Roughly 700 German paratroopers (Operation Stoesser – von der Hyedte) dropped behind our lines would seize the important road junctions between Eupen and Malmédy (Crossroads Belle-Croix) and block the American troops which could be counted on to be pulled from the north, where the main strength of the Allied Armies had been committed in the drive on the Rhine River. In conjunction with the paratroopers, special troops in American uniforms (Einheit Stielau) (Operation Greif – Skorzeny) equipped with American transportation and Sherman tanks would spearhead the German panzers to spread confusion behind the American lines and disrupt the organization of resistance. These men (Skorzeny’s 150.Panzer-Brigade) planned to race toward the American rear, shouting Germans are 500 yards back!, to stall Sherman tanks at critical points in the American road net and, in general, carry on dozens of similar divertissements. With the American ability to organize and strike back thus tied down, the panzers could get underway and move west. The preponderance of the weight was committed in the north with SS-Oberstgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich’s 6.Panzer-Army; to the south was Gen Hasso von Manteuffel’s 5.Panzer-Army, and below that was Gen Erich Brandenberger‘s 7.Army with the mission of holding the southern flank and, eventually, the rear of the drive west and north. The two panzer armies were to advance, with eight panzer divisions in line, on a vast, simple turning movement: four SS divisions on the axis Malmedy – Liège, and four army divisions on the axis Marche-en-Famenne – Namur.
Four routes were allotted to the 6.Panzer-Army: Rollbahn A and B ran eastward through the Monschau area and were for the use of the 277.VGD, the 246.VGD and the 326.VGD breaking the way for the panzers on the northern flank. Rollbahn C and D, and presumably other routes to the south, were to carry the 6.PA (Dietrich), with the 1.SS-PD (Mohnke) heading west along the Malmedy-Stavelot line to reach the Meuse River west of Liège, and the 12.SS-PD (Meyer) to get on the Losheim-Bullingen-Butgenbach-Waimes-Malmedy-Spa axis to hit Liège from the north.
Things went wrong, at least in the northern sector, from the start. On the night of Dec 16/17, nearly 700 Fallschirmjaeger (Operation Stösser) were dropped in the general area of the Malmedy-Eupen Woods. They were, as established from POWs taken by the 18th Infantry Regiment later, members of a special unit led by Oberstleutnant Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte, and had been culled from various parachute divisions on a volunteer basis. Von der Heydte himself was a veteran of the Crete landings and a former holder of a $1500 Carnegie Fellowship for the study of international law in Vienna. In spite of this distinguished leadership, however, the plan went awry. None of the paratroopers had been told of his mission, other than that further instructions would be given him once he landed. The NCOs only knew that they were to hold certain road junctions; beyond that, they knew nothing. A crosswind and bad briefing of the Ju-52 pilots scattered the units, their weapons, and equipment over an area far wider than planned. Much of the equipment was lost during the jump and most of what the paratroopers could find on the round was broken; the radios were knocked out and reorganization was sketchy. With no secondary mission, those paratroopers who managed to reassemble hid out in the woods, harassing isolated vehicles and taking a few prisoners. They were entirely unable to block the arrival of reinforcing troops. (X)
Meanwhile, to the south, the 1.SS-PD was going well, but the 12.SS-PD had stalled east of Bullingen; the II Panzer Corps: 2.SS-PD and 9.SS-PD for some reason had not even tried to force a passage through the Monschau Area, possibly because of the failure of the Volksgrenadiers to break the crust. Still further to the south, however, the 5.PA (Manteuffel) was doing very well, having completed its breakthrough on schedule. This success of mere Wehrmacht troops was probably a matter of some chagrin to the superior SS men.
(X) Captured Intelligence; Estimate, 12.SS.PD; Annex to G-3 Journal 1503/44, G-2 Section top secret; Div Hq 14.12.1944 TOP SECRET I 111/25; Intelligence Report Page 1, closed 14.12.44, 1200. Enemy Strength and Organization.
In the first line of our own frontal sector, the 99-ID has been identified. The Division covers the Monschau-Ormont sector (along the road bend 2 KM west of Hollerath) with 3 Regiments along a front of 30 kilometers. At Monschau the newly-arrived 78-ID is in position. This unit succeeded in penetrating the German defense lines with the intention of reaching the Urft Orbersee. The 99-ID and the 78-ID belong to the V Corps of the 1st US Army. South of the 99-ID sector, the 108th independent Cavalry Regiment is probably committed. It may be assumed that the operational reserves in the rear of the 99-ID consist of the 2nd Infantry Division plus the 4 and 102 independent Cavalry Regiments. Furthermore, those units, now in rest areas, which have been relieved from the Roer River sector, including the 1st US Infantry Division, may be considered operational reserves. In this sector may be committed units of Division size from the reserve of the US 9-A now attacking in the Jülich area.
In the sector of the 99-ID, the enemy is in a defensive position. His defensive line in the sector in the sector Höfen-Hollerath consists of strong points only, due to the wooded terrain, while in the area Hollerath-Udenbreth and to the south, a system of strong entrenchments has been identified. Due to the recent digging activities in the area around Höfen-Hollerath, it may be concluded that his defensive line will be strongly fortified. It may even be assumed that the enemy will commit his units south of Monschau to the attack in the direction of the Urft Obersee. German POWs are being used to dig entrenchments. A large number of dogs have been observed in many places. Apparently, troops occupy all villages near the front. The American soldier is very careless in guarding his billets. In many instances, the guards desert their posts at night. Enemy artillery build-ups are apparent in three main areas: the area Krinkelt-Hünningen, 5 to 6 battalions; the area south of Monschau, approx 4 battalions, and the area in Manderfeld, approx 4 battalions. So far only harassing fire has been employed.
EVALUATION OF ENEMY UNITS
The 99-ID was activated in 1942. In Europe since the end of October; the first combat experience middle of Nov 1944. The 78-ID is also a newly-activated infantry division without combat experience. These units in reserve areas which will probably be committed from their rest areas have suffered heavy losses during the battle in the sector west of the Roer. In spite of the fact that they are old and battle-experienced divisions, it appears that the replacements are not of the desired caliber, since it has been learned that one of the divisions used members of a penal company as replacements.
In view of his intentions in the area east of Aachen, and the heavy losses sustained there, the enemy has occupied the Eifel front only very weakly. In order to secure this sector against German surprise attacks, the relieved units from the Roer sector have been placed in rest areas in the forward sector. These units are only capable of offering strong resistance against an energetic attack if the enemy succeeds in bringing to the south in a short time the operational reserves held in readiness for the Roer attack. As learned from experience it is assumed that the enemy will not quickly recover from his unexpected reverses. As far as terrain is concerned, the attackers, as well as the defenders, must cope with the heavy clay of the area Hohen Venn and also the many rivers and rivulets which mostly flow from north to south. A good road net is available for troop movements in a north-south direction.
ENEMY LUFTWAFFE EMPLOYMENT
In the area of Belgium and northern France, the enemy can employ from 1700 to 1800 fighters and fighter-bombers. Besides, he has at his disposal units stationed in Holland and northeast France.
At all times one must consider the employment of a Belgian Militia or members belonging to units of the Armee Blanche. In this connection, your attention is brought to the instructions about the interrogation of civilians, which has been sent to the FPA (lower unit interrogation).
For the 12.SS.Pz.Div HJ
First General Staff Officer
(Another film, this one – the best ever done – made by the US Signal Corps is the one that was made about the Battle of the Bulge for the American public).
THE RIDGE AT BUTGENBACH – DECEMBER 16-31
On December 16, the 1-ID was in a rest area north of Eupen. When it became apparent that the breakthrough was of major proportions, the Division was put on an alert. At 0300, Dec 17, the 26-IR was sent up to Camp Elsenborn, on the northern flank of the breakthrough, to contain the enemy’s drive and prevent it from spreading north. The Division, less the 18-IR and elements of the 16-IR, unmolested by von der Heydte’s paratroopers, was in position 24 hours later. From that time to the end of the period the enemy’s frantic efforts to break through by the Büllingen-Butgenbach-Waimes route of approach to the dumps of Spa and Verviers were blocked by the Division. It is impossible to overlook a startling parallel between this enemy operation (and the Division’s reaction to it) and the enemy’s attempted breakthrough at the Kasserine Pass in late February 1943.
At the Kasserine Pass, the Division, in the Ousseltia Valley, was threatened by a major breakthrough to the south in the vicinity of the Faid Pass. Here, the breakthrough south of Monschau caught the Division in a rest area to the north. In both cases, the enemy was spurred on by the hope of capturing supplies: Tébessa in Tunisia (North Africa), and the Verviers-Liège-Eupen area in this drive. In both cases, the 26-IR was detached from Division control and sent out to hold the flank of the German spearhead, attached to II Corps in Africa and to the V Corps here. In both cases the Division turned back the threat, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, on the 2.Panzer-Division in Africa, and on the 12.SS-PD, on the 3.FJD and on the 12.VGD here. And finally, in the case of Africa, the Tunisian Campaign was over three months later.