SS Panzergrenadier passing through Honsfeld, Belgium, December 17 1944

The enemy attack in the north, around Monschau and Büllingen, was slow in starting. On December 17, the enemy attacked Monschau in some force, but was turned back by artillery fire; subsequent attacks, which did not seem to be pressed to the full extent of the enemy’s potential, were likewise repulsed. Meanwhile, the Germans occupied Büllingen and pushed patrols toward Bütgenbach, failing to take advantage of the fact that our defenses had not yet completely congealed in the area, the first elements of the 26-IR only reached Elsenborn to the north at 0700, December 17. Consequently, something of a race developed between the 26-IR and the 12.SS-PD for the occupation of Bütgenbach, the next town on the projected northern route of the enemy. Before dark, on December 17, the 2/26-IR had taken over the town and was defending the high ground (Domain Bütgenbach) to the southwest against any thrust from Büllingen. The 16-IR was on its way down from its bivouac area in the vicinity of Verviers to take up positions north of Waimes; the 18-IR remained just south of Eupen on an anti-parachute mission.

2-IS99-IDOn December 19, the enemy continued his attacks to reach his assigned road net from the east, putting heavy pressure on the twin villages, Krinkelt and Rocherath, and finally occupying these towns after the 2-ID and the 99-ID had been ordered to withdraw by V Corps. Preparatory to a full-scale offensive, the enemy probed our positions constantly during December 19. The attacks grew in violence as the enemy tested our defenses from all sides with up to ten tanks and approximately a battalion and a half of infantry. During the day of December 19, no prisoners were taken who could identify the attacking units, but it is probable that they were elements of the 12.SS-PD which was falling far behind in its failure to get on its route of approach according to the German overall plan.

1st Infantry Division Bazooka Team December 1944

With every day he delayed the enemy’s opportunity of breaking the line and getting control of the Elsenborn and Malmedy roads lessened; during the day of December 19, the 18-IR was moving south to take up a position in the line after sweeping the woods south of Eupen for German paratroopers. During the hunt, King Co ran into a sizable force from the von der Heydte Kampfgruppe dug in in the woods, but a large part of the group took off to the east and southeast during the night. Members of von der Heydte’s ill-starred crew, in fact, kept showing up all over the area and turning themselves, to the anti-aircraft units, supply installations, and artillery positions; the whole venture officially pronounced a fiasco when the colonel himself, trying to beat his way back to the German lines, called for an ambulance in the vicinity of Monschau (Mützenich) a few days later and asked the US Medic to be evacuated. Although well aware of the failure of his mission, he asked the interrogator to notify him should the German radio announce that he had been awarded the Swords to the Knights Cross.

Oberstleutnant von der Heydte after surrendering to Murtzernich

At 0225, December 19, the first thrust at our positions southeast of Bütgenbach was launched when 20 truck-loads of enemy infantry and several tanks hit Easy Co (26-IR); supporting artillery was called in and the attack faded out within an hour. Patrols from Easy Co later counted over 100 enemies dead in front of their positions. Later, at 1010, two tanks and about a company of infantry were observed moving in on the 2/26-IR positions from the south. The tanks managed to work their way up to our roadblocks where one of them was destroyed by 90-MM fire; the other tanks withdrew, but not before a Panzerschreck team had damaged one of our 90-MMs. The supporting infantry was disposed of handily by artillery fire. At the same time another attack of about the same strength thrust eastward from Büllingen; it too, was dispersed with one tank destroyed. Other tanks, working their way toward Waimes from the east and west, were turned back by intense artillery and mortar fire. Before dark two more forces, both of company size and supported by tanks tried again to find a soft spot on the southern and eastern edges of Waimes, with a complete lack of success. Altogether, the day was totally unproductive from the enemy’s point of view; not only did he fail to sound a hollow spot in our defenses, but his attempts to do so were very expensive in both infantry and armor.

Nevertheless, with the 1.SS-PD in serious straits to the west on account of the 12.SS-PD’s failure to clean up the north flank, and probably because it was clear to the most inflated Waffen SS ego that the campaign had stalled, the enemy continued resolute in his decision to force a passage to the north and west. He attacked on December 20, with greater strength but with no greater success. At 0615, the 2/26-IR reported contact with a heavy force of tanks and about a battalion of infantry. The attacking force was probably the 2.Bn, 25.PGR, reinforced by additional infantry (possible elements of the special parachute regiment attached to the 150.PB), part of Operation Greif, and supported by the 3.Battalion, 12.SS-PR. Although first contact with our forces was made just before daybreak, previously, as an extremely interesting captured document indicates, (X) the attack had suffered high casualties and had been confused by our intense artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire. In spite of this initial disadvantage the attack was driven home hard and a slight penetration was made. By 0815, however, the attack had been completely repulsed, eight tanks had been knocked out and were seen burning (the number knocked out and not seen must have been considerably higher, according to the same captured report), and all the Division positions had been restored.

Bütgenbach - (1945) Post War Photo of the destroyed Jagdpanther

This letter was written by an eager SS man to his sister Ruth

Eifel, 16 Dec. 44 (Saturday)
Dear Ruth,
My daily letter will be very short-short and sweet. I write during one of the great hours before an attack-full of unrest, full of expectation for what the next days will bring. Everyone who has been here the last two days and nights (especially nights), who has heard the constant rattling of Panzers, knows that something is up and we are looking forward to a clear order to reduce the tension. We are still in the dark as to ‘where’ and ‘how’ but that cannot be helped! Some of the men believe in big wonders, but that may be shortsighted! It is enough to know we attack, and will throw the enemy from our homeland. That is a holy task! I do not want to talk or write much now-but wait and see what the hours ahead will bring! Overhead is the terrific noise of VI, of artillery – the voice of war. So long now wish me luck and think of me.

The following postscript was hurriedly scribbled on the back of the sealed envelope: 16 Dec. 1944 … Ruth! Ruth! Ruth! We March!!!

PS: While this attack was underway, another attack, possibly coordinated with the 12.SS-PD, but more probably not, was coming in against our positions south of Waimes. The unit engaged in this thankless task was identified as the 8.FJR, 3.FJD, old acquaintances from Normandy, Langerwehe, and Jüngersdof. The paratroopers had had, in fact, much the same history as the Division during the month. Relieved from the line in the Düren area on December 15, they were sent back to a rest area near Münstereifel to refit and re-equip. On December 16, they were alerted and sent to Möderscheid to hold the northern flank of our breakthrough. On December 20, the 3.FJB of the 8.FJR, was ordered to attack our positions in Ober Weywertz from the south. According to the captain commanding the 11.Co, who was taken prisoner during the fighting, the 11.Co and the 12.Co worked their way northward along the railroad track to the edge of the objective. There the captain was told by a civilian that the area was lightly held by American troops. The captain was not sure of the civilian’s integrity and circled the town to the east, intending to take it by the main road. Our troops opened fire on him before he could group his forces for the assault and the two companies scattered. The captain said that a great many of his men had been killed; the 10.Co, which was to support the attack, never showed up after suffering heavy casualties from our artillery fire.

German Panzer-Grenadier Battle of the Bulge

Although these and subsequent smaller attacks throughout the day of December 20, were unpromising from the enemy’s point of view, the build-up in front of the Division positions continued, and it was plain that it presaged far more than continued local pressure. On December 21, another assault was launched. Into this, the enemy put everything he had at his command, as well as he had to, for by this time his need to break through to the north and come to the rescue of the beleaguered 1.SS-PD to the west was imperative. At 0130 the enemy opened up with machine gun and tank fire on the 2/26-IR, positions southeast of Bütgenbach; artillery was brought down and the attack was disposed of as another feint. At 0300, however, the enemy laid down an intense, concentrated artillery, Nebelwerfer, and Mortar barrage.

The battalion positions were blanketed, communications were reduced to radio and no contact at all was possible with the forward elements of the battalion, but when the inevitable follow-up thrust developed, our infantry was ready for it. Ten to fifteen tanks and approximately a battalion of infantry drove forward on the battalion positions. Artillery defensive fires were laid down (during the day the artillery fired nearly 10.000 rounds) and succeeded in putting a serious crimp in the assembly of the reserve and following troops. Despite this disruption of his rear elements, however, the enemy drove his attack hard and a slight penetration was made. Five tanks that hit between Easy and Fox Cos, got through the lines, but our infantry held fast and cleaned out the infantry following. The tanks which got through, although working on borrowed time, succeeded in pinning down the 2/26’s CP with direct fire at a range of 75 yards and overrunning the Easy Co CP.

Destroyed Halftrack

AT guns near the battalion CP destroyed four of the tanks; the fifth got away. By 1140, the full force of the enemy assault began to abate and the situation in the Easy and Fox Co’s area was being restored. Though operating under considerably reduced power after his rough handling, the enemy continued to try to force his way through our positions during the day. Late in the morning, a couple of tanks, spearheading the attack of approximately a battalion of infantry (again, probably the 12.SS) broke through the lines of the 1/26 but again was isolated. At 1430, another attack led by tanks hit Fox Co, but was so punished by our artillery that the enemy was not able to come to grips with our infantry. After the full weight of the fighting was over it was possible, through the interrogation of the one prisoner captured, (X) to reconstruct the enemy’s attack. This man said that the 9.Co, 25.PGR, had led the attack with the mission of taking Bütgenbach with strong tank support; following in line were the 10., 12. and 11.Cos. Leading the attack, the 9.Co suffered extremely severe casualties from our machine gun and small arms fire and withdrew, but the following companies pressed on with, in the end, no greater success and at an equal cost. Although the 25.PPG was pretty well eliminated as a potential in the fighting of December 21, the enemy continued to place the highest priority on cracking our defenses to allow him to roll up the Bütgenbach road. On December 22, the 26.PGR was committed to succeeding where the 25.PGR had failed. For a while, this new outfit, again with heavy tank support, almost succeeded. Tanks started north against the Division positions shortly after dawn, attacking from three points west of Domaine Büutgenbach; enemy infantry following the tanks managed to push our lines back.

A crashed Paratroopers transport plane Ju52 with all the men killed

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