, in fact, was to get what he could of his indispensable panzer divisions off the hook. To accomplish this it was imperative that the shoulders of his original salient be held firm. He could not allow any reduction of the mouth of his bulge, since his road nets, clogged with traffic and blocked with snow, were already carrying capacity movement. The loss of any roads at all would be disastrous. It was into this situation that the 1-ID attacked on Jan 15. The enemy’s strategic position forbade a slow and organized withdrawal; he had to hold the ground he was on and hold it to the last man. Over and above any reaction by the enemy, however, was the difficulties of the terrain and weather. Both presented conditions which were almost insurmountable. The terrain comprised a series of high ridges and deep draws, usually heavily wooded. These obstacles, difficult enough in themselves were greatly increased by the weather: deep snow, over a foot and a half on the level and running as high as five feet in drifts, covered the area. The ground was frozen, making it extremely difficult to dig sufficient cover. The temperature hovered around 20 degrees and the wind was strong and cutting. The weather was so bad, in sum, that during the engagement POWs often expressed surprise that the Division had been able to attack at all. The only advantage that the weather presented, and it was a somewhat left-handed one, was that the Division was often able to achieve surprise because the enemy did not believe that an attack was possible under the prevailing conditions.

It is hard to say whether or not the initial attack came as a surprise to the enemy. Prisoners taken later said that their officers had told them that the Americans would attack on Jan 15; it was front line gossip, and the report may have had its origin in Operation Greif. On the other hand, they said that the attack without artillery preparation certainly was unexpected.

Probably as a result of the first report, a strong combat patrol numbering over 50 men attacked the 16-IR positions after midnight, and was only driven off by 0430. Shortly afterward, the Division jumped off all along the line, with the 23-IR on the right, the 16-IR in the center, and the 18-IR on the left. The 23-IR was to take Steinbach and Remonval, the 18-IR was to take the high ground about 1400 yards south of their line of departure, and the 16-IR was to seize Faymonville. The first and all-encompassing obstacle was the snow. Complete mine detection was next to impossible and in at least one case a tank was knocked out by one of our own mines buried so deeply in the snow that it did not register on the detectors. The attacking infantrymen found the going as difficult as wading through waist-high water. A man carrying his equipment could go no more than 300 yards without stopping for a rest. All across the front progress was slow.

On the eastern end, the 23-IR, moving out from positions near Waimes, labored over the difficult terrain to take Steinbach and Remonval against enemy resistance. Remonval was held by about 120 men from the 3/9 and part of the 2/9.Fall-Regiment; the enemy in Steinbach numbered about 100 with an equal number on the hill southeast of the town.

The approaches were well mined and difficult to detect; 56 mines were probed at one point near the underpass, and two tank destroyers and one tank were lost. In spite of the fact that the enemy controlled all observation and had ideal fields of fire, the two towns were taken by 1900, as well as a bag of more than 100 prisoners.

In the center of the line, the 16-IR pushed towards Faymonville, but was stopped cold north of the town; the 3/16 moving to the east, got into a hornets’ nest in a patch of woods east of the town, which was only cleaned out by King Company after a hard and bloody struggle. Later, however, the 1/16 was able to push the enemy out of the northern part of Faymonville, which was held by the 2/9.Fall.-Regiment. By nightfall, the 16-IR held about half of the town, but the enemy at first showed no disposition to vacate his end without forcible ejection.
On the Division’s left flank, the enemy was giving the 18-IR serious trouble from well-emplaced positions on Klinkenberg and the hill to the south. Love Co, advancing to the south was caught by daylight in front of the enemy’s MLR, and the 1/5.Fall-Regiment on the high ground was able to cut the company to ribbons. By 1125, the company’s attack had been broken and the company was forced back to its original positions. Casualties were heavy; one officer and 25 men were wounded; one officer and 42 men missing.

The first day of the attack emphasized the difficulties imposed on supply and evacuation which were, indeed, as dogged as the reaction of the enemy himself. Jeeps were almost useless in the snow; the only vehicle which could negotiate the drifts, in fact, was the Weasel, and there were not enough of them; only one to a battalion. The evacuation of the wounded was particularly difficult and made more so by the fact that unless casualties could be evacuated within a few hours the chances of the wounded if seriously hit were pretty slim. It is probable that a large percentage of the men listed as missing were not captured by the enemy but had fallen when hit and had been covered over by the snow.

Defense Order, 1055.Gren.Regiment
On Jan 10, the 89.Division expected the 1-ID to attack. This captured order shows the measures the division undertook to counter the blow. On Jan 15, the 1-ID fulfilled the enemy’s expectations by attacking. The defense outlined in the extracts of the order as translated below was followed until the heavy pressure of our attack forced drastic, and eventually make-shift revisions of the enemy’s plan. (Secret, Grenadier Regiment 1055, S-3 Reg No: 55/45 Sec, Regt CP, Jan 10, 1945)

Regimental Order, Defense of the Büllingen Butgenbacher Hutte Sector. Enemy: The strong infantry patrol activity has now been somewhat reduced. However, we must expect further patrols during the daytime as well as at night. We also must expect recon in force, with the enemy probing our positions constantly to determine our strength and prevent the withdrawal of our forces. Artillery interdiction fire has been considerably reduced. The immediate attack seems unlikely. However, we will have to keep the possibility in mind at all times, since the enemy may want the Büllingen Hünningen Honsfeld high ground in order to disrupt the MSR of our attacking armies.

The 89.Division will defend the present front line and oppose any enemy attempt to break through to the east, southeast, and south. The 1055.Gren-Regiment has the mission of defending the present MLR against any enemy attack. An active defense must be initiated. As soon as our own strength permits we will assault all located enemy strong points in order to camouflage our intentions and to gain a more favorable defensive line. The following units will be employed: the 2/1055.Regiment on the right and the 1/1055.Regiment on the left. Mission: the 2/1055.Regiment will defend and hold the present MLR to oppose a breakthrough on either side of Büllingen and the line Mürringen Hünningen Honsfeld. The 1/1055.Regiment will defend and hold all enemy breakthrough attempts in the direction of Morscheck Bütgenbacher Hutte and in the neighboring sector of Heppenscheid Möderscheid Schoppen. The two battalions will also prepare an offensive defense, which will mean combat patrols to capture enemy strong points.

Artillery: 2/189.Arty-Regiment will cooperate with the regiment and support the regiment on the defense. The 407.Volksartillery-Corps will support the regiment with TOTs (Time on Target) and other fire as directed by Commander 189.Arty-Regiment. The artillery will at all times be coordinated with the organic heavy weapons of the battalions. For all missions, code names will be used. Infantry Employment: The regiment will defend the present MLR and will repulse any attack directed against it. The MLR will be held with strong points because of the present strength of the unit. Strong points will be laid out according to the terrain. He who tries to defend everything ends by defending nothing. Constant reconnaissance will be maintained. To give the troops more rest, the line will be held in less force in the daytime. That is the only alternative. Infiltration of enemy forces is a constant danger and will be vigorously opposed. HMGs (Heavy Machine Gun) will not be employed within the MLR, but about 100 meters to the rear. During the day these HMGs will be moved without the tripods and employed with and as LMGs (Ligh Machine Gun).

Defense in depth: At all times resting troops will constitute the reserve. Each company will furnish one squad, each battalion one platoon, and each regiment one company. This force will be the initial counter-attacking force and will form an effective defense in depth. Every position will be made a strong point. Enough ammunition, food and first aid equipment will be on hand to make every position self-sufficient.
s/ Meyer Bertholdt

The attack, however, continued. The enemy facing the 23-IR had retired south of the Amblève River to take up strong defensive positions on the south bank. As the deployed troops of the 23-IR pushed on down to the river bank they were subjected to intense small arms and mortar fire, but in spite of heavy casualties, the 2/23-IR managed to reach the near bank. But the position was untenable; exposed to direct fire from the other side, the troops were being decimated. After dark on Jan 16, the battalion pulled back to the high ground southwest of Ondeval. In the center sector of the 16-IR, it was found that the enemy occupying the southern half of Faymonville, in spite of a show of force earlier in the night, had withdrawn to the south.

By 0915, the town was open and the high ground taken to the south. Enemy resistance stiffened almost immediately, however. As the 2/16-IR pushed on down the road to Schoppen, with Fox Co leading, intense small arms fire supported by self-propelled guns was laid on the advancing troops from the town.
The condition of the road prevented friendly tanks from being brought up, and it is doubtful that they would have had much effect anyway; the enemy was firing from hull-down positions and had the road covered and zeroed in from several directions.

Meanwhile, the 1/5.Fall.Regiment facing the 18-IR on the right continued to resist any attempts to push further south, a resistance that was considerably aided by artillery support that resembled that of Heistern and Verlautenheid ridge during the Battle of Aachen. An attempt to take over the enemy ground was turned back although other elements of the 18-IR managed to push through the snow east of the Klingesberg draw. To the east the 1055.Regiment (89.VGD) was identified holding the northern edge of the woods from 903017 to 921017. In spite of the artillery concentrations laid on the 18-IR, enemy artillery over the whole front showed a substantial decrease from the day before, when more than 1700 rounds were reported. The reduction was believed to be the result of the 3.Fall.Division artillery moving to more secure areas.

The next day, Jan 17, the first offensive enemy reaction to the attack of the 18-IR hit King Co at 888018. About 40 men from the 1/5.Fall.Regiment supported by two tanks attacked and were repulsed. Later elements of the 18-IR managed to push to the southern edge of Hill 566 and to the high ground north of Schoppen (Schleid). Enemy artillery was intense. On the other end of the front, the enemy mounted a major counter-attack to break up the drive of the 23-IR (with 1/18-IR attached) through the Rohr Busch.

About 200 men from the 8.Fall.Regiment (160 of whom were replacements fresh from Holland), plus 60 men from the 13.Company, 9.Fall.Regiment, and 30 men from the 3.Fall.Division-Recon unit, launched their attack supported by five to seven self-propelled guns. The attack came in at 0730, just before the 23-IR was to launch its own attack to clear the woods, and raged back and forth through the woods until noon. Extremely heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy; at least two-thirds of the attacking force was killed, captured or wounded, and by 1400 the remnants of the enemy began pulling out to the south.

While this fight was going on, the 1/18-IR, attacking the elements of the 1/9.Fall.Regiment plus the 15/8.Fall.Regiment and the reserve companies of both regiments which were holding the pocket south of the Amblève River cleaned the force out of the woods. The complete surprise of the attack from the south resulted in the capture of three 88-MM guns, four 105-MM howitzers, a half-track, and an ammunition dump. These two actions on the western flank of the Division sector netted a total of 236 prisoners for the day. To the east, the 16 and 18-IR continued to work their way south under heavy artillery fire. On Jan 19, four more enemy-held towns were taken in the worst weather of the battle. Eibertingen, the first, was defended by a force of about 130 replacements and stragglers from the Rohr Busch.

The entrance to the town was blocked by a large number of wooden box mines. Self-propelled guns and one tank were in the town, which faced the attacking 23-IR, and it was only after heavy artillery concentrations forced the enemy to fall back into the town that infantrymen were able to move forward and seize several houses on the northern edge. The enemy counter-attacked immediately, and bitter hand-to-hand fighting resulted, but by 1400, the enemy troops began to pull out toward Deidenberg. One hundred prisoners were taken and more than 35 enemies dead were counted in the streets.

Captured – Order of Col Liebach, Resuming Command 8.Fall.Regiment. 8.Fall-Regt, Jan 7. (Commanding Officer, Special Order).
As of today, I am again in command of the 8.Fall.Regiment. I greet you in old comradeship and mindful of the old spirit and soldierly bearing which you displayed in so many actions as paratroopers. With proud memory, I think of the many officers, NCOs, and enlisted men who died for the freedom and future of Germany. Also, I think of the many who were taken prisoner through no fault of their own and who now must endure the rest of the war defenseless. I particularly expect the ‘old men’ of the Eighth to carry on the traditions of the regiment and also that the new men will fit themselves into the unit. They owe that spirit to the many who have died for the banner in the course of their duty. With the old paratrooper’s spirit, we will fight on, master the difficult, and achieve the impossible. I expect strict discipline in all men of my command; expect everyone to bear responsibility for his command down to the letter. We know that we, paratroopers, always draw the toughest assignments. In the proud tradition of our branch, we think back to the men of Crete, the many battles in the east, west, and south which have added here and there more and more glory to our banner! We are a community of battle-hardened men; we look with confidence to the new year! Our watchword is: Strong and True For the Fuehrer and Reich!!! sf Liebach, Col and CO, First Staff Officer, sf Gaul, Major

Montenau and Iveldingen, also taken by the 23-IR, put up less resistance, and only 22 prisoners were taken from the two towns. The most effective resistance was put up by a nine-man strong point from the 5.Co, 352.Regiment in Iveldingen; the same group was later encountered in Montenau after they had been forced back. With the line on Jan 20 running roughly on the axis Deidenberg Eibertingen Schoppen, the division attack held up, except for readjustment of the lines and mopping up of stubborn areas. Most stubborn of these was the Bütgenbacher Hutte, where elements of the Fusilier Battalion, 89.VGD, and the 1/1055.Regiment were deeply and skillfully dug in. Division troops succeeded in clearing about 800 yards of the northern edge of the woods in the face of extremely heavy small arms and artillery fire and the relentless weather and terrain. On other sectors of the front, the enemy took advantage of the breather to reorganize his shattered forces and feverishly erect defenses. He was anxious to learn our intentions.

Captured Interrogation Report. This document was captured by the 1-ID. It is a model of its kind in several ways. First, it indicates how much the enemy wants to know about our order of battle, our replacement system, and our organization. Second, it points up again the enemy’s preoccupation with the propaganda value of interrogation, i. e., V-1 damage in London, effect of leaflets and the stock question, progress of Communism in America. Third, and most important, it shows that the soldier in question refused to say a word of value to the enemy. His identification was made by shoulder patch and documents.

89.Inf-Div, Div CP, Jan 24, G-2 Sec, Interrogation Report.
Through interrogation of a POW taken shortly after midnight 2000 meters north of Büllingen, the following information was obtained. (Unit) 9-IR (2-ID). Through document interpretation, it is believed that the POW probably belongs to the 1/9-IR. The shoulder patch of the 2-ID, US Army, was worn on the sleeve. (Name) Sgt Edward G. Morlock, 35129778, 25 years old single, from Ohio. In the army since Sept 1941. Morlock for over one year, volunteer; civilian occupation, clerk. (History) According to documents, the POW was still in Camp Blanding, Florida in Jun 1944. Five months ago he came to England and has been in this sector for a few months. At one time he came through the outskirts of London, where he observed heavy damage and saw intense labor being done.

(Circumstances of Capture) During the night of Jan 22—23 he was at an outpost with a few other 2000 meters north of Büllingen. The POW was somewhat in advance of the others. Here he was surprised by a German patrol of about 5—6 men which he did not notice due to their white camouflaged clothing. He was taken POW without a fight while the others escaped.(Attitude of the POW) The POW shows good soldierly bearing and refuses to give any information, although he has been influenced by propaganda about the supposed maltreatment of American POWs. He refused to give information about his unit, number of replacements and losses, the location of the 23 and 38-IRs, neighboring divisions, or weapons of his unit with the reasoning that he would hurt his friends that way. The POW says that he is ready to take the consequences of his decision.

(Weapons, Equipment, Rations) As far as weapons are concerned he admitted that he himself had only an M-1 at the time of capture but added that his battalion has heavy mortars, with which they will bombard Büllingen. He would not say how many mortars there are in a company or platoon. From captured documents, it can be assumed that the 2nd Platoon of Able Co was supported by 60-MM mortars. With reference to gas masks, the POW said that each man has a gas mask that is always kept within reach. In case of loss, the mask is replaced without penalty. Concerning his basic training, the POW would say nothing. Food was termed excellent by POW; he got warm food twice daily. (Own propaganda and Enemy Propaganda) Our own propaganda leaflets and loudspeakers were not observed by the POW. However, he was very much influenced by the US point of view. During our breakthrough at one time, we were alleged to have murdered 105 drivers after taking them prisoner. In another instance, German tanks were alleged to have shot several drivers after they had surrendered. To our doubts, he answered that the report can be read in the ‘Stars and Stripes’ (the US Army newspaper).

(Miscellaneous) With reference to his serial number, the POW said that all volunteers do not have a [1] as a first number. Those who enlisted before a certain date kept their old serial number. Concerning the end of the war, the prisoner said because of the rapid advance of the Russians the war would be over by April at the latest. Our resistance on the western front is still formidable, but what he saw of our transport on his way to the rear he termed ‘catastrophic’. He expressed surprise that soldiers march everywhere and that so many dilapidated vehicles are on the roads. When we explained, he replied that in spite of the weather conditions all the vehicles needed repair and maintenance badly. America and England know how to prevent Communism from spreading in Europe and the more territory England and America occupy the better of Germany will be. (Interpreter, Schonfeld, Corporal)

Division patrols heard digging and construction work all along the front as the enemy tried to bring a coordinated resistance line out of the chaos. This activity, with concomitant stubborn defensive action on the part of the enemy troops in the Butgenbacher Hutte, continued to Jan 24. It was clear from patrol reports that the enemy intended to make an MLR on the east bank of the Moderscheid River, with an outpost line on the western bank.

On Jan 24, the enemy’s Morscheck position, which he had captured in the early stages of his December offensive, was retaken. The Morscheck crossroads, possibly the best organized of the enemy’s defensive positions, and probably where he least expected an attack, was held by the 1/1055.Regiment. The force was divided by the attack of the 18 and 26-IRs, and our troops, achieving this breakthrough by surprise, continued to push on south and southwest against stubborn but disorganized resistance. Coincidentally, the enemy positions in the Butgenbacher Hutte were heavily attacked and the enemy was forced to withdraw from the northern part of the woods. A high number of prisoners were taken from the 1/1055.Regiment, which held the eastern part of the woods as well as the crossroads, and the 2/1055.Regiment which was deployed to the west.

Our troops pushing south from the crossroads position reached Moderscheid shortly before dark. Our positions in the vicinity of the crossroads were counter-attacked by the 2/1056.Regiment which had assembled in Hepscheid, but effective artillery fire beat the attack off. A second attack by 50 enemies was similarly handled. Moderscheid itself fell after a brief struggle when the 3/5.Fall.Regt pulled out toward Hepscheid at dusk. A total of more than 280 prisoners were taken during the day.

On the next day, Jan 25, the enemy was cleared from the ridge southwest of Moderscheid, and the towns of Amblève and Mirfeld were taken. The 2/1055.Regiment encircled in the Butgenbacher Hutte area managed to extricate only a limited number of its personnel to Hepscheid to organize another line of defense.

The 3.Fall-Div which had been holding the Moderscheid Mirfeld Amblève line apparently withdrew to the Heppenbach Valender area, a move that was reported by several POWs and civilians. The outposts left in the two towns were captured when our forces took advantage of the withdrawal and attacked, not from the southwest as the enemy expected, but from the northeast. The only enemy reaction to this operation was to move a force of about 50 or 60 personnel north from Heppenbach to Hepscheid, but if he had any idea of an attack it was discouraged by our intense artillery fire.

During the next two days, Jan 26 and 27, as the Division attack halted, the enemy activities were confined to further work on his defenses and counter patrolling. On Jan 27, two of our outposts, one about 1000 meters west of Heppenbach and the other on Hill 625 (939008) were pushed back by stronger enemy forces but the latter outpost was retaken after a heavy artillery concentration had driven off the enemy. On Jan 28, however, Hepscheid, Heppenbach, and Valender were cleared of the enemy, and our troops, taking advantage of the enemy’s disorganization, pushed rapidly up the Hepscheid Honsfeld road to Hill 620, about 1500 meters west of Honsfeld. This move apparently caused the enemy to believe his troops in the Reigelsbuch were being encircled; at any rate, the enemy in the area pulled back to the Honsefld area, and when the woods were taken by our forces, only a few stragglers remained.

A total of 257 prisoners were taken during the day’s operation. Hepscheid was held by the remnants of the 1055.Regiment and elements of the 5.Fall.Regt; the rest of this Regiment held Heppenbach. In both areas, the enemy had taken advantage of the hiatus in the Division’s attack, and well-constucted fortifications were encountered. The flanking position to the north in the Reigelsbuch was held less firmly by the 2/1056.Regiment and a strong position in the patch of woods about 1000 meters west of Heppenbach was out posted by a force of about 40 men from the 48.Fall.Regt under a Lt Sprenger. In spite of these precautions, however, the fighting in Hepscheid was over as soon as our tanks penetrated the town. Fighting in Heppenbach was more severe; our tanks got stuck in the snow and the initial assault was by infantry alone.

With the taking of Heppenbach, our troops moved along the road to Honsfeld, encountering small resistance, but eventually clearing the enemy as far as Hill 620. Kampfgruppe Sprenger was eliminated when our tanks were able to advance far enough to bring the woods under direct fire. It appeared that the 2/1056.Regiment had pulled back to Honsfeld and was holding the town. To the north, Büllingen, the base of the attack of the 12.SS-Panzer-Division in December, was finally cleared of the enemy after stubborn fighting in the southern and western parts on Jan 29. The town was held by the 3/1056.Regiment, from which more than 200 prisoners were taken. Prisoners said they had no warning of the attack until it had actually closed in, but in spite of this surprise, the elements in the outskirts put up a stiff fight before the added support of our tanks discouraged them. Whatever was left of the 3/1056.Regiment pulled out toward Mürringen. Along the rest of the Division front, the enemy was inactive.

Withdrawal to the Siegfried Line

Mürringen Hünningen and Honsfeld, the last enemy-held towns in front of the German border fell to the 1-ID on Jan 30 after moderate fighting which netted nearly 350 prisoners. The attrition which the enemy had been suffering since the start of the Division attack on Jan 15 was noticeable in his defense of the towns; although he had excellent defensive terrain around the villages, he was unable to round up enough men to defend them to their full capabilities. In Mürringen, were elements of the 1/991.Regiment (277.Div), and also elements of the 1056.Regiment. What was left of the 5.Fall.Regt (combined under a Kampfgruppe Noeth) defended Honsfeld while Hünningen was held by the discouraged remnants of the 2/1056.Regiment and about 80 men from the 89.Fusilier-Bn.
Coordination between the various defending forces was not complete, and the Division attacked with such force and speed that Honsfeld was taken shortly after 0300, Jan 30.

The attack against Hünningen got underway at 0800 under bitter resistance at first, but as the enemy began to withdraw an hour later, he was taken under effective mortar and artillery fire. Coincidentally the attack against Mürringen proceeded with our troops moving in from the east and northeast. The enemy was taken by surprise and by dark our forces had outposts on the high ground well to the east of the town. It was apparent that the enemy had withdrawn a considerable distance to the east. Above the resistance of the enemy, however, was the continued heavy snow and rough going which hampered the Division’s movement. In spite of this obstacle, the Division continued its push to the east, and enemy screening forces were pushed back from the approaches to the high ground northeast of the Holzwache River on Jan 31.

The only severe fighting during the day developed around the crossroad (005052), which was eventually taken. The fighting during January marked the grand deflation of the enemy’s ambitious plan of Dec 16, 1944.

At the beginning of the month, though his drive to the east had been bent, he had the intention of holding what he had with infantry divisions, while he regrouped his panzers. At the end of the month, he had been forced to give up even this compromise measure; the divisions which he had left to hold his salient were sacrificed, and his whole attention was devoted to pulling out everything not urgently needed to the comparative safety of the Siegfried Line. The effects of this policy were seen on the Division front.
The 3.Fall.Div and the 89.VGD, attacked, mauled, and cut to pieces, were not relieved, nor were they reinforced beyond a trickle from Holland. The effect of the Russian advances in the east on the enemy’s policy in the west cannot, of course, be assayed, but it unquestionably forced major changes in the plan of holding west of the Siegfried Line. Prisoners taken by the Division after the Russian offensive had got underway indicated the official German information still controlled the reports from the east, but that grapevine rumor had given the prisoners a fairly accurate knowledge of events. The general attitude in the cage was ‘Why not let the Americans advance? Our real enemies are the Russians’.

In spite of this dispiritedness which was evident in some cases, the enemy put up a bitter, exhausting fight for the ground that he held. At no point did he retreat without pressure, no matter whether he held good or poor defensive terrain. The higher enemy policy of selling every foot of space for time was evident in the month’s operations, and during the first days of the attack, the enemy had considerable success with his plan, although at shattering cost in personnel and equipment.

His losses were indeed severe. By Jan 31, the 3.Fall.Div, in its original form, was virtually non-existent outside of scattered battle groups. The same was true of the 89.VGD, and the dissolution of the 277.VGD was in progress.

One element which aided the enemy in his delaying defense (though it operated against him by increasing his losses) was the bitter weather. Terrain which would have been a minor problem in supply and evacuation during the summer presented almost insoluble problems under a two-foot cover of snow. The progress of the infantrymen through this obstacle was painfully slow. Points had to be changed every 75 to 100 yards. Machine gunners and mortarmen were barely able to move at all.

Moreover, the temperature added its weight to the difficulties. Frostbite and freezing were common. Radio mouthpieces froze; signal wire froze and broke. Laying wire at all was extremely difficult and repairing a break almost impossible. A wire crew from the 16th Infantry worked for six hours to locate a break in 1000 meters of wire buried under four feet of snow.

Evacuation of the wounded was equally serious when only a Weasel was able to cover the ground. Mines were very hard to locate, and in one case an invaluable Weasel was Destroyed traveling over a cleared road; the snow had been packed down just enough by the traffic to allow the weight of the vehicle to detonate the mine. Since most of the terrain covered by the Division in its advance was open ground, there were no villages or houses to shelter the troops.

Many of the advance companies spent two or three successive days with no more shelter than they could dig for themselves in the frozen ground. Altogether the month’s operations were as difficult as any in the Division’s campaigns.

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