Document Source: Headquarters 526th Armored Infantry Battalion, After Action Report – December 1, 1944 – December 31, 1944
Maj Roy E. Battson – S3
From December 1, 1944, to December 16, 1944, the 526th Armored Infantry Battalion (10th Armored Group) less Charlie Company, was assigned to the US T Force unit (Intelligence), 12-AG, and was engaged in training for its assigned mission in the vicinity of Harzé, Belgium.
During this period, Charlie Co was the Guard Company for the Eagle Tactical Air Command Headquarters in the city of Luxembourg.
At 1100, Dec 17, the CO of the T Force (12-AG in Spa/Balmoral Belgium), alerted the battalion and stated that a large number of German Fallschirmjaeger (Paratroopers) had landed in the vicinities of Eupen and Jalhay. At that time, the battalion had plans for the defense of the area and local installations, so this plan was put into effect immediately, and the battalion warned that it may be ordered to move out at any moment.
At 1600, orders were received from the 1-A trough T Force Headquarters in Balmoral, for the battalion to move at once to the city of Malmedy. Company commanders and the Staff were already assembled, and orders for movements were issued in 1605. The company commanders then returned to their companies and prepared for the movement. At 1630, orders were received from the 1-A. The 526-AIB was to join the US-Norwegian 99-IB-(S) at Remouchamps and then, proceed to Malmedy by way of Spa. The orders issued in 1605 were rescinded and new orders were issued. The battalion S-3 went to Remouchamps to meet a representative of the 99-IB(S) for orders for the movement.
The battalion, at this time, was en route between Aywaille and Remouchamps and ready to tie in the tail of the 99-ID(S). While waiting, there was an Air Alert, an enemy plane came over and bombed in the vicinity of Remouchamps. At 2100, no representative of the 99-IB-(S) arrived, so the CO of the T Force issued verbal orders to the S-3 for the battalion to move at once, without the 99-IB(S), to Malmedy, Able Co 825-TDB to join the battalion at La Reid and be assigned to the 526-AIB for operations.
The 526-AIB reinforced with Able Co 825-TDB was to come under the command of Lt Col Harold D Hansen the CO of the US Norwegian 99-IB(S). The battalion, now in tactical formation, proceeded to Malmedy picking up the Able Co 825-TDB on their way to La Reid. The night was cold and very dark which made driving in a blackout very difficult.
En route, one half-track from Able Co 526-AIB, then another from Baker Co 526-AIB with a towed 57-MM AT Gun were detached from the column and temporarily lost. The rifle squad and the half-track from Able Co 526-AIB rejoined the company in Malmedy on Dec 18, while the 57-MM AT gun squad from Baker Co 526-AIB, rejoined his company a few days later. An account of the action of this AT Squad is given in the following resume of a letter from Capt Robert N. Jewett, S-4, 1111-ECG:
On Dec 18, 1944, this squad did establish a roadblock consisting of a Daisy Chain (a string of mine) and one 57-MM AT Gun on the Highway, the eastern entrance into the city of Trois-Ponts. An enemy armored column (Panzer Aufklärung Abteilung, Kampfgruppe Peiper, 1.SS-Panzer-Division LSSAH), was reported approaching from Stavelot. At approximately 1230, the first tanks approached and were stopped by two men pulling a Daisy Chain in front of the leading tank. Although there were 8 tanks visible, the men showed no panic and manned the 57-MM AT Gun with the result that the lead tank was disabled and possibly the second one. A direct hit on the gun resulted in the gun being destroyed and the crew killed. The remainder of the men escaped and rejoined the other Charlie Co of the 526-AIB elements assisting in operations against the enemy in Trois-Ponts for the next few days.
At approximately 0025, Dec 18, while the battalion was on the Highway between Spa and Francorchamps, the following order was received from 1-A’s Provost Marshal: Enemy tanks reported southeast of Stavelot. Send one company of infantry and one platoon TD to block the roads into Stavelot from south and east. Acknowledge receipt and report progress. The column was halted and orders were issued to the Battalion Executive Officer to take Able Co 526-AIB and one platoon TDs from Able Co 825-TDB to Stavelot. The remainder of the battalion consisting of the 526-AIB less two rifle companies and the 825-TDB less one platoon then proceeded to Malmedy.
At a four roads crossroads in Meiz (eastward of Bernister, Malmédy; westward of Rivage, Cheneux, Stavelot; north-south being the main road Spa – Malmédy – Stavelot), the column was met by guides from the 291-ECB who led the the column into town. Maj Paul Solis, CO 526-AIB, Staff, and Company COs met Col David E. Pergrin, CO 291-ECB, and Col Harold D. Hanson CO 99-IB-(S), and received orders for the defense.
Baker Co 526-AIB with Able Co 825-TDB (less one platoon) were immediately sent out to block all roads leading into Malmedy. The remainder of the battalion, HQs 526-AIB was kept in reserve in Malmedy. A little later, in the early hours of the day, the CO of the Task Force at Stavelot reported that it had met a strong enemy force and was in desperate need of physical aid. The mortar and assault gun platoons were ordered to Stavelot. During the night of Dec 18/19, two rifle platoons of Able Co 526-AIB were reported to Battalion HQs. These two platoons were placed in reserve in Malmedy and held in readiness to send to Stavelot or employed in the defense of Malmedy as the situation warranted.
On Dec 19, the 120-IR (30-ID), arrived in Malmedy and deployed for the defense of the town. The 526-AIB was then attached to the 120-IR. The two platoons of Able Co 526-AIB with a combined strength of two officers and 75 men were employed by the 3/120-IR as guards for the local installations and as a mobile reserve. That night, the 120-IR warned the men of the 526-AIB that Germans dressed in American uniforms, speaking English, and having Dog Tags and other identifications were in American vehicles behind our lines. All the units of the 526-AIB received this information and were warned to be on alert for such. On Dec 20, that part of Able-526 in Malmedy was relieved from the 120-IR and reverted back in control of the 526-AIB. During the day, Baker Co 526-AIB reported receiving artillery fire which lasted a few minutes but not resulted in any casualties. Later, the battalion was warned that there was a strong possibility that the enemy would attack any time after 2400 and all units would be alerted from 0300 to daylight.
This order was given to the battalion but during the remainder of the night of Dec 20/21, no enemy activity was noted. At 0700, Dec 21, Able Co 825-TDB reported that a roadblock was attacked but the enemy force was repulsed with the following losses: one captured US Jeep; one captured US M-8 armored car; one captured US half-track, one German Mark VI-2 Tiger Tank, and one capture US Dodge. Heavy personnel casualties were suffered by the enemy but the exact number is unknown. The company of the 825-TDB’s had 4 men wounded and one 3-inch gun overran. At 0815, the Krauts attacked again, 300 yards northeast of 2nd Platoon of Baker Co 526-AIB. The attack was again repulsed. At 0925, the 526’s CP was moved to the Paper Mill in Malmedy. At 2035, a German soldier approached Baker Co 526-AIB position and was taken, prisoner. He spoke good English and was a member of the Skorzeny 150.Panzer-Brigade whose mission was to infiltrate behind Allied lines.
During the early morning hours, of Dec 22, enemy vehicles were moving about in front of Baker 526’s position at about 3500 meters. They were driven off by artillery fire. At 1010, one 10-men enemy patrol was observed in front of our positions. Baker 526 was ordered to intercept this patrol and capture as many as possible. One German was taken prisoner but was later killed while trying to escape. Again at 1305, another enemy patrol approached Baker 526 but was repulsed by mortar fire. At 2025, the 120-IR notified the 526-AIB that 20 Ju52 two-motor enemy transport planes were observed approaching Malmedy and that they would probably drop paratroopers. The next morning, the 120-IR reported that 7 Krauts in US uniforms had been captured and that there were similar groups in the vicinity.
Operation Greif & Panzer-brigade.150: As part of the German Ardennes offensive, Skorzeny’s English-speaking troops (Einheit Stielau) were charged with infiltrating American lines disguised in American uniforms in order to produce confusion to support the German attack. For the campaign, Skorzeny was the commander of a composite unit, the 150.SS-Panzer-Brigade. As planned by Skorzeny, Operation Greif involved German soldiers, most of them in captured American Jeeps and disguised in American uniforms, who would penetrate American lines in the early hours of the Battle of the Bulge to cause disorder and confusion. Skorzeny was well aware that under the Hague Convention of 1907, any of his men captured while wearing US uniforms would be executed as spies. In all, twenty-three of Skorzeny’s men were captured behind American lines and eighteen were executed as spies for contravening the rules of war by wearing enemy uniforms.
Skorzeny’s new brigade needed US vehicles, weapons, and uniforms; OB West was asked to find 15 tanks, 20 armored cars, 20 self-propelled guns, 100 jeeps, 40 motorcycles, 120 trucks, British and US Army uniforms all to be delivered to the brigade’s training camp which had been set up at Grafenwöhr in eastern Bavaria. The equipment delivered fell short of the requirements, including only two Sherman tanks in poor condition, and Skorzeny had to use German substitutes, 5 Mark V Panthers, and 6 M-8 Armored Cars. The brigade was also flooded by Polish and Russian equipment sent by units who had no idea what the request was for.
As far as English-speaking soldiers went, only 10 men who spoke perfect English and had some knowledge of American idioms were found, 30-40 men who spoke English well but had no knowledge of slang, 120-150 who spoke English moderately well, and 200 or so who had learned English at school. Faced with these setbacks, Skorzeny scaled down the 150.Panzer-Brigade from three battalions to two and assembled the 150 best English speakers into a commando unit named Einheit Stielau. Skorzeny also recruited a company of SS-Jagdverbände Mitte, two companies from 600.SS-Fallschirmjäger-Abteilung, and was given two Luftwaffe Fallschirmjaeger Battalions formerly of Kampfgruppe 200, tank crews from Panzer regiments, and gunners from artillery units. A total of 2500 men were eventually assembled at Grafenwöhr, 800 less than had been hoped.
The final total of equipment assembled was also less than had been hoped; only enough US Army weapons had been found to equip the commando unit, and only 4 US Army scout cars, 30 jeeps, and 15 trucks were found, the difference being made up with German vehicles painted in US olive drab with Allied markings applied. Only a single Sherman tank was available, and the brigade’s Panther tanks were disguised as M-10 tank destroyers by removing their cupolas and disguising their hulls and turrets with thin sheet metal. The problem of recognition by their own forces was crucial, and they were to identify themselves by various methods: displaying a small yellow triangle at the rear of their vehicles; tanks keeping their guns pointing in the nine o’clock position; troops wearing pink or blue scarves and removing their helmets; and flashes from a blue or red torch at night. As the brigade prepared for action, rumors began to fly that they were to relieve the besieged towns of Dunkirk or Lorient, capture Antwerp, or capture the Allied Supreme Command at the GHQ SHAEF in Paris. It was not until Dec 10, that Skorzeny’s own commanders were made aware of the brigade’s true plans. The 150.Panzer-Brigade was to attempt to capture at least two of the bridges over the Meuse River at Amay, Huy, or Andenne before they could be destroyed, the troops to begin their operation when the Panzer advance reached the High Fens, between the Ardennes and the Eifel highlands. The three groups (Kampfgruppe X, Kampfgruppe Y, and Kampfgruppe Z) would then move towards the separate bridges.
Malmedy, Christmas 1944
On Dec 24, American planes bombed Malmedy. The city, in that period, was in our hands and had been so during the entire German breakthrough. Many buildings were destroyed and others were set afire by the bombing. Not Just Once. Not Even Twice. The US Army Air Force Did It Three Times Casualties among the civilians and troops were heavy. In 1622, American A-20 bombed the positions of Baker Co 526-AIB. No casualties were suffered from this action, but again on Dec 25, the Army Air Force bombed Malmedy which was still in our hands. The city was still on fire from the precedent bombing of Dec 24. The fire spread more and more casualties resulted. At 1255, Dec 26, Baker CO 526-AIB contacted a small enemy patrol and captured one man.
A civilian reported enemy activity in the immediate front of the company so a patrol leader dispatched a 13 men patrol to investigate the report. The patrol found nothing at the place reported so the leader took the patrol out farther to the front. The group was ambushed by force estimated to be at least 15 men who were dug in with machine guns and mortar. The patrol withdrew with the leader slightly wounded and 2 other men failing to return. That night, another patrol from Baker Co 526-AIB was sent along the road Malmedy – Trois-Ponts with the mission of taking prisoners. This patrol sent out in 2010 reported no result.
On Dec 27, Charlie Co 99-IB-(S) was to launch a limited objective attack to Hédomont at 1600. At 1305, the CO of the 120-IR (30-ID) directed the 526-AIB to recon the town prior to the attack and determine what amount, if any, the enemy was there. A 4 man patrol was sent out with an officer. At 1542, 2 of the men returned reporting that there were some enemies in Hédomont. The patrol leader and the sergeant were trapped in the town but joined the attacking force of Charlie Co 99-IB-(S) and withdrew with them when the mission was accomplished. One prisoner was taken and 15 Krauts were killed in the attack. Later, it was reported that one officer and one soldier were killed by one mine in one US unmarked minefield. At 1900, Baker Co 526-AIB received artillery fire but was unable to locate the enemy gun.
On the morning of Dec 28, at 0715, Service Co 526-AIB was hit by 3 large caliber enemy shells. One man was wounded and 3 trucks were damaged. Fires were started but were soon extinguished. At 0900, the 526-AIB’s CO and the S-3 reported to the CP of the 120-IR and received orders for regrouping of the regiment and attached units. The 526-AIB was ordered in the regimental reserve and moved to another location. The move was done on Dec 29-30. In the morning of Dec 29, the men of Able Co 526-AIB still in Stavelot were relieved by the 117-IR and returned to battalion control in Malmedy.
On Dec 30, at 1230, USAAF heavy bombers dropped bombs in the battalion area. Several of the bombs were within a few yards of Baker Co 526’s CP. One casualty resulted from this action. The company CP was at that time approximately 3500 meters behind the front line. No activity was reported for the 526-AIB for the last day of the year. Casualties for the period Dec 17-31, 1944 were as follow: KIA: 2 officers, 10 enlisted men; WIA: 28 enlisted men; MIA: 5 enlisted men.
During the period covered by this rapport, the main action was reconnaissance in force by the enemy. All such attempts by the enemy were repulsed and the enemy suffered heavy casualties each time. The 526th Armored Infantry Battalion was the first combat force to reach Malmedy in the breakthrough by the German counterattack. It was the first combat mission for the battalion. The orders were for the 526-AIB to hold Malmedy at all costs and prevent the Germans from coming through. The enemy did not come through.
Maj Roy E. Battson
526th Armored Infantry Battalion