Document Source: This document is transcribed from the copies in the collection of the US Military History Institute, Carlisle Barrack, Pennsylvania, #D739 F6713 #B-592 & #D739 F6713 #B-838. These two separate documents are really Part I and Part II of the Generalmajor (Maj Gen) Otto Ernst Remer’s account of the Fuehrerbegleitbrigade (Fuehrer Escort Brigade) during the Ardennes Offensive. They are manuscripts B-592 and B-838 of the Foreign Military Studies series that were compiled after World War II. The transcription was made and edited by Wesley Johnston, son of Walter Johnston of the AT Platoon, B Co, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division. Translated from German to English by Charles E. Weber. (MS # B-592/Remer, Otto Ernst, Gen Maj, Allendorf, Germany – May 11, 1947)
During the first part of September 1944, I received the order, from the Führer’s Headquarter in Rastenburg, to take over one Fusilier Regiment from the Großdeutschland Division. Following the same order, I had to organize a combat force, later known as the Fuehrerbegleitbrigade (Führer Escort Brigade), a Brigade which was to take over the defense of headquarters which could be located as far as 100 KM behind the front. At this time, it was supposed that an Allied air landing unit of 2 to 3 Airborne Divisions was planned to be dropped on the German General Headquarters. This Fuehrerbegleitbrigade, existing at that time, was too weak for such a task. Besides, my force, which was to be organized, was to be used as a mobile operational reserve within the so-called Fortress of Loetzen (East Prussia) for engagements outside the limits of the fortress.
To accomplish this mission, I enlarged and formed my force – taking into consideration the units already available there and as follows: Brigade Staff; Fuehrer Signal Battalion (internal operations headquarters); Fuehrer Air Signal Battalion (aircraft warning service); Fuehrer Antiaircraft Regiment Hermann Goering, with 14 batteries (active air defense and ground artillery fighting); Fuehrer Escort Regiment with three battalions made of the 1 Armored Personnel Carrier Bn (5 companies with armored personnel carriers); the 1 Mobile Bn (4 light and 1 heavy company loaded on amphibian Volkswagens and Steyr command cars); the 1 Heavy Bn with 1 Tank Company; the 1 Assault Gun Company; the 1 Antiaircraft Company, the 1 Combat Engineer Company, the 1 Armored Recon Company; the 1 Medical company; the 828 Battalion (on special assignment) and the 829 Battalion, (on special assignment). Note: both battalions, the 828 and the 829 consisted of rather old men (Landeschuetzen) and had originally been intended for guarding headquarters premises that had not yet been used.
This unusual array was the result of the special task on which this combined-arms unit was based. The various units were equipped with the most modern arms and ammunition and brought up to strength with experienced front-line soldiers. When Hitler moved his headquarters to Berlin during the second half of November 1944, my mission was completed. I then stayed several more days with my Brigade in the area of Rastenburg. At the end of November 1944, my brigade was transported by train for a commitment on the western front on orders from Hitler. For this purpose, the brigade had to be reorganized in great haste, with the extraction of units it further needed in the headquarters and the addition of new units. At the beginning of December, the following elements of the Brigade arrived in the area of Daun (Eifel): Brigade Staff; Fuehrer Antiaircraft Regiment (8 Batteries); Fuehrer Escort Regiment; 828 Battalion on special assignment; Medical company; and the Fuehrer Signal Battalion. Moreover, the following units were added: Staff of the Panzer Regiment; Panzer Battalion from the Großdeutschland Panzer Regiment; Assault Gun Battalion (I believe the 120 Battalion, which had previously fought in France and had been reorganized); Light Artillery Battalion from the 120 Regiment with two light batteries (five guns each) and one heavy battery; 1 OT (Organization Todt) column and one army column. Both of these units are only ready for a commitment up to 1/5 strength. 1 horse-drawn bakery and butchery company and 1 army post office and one workshop company.
All recently added elements were insufficiently equipped, in respect to personnel and material, except for weapons and tanks. This was especially true with respect to equipment with vehicles and signal equipment. The staff of the Panzer Regiment did not arrive until two days before the offensive and was so defectively assembled that it could not be used for the time being. The 828. battalion on special assignment did not receive the bicycles designated for it until the day prior to the offensive. The brigade was organized as follows in great haste: Brigade Staff with general staff officer; Signal Company (1/2 telephone, 1/2 radio); Military Police Detachment; Armored Recon Company; Motorcycle Messenger Detachment; Three independent battalions with one armored personnel carrier battalion of five companies one mobile battalion of four companies the 828 Bicycle battalion on special assignment with four companies; Panzer Regiment with one battalion of tanks (four companies of Mark IV tanks) and one battalion of assault guns of four batteries; Artillery Battalion; Antiaircraft Regiment with two battalions, one light (battalion) with three batteries (self-propelled) (one company of 20 millimeter, one barrel guns, one company of 20 millimeter four-barrel guns, one company with 37 millimeter guns) and heavy (battalion) with four batteries of six guns (each) of 105 millimeter caliber; Two transportation columns; Medical Company; Bakery Company; Butchery Company; Army Post Office; Workshop Company; Feldersatz Battalion [replacement training] with 1400 men, which had to be organized on orders from Army. It had about 20% strength with respect to personnel and material.
The shortcomings of this organization are attributed to the fact that I received no regimental staff for the Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment and for that reason the brigade had to command three independent battalions which had been armed and organized in very different ways. The means of signal communication of the brigade were not sufficient for this increased command load. The military police detachment of about 12 men was too weak for an effectual regulation of traffic, especially in difficult terrain. The relation of the heavy weapons to the infantry was exaggerated. An engineer unit was completely lacking. However, the capacity of the columns, which was enhanced by taking usable vehicles from (the rest of) the force, was by no means sufficient for a well-functioning supply service. The fact that the small amount of artillery available had no vehicles capable of cross-country travel was also a shortcoming. The few days left before the offensive were intensively used to organize and reorganize the brigade. In addition, the force was trained every day at the company level (and) officers of all ranks were prepared for their coming tasks through discussions about the terrain and map exercises. Naturally, the time at our disposal for these purposes was quite limited, especially inasmuch as a part of the added units did not arrive until the day prior to the offensive. Instead, the Feldersatz battalion was excellently supplied with guns and equipment in order to guarantee good, continuous training. The Brigade was subordinated to the LXVI Corps. The Führerbegleitbrigade was assembled in the area around Daun, Germany, on December 17, 1944. Since the beginning of the offensive, I was at the forward command post of the 5.Panzer-Armee in Dachscheid, northeast of Wachsweiler.
December 18, 1944 At about 1600, December 18, I received the order to take the brigade to the front from the area of Daun by way of Gerolstein, Buedesheim, Pruem, Schneeifelforsthaus, Roth, and Auw in the direction of St Vith. Our mission was to thrust forward in a generally westerly direction by way of St Vith within the framework of the 66.Corps, and subordinated to this corps. The brigade was set on the march by telephone, with the organization ordered. The organization of the brigade was as follows (1) Advanced attachment: One Armored Recon Battalion, One Light Company on Volkswagens; One Assault Gun Company; Balance of the II Battalion; One Medium Infantry Gun Company; One Antiaircraft Company. (2) Brigade Staff with Recon Company Armored Regiment; II Battalion (Armored Personnel Carriers); One Artillery Battery; One Antiaircraft Regiment and 4/III Battalion (828, on special assignment) on bicycles. While the Brigade set out, I traveled to the command post of the LXVI Corps, which I encountered in Weinstein (5 KM northeast of Pruem). I found out about the situation there and was to set out with the Brigade by way of Roth, Auw, Wischeid, Andler, Schoenberg, and Heuem in the direction of St Vith.
For the time being, I was not ordered to attack St Vith, but I was given to understand that the intention existed, now as before, to thrust through further to the west with the Brigade toward the Meuse River after the fall of St Vith. At any rate, the brigade was not to tie itself up with a battle for St Vith. As for myself, I drove ahead on the designated road and did not reach the command post of the 18.Volksgrenadier-Division in the Walleroder Muehle until about morning. The road of the advance order was completely jammed and in bad condition. Traveling off the road was impossible, even for track-laying vehicles. I, therefore, reckoned with a considerable delay of the march movement and reported this to the Corps.
December 19, 1944 At the command post of the 18.VGD, I learned that resistance east of St Vith had become considerably stronger. Besides, I saw that this division was still not very extensively spread out along the front. During the afternoon, I commenced road recon for the purpose of finding out if there were possibilities of circumventing St Vith. Because I got unfavorable results from this recon, I resolved to support the attack of the 18.VGD, set for about noon, with my advance detachment by a thrust on both sides of the road. The advance detachment began to arrive in the Walleroder Muehle at about 1200. The attack of the 18.VGD, which was commenced with only weak artillery, did not lead to any success. The armored point of my advance detachment, which had, during this, advanced approximately to the bend in the road north of Pruemerberg, received rather strong AT fire. The Company attacking through the woods south of the road was repelled with heavy losses by very well-placed enemy artillery fire. My impression was that the enemy had already made himself so strong east of St Vith that this place could not be taken from the east by an attack emanating from the march movement without a sufficient assembly of heavy weapons. Moreover, there was the fact that only the terrain north of the road appeared to be suited for tank attack, but with an unfavorable assembly area west of the Auf der Hoehe Forest, especially inasmuch as the road could be reached only under enemy observation from the bottleneck of the road. Besides the street was so badly jammed that an advance of the armored group would have been extremely difficult.
During the time following, I repeatedly received contradicting orders from the Heeresgruppe, the 5.Panzer-Army, and the LXVI Corps, which partly spoke of an attack against or a capture of St Vith, partly of circumvention of the city, and a further thrust to the west. I decided to circumvent St Vith to the north, although the road from Walleroder Muehle to Meyerode had been reported to me as being passable only under certain conditions. It was still the most favorable. At the outset of darkness, the advance detachment set out to Medell by way of Meyerode. The assault gun company, along with a grenadier company on foot, which were with the advance detachment, were sent out from Walleroder Muehle to Wallerode.
The armored group had begun to reach Azerath at this time but was very badly wedged in with vehicles of other divisions over to the east of Auw. Inasmuch as this road was also used by elements of the 6.Panzer-Armee and was furthermore molested by elements of the American units encircled in the Schnee Eifel (422-423/106-ID) that were breaking out, a traffic jam had come into being that could hardly be disentangled and which the little force of military police belonging to the brigade was not in a position to disentangle. The attack of the elements of the brigade ordered to Wallerode, altogether one assault gun company and two grenadier companies, launched at midnight by way of the fork in the road west of Wallerode then, by way of Deidenberg towards St Vith had no success. Therefore, I ordered a continued march by way of Medell and Born in the direction of Nieder-Emmels.
December 20, 1944, The attack was launched during the dawn of December 20, by the armored personnel carrier battalion together with an assault gun company, which had arrived in the meantime, lead, after a hasty assembly in the woods north of Nieder-Emmels, to the capture of Nieder-Emmels and Ober-Emmels and thereby to the effect of blocking of the road from Ligneuville (Engelsdorf) to St Vith. A further thrust in the southern direction aimed at taking Sart-lez-Saint-Vith (Tomberg) bogged down in well-placed enemy artillery fire on the three battalions and anti-tank fire. I decided to wait for the deployment of the brigade. All attempts to accelerate this deployment were frustrated by the extremely difficult road conditions in the woods south of Neurode (?), where, in part, one vehicle after another had to be towed through one at a time. In addition, there was the fact that the lack of motor fuel resulted from the road difficulties and traffic jams in the case of the armored group. An amount was already consumed that was threefold as great as that which was estimated for normal conditions. During the entire day, Nieder-Emmels was under heavy artillery fire.
December 21 1944 I was ordered by LXVI Corps to attack along the road to St Vith from the Nieder-Emmels area on December 21. I had to decline to make this attack as long as the high terrain south of Nieder-Emmels was not in our possession. Otherwise, I would have to lead an attack with enemy flanking interference. I, therefore, decided in favor of an attack in a southerly direction for the purpose of taking Sart-lez-Saint-Vith in order to block this last important supply route and in order to have a solid street under our feet again for a further thrust because up to this time the rode and terrain conditions had been my worst foe. The assembly of the II Battalion, which had been brought forward into the hollow just west of Nieder-Emmels during darkness, was harassed for such a long time shortly before daylight by suddenly launched, well-placed enemy artillery fire that this battalion was not in the position to move up and thereby take advantage of the dawn. Because of my heavy weapons, the bulk of the tanks and artillery battalion had still not been brought up because of the catastrophic road conditions and because the brigade, moreover, had no support whatsoever, from Corps. I called off the attack in view of the superiority of the enemy artillery.
I reckoned that the brigade could be deployed by about evening. In order not to let the day slip away unused, I put the II Battalion to blocking the main road from St Vith to Vielsalm by taking the advantage of the forests west of Sart-lez-Saint-Vith. Moreover, this battalion was to send other strong reconnaissance forward to the southwest in the general direction of Salmchâteau and to report the information found out about the forest roads leading in this direction. As for myself, I prepared the attack of the brigade against Sart-lez-Saint-Vith from the north and northwest for the night of December 21/22. My plan was the following: the armored group was to attack Ober-Emmels using both sides of the road hence to Sart-lez-Saint-Vith; whilst the III Battalion was to penetrate into this locality from the area including Tomberg from the northwest, and if possible, to take the artillery positions presumed to be northwest of the locality by surprise. The attack was to be conducted by surprise and without any artillery preparation, however, the artillery was to be ready to fire on demand.
Distribution of a sufficient number of forwarding observers to both combat teams. The II Battalion, which had been assigned to block the road, was provided as a possible reserve. Shortly before darkness, we were able to bring the artillery battalion into position, after the guns had been towed with vehicles having cross-country mobility. The III Battalion likewise arrived with its bicycles (pulling them along; they are completely covered with mud). The bicycles remained in Born and, moreover, were not used thereafter during the entire offensive.
The II Battalion had reported the blocking of the road from St Vith to Vielsalm during the afternoon in a very boldly conducted undertaking, moreover a further advance in a southerly and southwesterly direction, and an engagement with enemy artillery positions and isolated tanks in the area north of Commanster and Hinderhausen. The result of the road reconnaissance did not sound favorable. Furthermore, one captured unit commander from the 7th Armored Division was reported who had apparently come from a discussion.
December 22 1944 The armored group (II Battalion, 2 Armored Companies, and 2 Assault Gun Companies) was assembled at 2400 in the area of Nieder-Emmels in the In der Eid Forest. The III Battalion reported completed assembly in the vicinity of Tomberg at about 0100. I led the armored group myself. I set out a powerful reconnaissance along the road from Ober-Emmels to Sart-lez-Saint-Vith at once, which reported the northern edge of the patch of woods south of Ober-Emmels was rather heavily occupied and that enemy armored cars had been sighted. It was further reported that the terrain off of the road was not passable at night and that several tanks had already stuck fast. I, therefore, led the armored group through the bare places in the woods in the direction of Tomberg. Up until daylight, I moved it forward to the southern edge of the forest north of Sart-lez-Saint-Vith with a tedious effort. This was a very difficult undertaking because tanks were sticking fast at every moment in the softened terrain and because the woods were very thick in parts.
At times, one tank after another had to be guided in by scouts on foot. As a result of the continuous noise of the motors, the element of surprise was lost. During the night, the artillery battalion shelled the enemy artillery positions spotted west of Sart-lez-Saint-Vith with artillery fire observed by forward observers of the III Battalion. By taking advantage of the darkness and the snowstorm, the III Battalion worked its way even closer to the locality. The moving forward of the armored group during the dawn was delayed by the fact that the four tanks ran onto mines along the edge of the woods which first had to be cleared. In the meantime, the III Battalion broke into the locality and fought ahead from house to house. The locality was stubbornly defended by enemy tanks. Individual combat teams were then stopped by enemy tanks and were temporarily taken into captivity, even the battalion commander. It was not until the attack lunging from the edge of the woods on a broad front was made that the locality was taken and the situation restored. The III Battalion had considerable losses, especially inasmuch as enemy tanks concentrated fire at close range on the many wounded men who were in several cellars. At about noon, Sart-lez-Saint-Vith was fully cleared and in our firm possession. In total, about 20 American tanks were put out of action or captured, a number was abandoned and was still completely intact and about 50 prisoners were taken. During the day, and during the following night, the locality itself was under constant enemy artillery fire. In the direction of St Vith, contact was made with the 18.VGD and the 62.VGD. During the afternoon, the units were put in order and the many tanks that had struck fast were pulled out. During the night, the II Battalion, which was able to block the road leading to Vielsalm only temporarily, was brought up and the change of position of the artillery was carried out.
The abandoned vehicles of the brigade had to be drawn along the way of St Vith during the night because the roads leading from Born and to Sart-lez-Saint-Vith were still not passable.
December 23 1944 At about 0800 in the morning, the brigade set out with the armored group by way of Birkeler toward Hinterhausen. In this locality several enemy tanks were spotted, apparently rear guards. Hinderhausen was taken with the loss of two of our tanks. Four enemy tanks were shot out of action. The further advance on a broad front on both sides of the Kapellenbusch towards Kapelle led to the capture of more tanks that had got stuck in the marshy area east of Kapelle. During the advance still, more tanks that had got stock fell into our hands. In order to take advantage of the success and in order to prevent the enemy from effecting a lodgment, the mobile II Battalion was brought up and it took over the advance guard point after having been given an assault gun company. It immediately went on to Rogery through Commanster, whilst the armored group assembled and organized itself behind the artillery battalion, which was following the II Battalion. Beho was free of enemy forces. Road conditions on the Commanster – Rogery road were understandably bad. Despite that fact, the direct road was ordered because the bridge 1000 M northeast of Beho was destroyed.