The battalion was defending a front of approximately 3500 yards, running generally along the eastern base of the Schnee Eifel. The terrain was very rough, consisting of a series of wooded ridges and gullies running generally east and west. In some places, heavily wooded ridges ran well out in front of the positions. The terrain in front of the positions, between these jutting wooded ridges, was generally rolling open fields. Fields of fire across these areas were generally good and the wooded rough terrain offered good cover and concealment for the defensive positions. Due to this extended frontage and the terrain, it was necessary to employ all of the rifle companies and all of their platoons in front-line positions. This left only a few administrative personnel and cooks in reserve. The positions were organized in a series of squad and platoon strong points and outposts. The gaps between, in some cases over a hundred yards in width, were covered by fire and roving patrols. Mortar, cannon, and artillery concentrations were plotted to cover all of the gaps and dead spaces to the front. The heavy machine guns were employed behind the front lines higher up on the slope of the ridge. These were used to assist in covering the gaps and as breakthrough guns or reserves, in case the line was penetrated. They constituted the defense in depth and could support the front-line positions, to some extent, with overhead plunging fire.
The 81-MM mortars were employed by a section on the western slope of the ridge so as to give maximum support to the battalion. All of these positions were inherited from the 9-IR (2-ID). They consisted mostly of one and two-man foxholes, most of them built up with logs and covered with dirt. Some squad shelters had been constructed of logs and covered with dirt. Although the floors were muddy, they offered some protection from small arms fire and the weather. Activity for the next five days, December 11-15, consisted primarily of patrolling to the front and flanks, improving defensive positions, registering the mortars, and catching up on administrative work. Enemy action consisted of sporadic artillery fire and minor patrol activity. The weather remained cold, wet, and foggy. During this period the trench foot rate increased and many men were evacuated. This was due primarily to the lack of overshoes. The supply of overshoes was critical and although the supply personnel did all in their power to get them, there were not enough for all of the men. Every time a man was evacuated from the front lines it left an empty foxhole and since there were no reserves, this increased the gaps in the now overextended front line and reduced the combat efficiency of the units as a whole.
During the night of December 15-16, enemy activity increased. More patrols were observed and there was a definite increase in the sound of moving vehicles in the vicinity of Wascheid, to the front. The battalion S-2 reported to the regiment the movement of enemy convoys along the front and was criticized for reporting the movement of convoys, he was told that motors were the correct word since all that had been heard was automotive engines. On the morning of December 16, at 0530, heavy artillery and mortar fire began to fall all along with the front line positions and on units well to the rear. This fire continued until 0615. At approximately 0800, an estimated company of Germans attacked the battalion positions in Baker Co’s area. The Germans advanced across the open fields in what appeared to be a column of platoons in line, with some elements working their way up the wooded ridges that jutted out to the front. Riflemen and machine guns opened fire, mortar fire was called for and placed on the wooded ridges and by approximately 1000 the main attack was stopped. During this action, several small patrols succeeded in infiltrating Baker Co’s lines. One of these of approximately eight or ten men dressed in white snowsuits succeeded in getting within approximately 100 yards of the CP before they were either killed or taken prisoner.
The company cooks and administrative personnel were all fighting in defense of the CP. It was approximately 1700 before all of these patrols were eliminated, either killed or taken prisoner. The prisoners were immediately taken back to Battalion Hqs for processing. One man in the group, an officer, had a copy of the German attack order. The attack order was translated, in part, by a German-speaking corporal assigned to Battalion Hqs, and it was found that this action was no minor patrol activity, but part of a large-scale offensive. The regiment was immediately notified by telephone and the order was sent back by special motor messenger. The prisoners were sent back as soon as possible. Baker Co’s casualties for the day’s action were comparatively light, five men slightly wounded and one officer killed. The enemy lost approximately twenty-five captured, an undetermined number wounded and it was estimated that better than half of the company was killed. There was no further enemy activity reported in the battalion area during the remainder of that day and night, however, there was an increase in the number of Buzz Bombs that came flying over. Previously there had been only one or two a night.
The morning of December 17, brought increased activity along the entire front of the 106-ID. At 0800 the Germans launched another attack in the 1/422 sector, this time in Charlie’s sector. This attack was similar to the attack in Baker Co’s sector the day before and with the assistance of the battalion’s mortars and heavy machine guns, was repulsed at about 1300. Eight of the men from Charlie Co were wounded, while none were killed. Approximately thirty Germans were captured and many more were killed or wounded. It was the morning of December 17, when the Battalion Hqs first learned of the magnitude of the German offensive.
On December 16, the Germans attacked in force along the entire division front. A large force, reinforced with tanks, had attacked in the Losheim area to the north that was thinly held by the 14-CG and the southern flank of the 99-ID. This force had broken through the defenses and elements were advancing south down the road, from Auw toward Schlausenbach, our Regimental Hqs. Another large force had broken through the defenses between the 423-IR and the 424-IR to the south and was advancing to the northeast toward Schlausenbach heading to St Vith. The 422-IR, the 423-IR, and part of the 424-IR were completely encircled. The 598-FAB, supporting the 422-IR, had taken a terrific beating from the German Artillery on the morning of December 16 and was forced to abandon its positions. The regiment’s supply routes had been cut off and there was no means of resupplying food and ammunition, other than by AirDrop. This was requested but never received due to weather conditions.
The Regimental AT and Cannon Cos had taken up defensive positions north of Schlausenbach to protect the Regimental CP and try to stop the German advance from the north. Early in the morning of Dec 17, the 2/422 on the left of the 1/422, was pulled back and now was in a position to the right of Cannon Co, facing northward generally along the Mertesberg Heights from Schlausenbach on the left to Hill 636 in the Schnee Eifel on the right. In its hurried move, early in the morning, the 2/422 had to abandon its kitchens and duffel bags, there was no transportation available to move them. This caused a gap between the 1/422 and the 2/422 running from the front line positions west to the top of the Schnee Eifel. A composite provisional rifle company was formed from elements of the 3/422 in the south and sent up to fill the gap that now existed between the 1st and 2nd Battalions. A platoon of Charlie Co pulled back from its front-line positions on the left of the battalion and tied in with the composite company.
Around noon, from the Battalion CP, German vehicles including ambulances and foot troops were observed moving down the road from Kobsheid to Schlausenbach. A battery of German horse-drawn artillery was observed going into firing positions in an open field in the vicinity of Kobsheid to the rear of the battalion positions. Artillery and cannon fire were called for, but there was none to be had. Both units were out of their firing positions. An 81-MM mortar, from Dog Co, was brought back from its position covering the front and set up to fire to the rear. One round, with eight increments on it, was fired at the artillery battery, but it was never seen when it landed. Ammunition was very low so this was the only round fired.
At approximately 1630, artillery began to fall around the CP of the 1/422. The CP was in a German pillbox that had had some additional rooms built of logs and covered with dirt added to it. One round hit just outside of the addition and blew a hole in one side. One of the logs from the wall crashed inside and struck the Battalion CO on the back of his head, critically wounding him, he died the next day while being evacuated. The Regiment was notified and the Battalion Executive Officer was told to take command. One enlisted man was slightly wounded and the CP was set afire.
Since the German artillery had fired on the CP and elements of Battalion Hqs Co that were located hereby, the CP and the elements of Battalion Hqs Co in that vicinity were moved to another pillbox approximately five hundred yards to the south. This pillbox was occupied by the artillery liaison officer and his party. It was very crowded, and practically everyone spent a sleepless night. No meals had been served from the kitchen since that morning. There was no further enemy activity in the 1st Battalion area for the remainder of the night.
At 0900 Dec 18, the Battalion was messaged to send an officer to the Regimental Hqs for orders. The S-3 was sent and returned with word that the regiment was going to withdraw in the direction of Schoenberg, in an effort to break through the German encirclement. The Initial Point was the crossroads at the old 1/422’s CP location and the movement was to be down the road to the south. The order of march was the foot troops of 2/422, Regimental Hqs, 1/422, and 3/422. The time of crossing the Initial Point was 1200. The motors were to move under regimental control by a different route and be picked in the vicinity of Schoenberg later. This included all communication equipment except the SCR 300s and SCR 536s, leaving no communications with the Regiment. Radio or telephone was not to be used to notify the front-line companies of the movement since wires had been tapped on several occasions during the last twenty-four hours. The S-3 was immediately sent, by Jeep, to give the movement orders to the front-line companies. They were to take with them all the ammunition and food they could carry. Both were in short supply at this time, since no trucks had been able to get through to the rear for replacements. We were completely encircled by German troops and armor. The kitchens and all other equipment were to be destroyed with as little noise as possible and left behind. The heavy weapons were to be hand-carried and the companies were to move out as soon as possible. The order to march for the Battalion was: Charlie Co, 1 Sec Dog Co, Baker Co, 1 Plat Dog Co, Battalion Hqs, Dog Co (-), Able Co, and 1 Sec Dog Co.
Able Co was to constitute the rear guard for the Battalion. So, at 1200, the 2/422 and the Regimental Hqs Co started passing the IP. Due to the distance from the front-line positions of the 1/422 to the IP, the troops did not arrive in time to follow the 2/422. The 2/422 and the Regimental Hqs continued to move, leaving a large gap where the 1/422 should have been as the column passed the 3/422 area to the south. The 3/422 fell in the column following the 2/422. By the time the 3/422 had cleared its assembly area the 1/422 had arrived and fell in behind them, bringing up the rear. Once started the movement to the rear was very slow. There were frequent stops to check compass directions and to recon to the front for possible enemy positions. There had been no recon and the movement was entirely by compass direction only. The location of enemy troops was not known and there was always a possibility of ambush. Although the column moved only approximately three miles before it stopped in its assembly area in a small patch of woods just west of Oberlascheid, it was getting dark when the 1/422 closed in its small sector of the regimental area. Immediately upon arrival in the assembly area, Battalion COs were ordered to report to the regimental CP for orders. Upon arriving at the CP they were oriented as to their present location on their maps and given the location of their final assembly areas for the attack the next morning by the Regimental S-3. The Regimental CO gave the attack order. The strength and location of the enemy in the vicinity of Schoenberg were unknown.