TDBOperations December 14: The regiment was not successful in its efforts to seize this strong point. This was largely due to the lack of effective supporting artillery and to the weather, which kept our tactical bombers grounded. On this date, the 644-TDB forward CP moved to Rocherath. The battalion forward CP, as was normal, consisted of the battalion commander, the S-2 and S-3 sections, and the Recon Co.

2-IDOperations December 15: The morning of Dec 15, found the weather still too hazy for the use of tactical bombing. The 9-IR spent the day patrolling and probing the objective. The 38-IR made plans this date to relieve the 9-IR on Dec 16. The regiment planned to employ the 3/38 in a flank attack against the position from the southeast. During the day, routes and positions were reconnoitered for the attached tanks and tank destroyers so that their direct-fire weapons could be brought to bear on the objective, thereby assisting the 3/38 in the main attack. Just after dark (Dec 15) Col Walter M. Higgins, CO 2/9, sent a patrol to cross the German lines. The patrol reported the Germans off guard and an attack in strength was made by the 2/9. The attack was successful. The 1/9 and the 3/9 advanced through the gap made in the enemy lines by the 2/9, prior to daylight on Dec 16. By 1200, what was to be remembered as Heartbreak Crossroads was taken and the 9-IR was in the process of consolidating its positions. Due to the success of the 9-IR attack, the 38-IR did not carry out the attack planned the previous day, but advanced north to pass through the 9-IR as called for in the original plan. By 1700, the 38-IR was located in a defensive position for the night along the high ground approximately 1000 meters directly east of the Wahlerscheid Crossroad.

Winter is coming and the snow too

TDBCharlie 644, which had been in support of the 38-IR was disposed as follows on Dec 16, the 2nd Platoon was located just east of the Rocherath Wahlerscheid Road, approximately 5500 meters north of Rocherath. The 1st Platoon was located approximately 3000 meters north of Rocherath and 600 meters east of the Rocherath Wahlerscheid Road in the vicinity of the 2/395-IR (99-ID). The remainder of Charlie 644 was located in Rocherath where the company CP had been moved on this date. Late in the evening of Dec 16, Able 644 and Charlie 644 were ordered released to 644-TDB control as of Dec 17.

NaziOperations December 16:. On Dec 16, the Germans launched their counter-offensive in the Ardennes. Their attack extended from Kesternich, Germany, in the north to include all of the Luxembourg Frontier in the south. In the area immediately concerning the 2-ID, the Germans had attacked the over-extended 99-ID lines and succeeded in local penetrations. The US lines held, however, and by the end of the day, the situation was partially restored. The Germans had in their attack, succeeded in breaking contact between the 99-ID on the north in Manderfeld and the 106-ID on the south of this town. Manderfeld had been captured. In the afternoon, the 23-IR (2-ID), then located at Camp Elsenborn, received orders to attach its 1/23 and the 3/23 to the 99-ID. The 1/23 was attached to the 394-IR. This battalion left on trucks at 2330 and proceeded to Büllingen where the troops were detrucked and marched southeast to Hünningen where the battalion took up a defensive position. The 3/23 was attached to the 393-IR and left its area on trucks at 1400. At 1630 the battalion arrived at the western edge of the Krinkelt Forest and immediately deployed north and south of the road in the 393-IR area. The 2/23, under 23-IR control, was moved at 1345 a distance of approximately 15 miles by truck to an assembly area 3000 meters north of Krinkelt, arriving at 1430.

German troops are back in Belgium

LSSAHOperations December 17-18: Early on Dec 17, the 1.SS-Panzer-Division committed its armor to the attack. The division smashed to the northwest on the railroad running from Losheim to Butgenbach and overran the town of Honsfeld. By 0830, the armored force was in Büllingen, and shortly thereafter sent an armored thrust northwest toward the villages of Wirtzfeld and Krinkelt. The 644-TDB received information about the heavy armor attack advancing toward Büllingen. One platoon of the Recon Co, commanded by Lt Edward B. Patterson, was immediately sent to establish and maintain contact with the enemy tanks. The platoon was surrounded in Büllingen and the 1st Section was captured. The 2nd Section escaped capture by breaking from the encirclement.

TDB2-IDTo meet the enemy armor thrust driving from the southeast the 1st Platoon Charlie 644, and one platoon of the 741-TB were ordered to pick up infantry of the 23-IR (2-ID) and proceed south. At 0845 the tank destroyers and tanks contacted Easy 23 north of Rocherath. With the company of infantry mounted on the tanks and the tank destroyers, the small force moved south through Rocherath and into Krinkelt. Col Stokes, ADC 2-ID, met these tanks and tank destroyers at Krinkelt. He ordered the tank destroyers and that part of Easy 23 mounted on them to go to Wirtzfeld. The four tanks and accompanying infantry, he ordered to Büllingen under Capt Byrd.

The tanks had gone only a short distance out of Krinkelt when they encountered a German Mark IV tank, a half-track, and an armored car. The infantry dismounted and took cover while the tanks prepared to open fire. Meanwhile, the three tank destroyers which had turned right toward Wirtzfeld sighted the enemy vehicles. After the infantry had dismounted, the tank destroyers immediately, opened fire and knocked out all three enemy vehicles. The infantry from the tanks and tank destroyers joined forces and captured 12 prisoners who were hiding along the road in the vicinity of the three enemy vehicles.

Wirtzfeld December 1944

Able 644 (less 2nd Plat), had been ordered to Wirtzfeld early on the morning of Dec 17 and arrived just as the 1st Platoon of Charlie Co had knocked out the three enemy vehicles. The CO of Able 644 was wounded by a shell fragment and evacuated. Lt Clarence Steves assumed command of Able 644 and was ordered to provide anti-armor defense for Wirtzfeld, relieving Charlie without delay. The CO of Charlie 644 was ordered to provide AT defense for the Rocherath and Krinkelt Area. With the bulk of the battalion located in Wirtzfeld and Krinkelt, the forward CP (less the Recon Co) was moved to Wirtzfeld. Capt Godshall, the battalion S-3, was ordered to take command of Able 644 late in the afternoon of this date. The CO of the 38-IR assumed responsibility for the defense of the Krinkelt – Rocherath area.

2-IDThe 2/9, and the 3/9 (less King Co) had moved from Wahlerscheid down to Wirtzfeld about noon on Dec 17. The 2/9 was given the mission of protecting the road out of Wirztfeld to the east. The 3-9 (less King Co) was positioned between Wirtzfeld and Büllingen with the mission of protecting Wirtzfeld from the direction of Büllingen which was in the hands of the Germans. The CO of the 9-IR was made responsible for the defense of Wirtzfeld where his CP was now located. From the time the elements of the tank destroyer battalion moved to Wirtzfeld and Krinkelt, heavy artillery fell throughout the area.

277-VGDFritz Kraemer (Dec 12, 1900 – Jun 23, 1959) was a Waffen-SS commander and war criminal during the Nazi era. During WW-2, he commanded the I.SS-Panzer-Corps and the 12.SS-Panzer-Division HJ. Kraemer initially served with the 13th Infantry Division. In Jan 1943, he was appointed as a staff officer of the I.SS-Panzer-Corps commanded by Sepp Dietrich. Kraemer was admitted into the SS on Aug 1, 1944. During the Normandy Campaign, Kraemer acted as Dietrich’s deputy and succeeded Hubert Meyer as commander of the 12.SS-Panzer-Division. He was in charge of the division until Nov 13, 1944. Kraemer later served as a CoS of the 6.SS-Panzer-Army and surrendered to the US Army along with Dietrich in May 1945. He was tried in 1946 for his role in the Malmedy Massacre and was sentenced to ten-year imprisonment. He died in 1959On Dec 17, the Germans pushed forward directly from the east in an attempt to take Rocherath and Krinkelt and joined its southern forces attacking toward Büllingen and Bütgenbach. The enemy unit making this attack directly from the east was the 277.VGD reinforced (Gen Wilhelm Viebig) with assault guns.

The plan for this attack was recorded by SS-Brigadeführer Fritz Kraemer as follows:
the 277.VGD was to continue their attack on both sides of Udenbreth past Krinkelt and Wirtzfeld from a later assault on Sourbrodt south Elsenborn. The division was reinforced by an assault gun detachment that had not been ready for the commitment on Dec 16 because the last parts of this detachment could only be extricated during the night of Dec 15/16. It was to be expected that the division with their attack in the direction of Elsenborn would gain terrain and contain the enemy forces that were situated in this area.

Krinkelt, 2 Mark V Panther of the 12.SS-Panzer-Division destroyed

The seriousness of the attack was realized by Gen Walter M. Robertson (CG 2-ID). One Platoon of Able 644 was sent to guard the crossroads located about 1400 meters east of Rocherath. Also sent to this location were the Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon of King Co and the 1st Platoon of Mike Co, all elements of the 3/9-IR. Orders to proceed to this location were 2-ID99-IDreceived while this unit was proceeding south between Rocherath and Wirtzfeld. The units bearing the brunt of the German attack aimed east toward Rocherath were those of the 23-IR (2-ID) and the 393-IR (99-ID). It was apparent that this line was about to give way to the German thrust. The movement of the 1/9 to the south was intercepted by Gen Robertson about 4000 meters north of Rocherath. The battalion was ordered to move to the road junction recently occupied by the platoon of Able 644. Gen Robertson punctuated the urgency of the situation by personally loading the leading elements of the infantry in commandeered 2 1/2 ton trucks and leading them to within 1000 meters of the road net. The CO of the 1/9 had orders to command all friendly troops in the area. The battalion managed to get Able and Baker Cos astride the road facing southeast just as darkness fell.

Daisy Chains getting readyThe CO of the 1/9 having of necessity left all the battalion AT mines in the Wahlerscheid area, contacted the tank destroyer platoon leader and arranged for the use of AT mines in the possession of the tank destroyer platoon. Setting up a defense line in this area at this time was extremely difficult. The elements in contact with the enemy were falling back in a disorganized fashion. The area was subjected to direct enemy machine gun fire. With darkness setting in the units attempted to set up their defenses in an unfamiliar area. The CO of Item 23-IR arrived without men from the east. He was shown the area he would occupy and defend when and if he could get control of his company. A hurried defense plan was given to the company commanders at the 1st Bn CP, located 300 yards northwest of the crossroads. The battalion artillery liaison officer had been out of contact with his artillery battalion for over two hours. He worked feverishly to restore communications and as darkness set in he succeeded. He immediately planned his defensive fires along the road in front of the position. With the darkness came the first enemy attack. The entire situation was confusing. While the enemy was attacking, elements of the withdrawing front-line units were entering the battalion’s position from the same direction. In attempting to allow friendly elements to pass into this position, enemy vehicles, including tanks, were allowed to pass through.

When this was discovered, a daisy chain, made of the tank destroyer platoon’s antitank mines, was dragged across the road. This measure along with artillery fire support and direct fire from the battle position stopped the attack. By midnight this force had destroyed five enemy tanks and an undetermined number of foot troops. Throughout the night artillery fire was placed continuously in front of the position.

Heartbreak Crossroads

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