2-23-RCT (2-ID) trying to reach the high ground in Ondenval

In the center sector of the 16-IR, it was found that the enemy occupying the southern half of Faymonville, in spite of a show of force earlier in the night, had withdrawn to the south. By 0915, the town was open and the high ground was taken to the south. Enemy resistance stiffened almost immediately, however. As the 2/16-IR pushed on down the road to Schoppen, with Fox Co leading, intense small arms fire, supported by self-propelled guns, was laid on the advancing troops from the town. The condition of the road prevented friendly tanks from being brought up, and it is doubtful that they would have had much effect anyway: the enemy was firing from hull-down positions and had the road covered and zeroed in from several directions. Meanwhile, the 1.FJB, 5FJR, facing the 18-IR on the right, continued to resist any attempts to push further south, a resistance that was considerably aided by artillery support that resembled that of Heistern and Verlautenheide ridge. An attempt to take the ground at 8014 was turned back, although other elements of the 18-IR managed to push through the snow east of the Klingelberg draw. To the east the 1055.IRth (89.VGD), was identified as holding the northern edge of the woods from 903017 to 921017. In spite of the artillery concentrations laid on the 18-IR, enemy artillery over the whole front showed a substantial decrease from the day before, when more than 1700 rounds were reported.

The reduction was believed to be the result of the 3.FJD artillery moving to more secure areas. The next day, January 17, the first offensive enemy reaction to the attack of the 18-IR hit King Co at 8018; about 40 men from the 1.FJB, 5.FJR, supported by two tanks, attacked and were repulsed. Later elements of the 18-ID managed to push to the southern edge of Hill 566 and to the high ground north of Schoppen Enemy artillery was intense. On the other end of the front enemy mounted a major counterattack to break up the drive of the 23-RCT (with 1/18-IR attached) through the Röhr Busch. About 200 men from the 8.FJR (160 of whom were replacements fresh from Holland), plus 60 men from the 13.Co, 9.FJR, and 30 men from the 3.FJD Reconnaissance unit, launched their attack supported by five to seven self-propelled guns. The attack came in at 0730 hours, just before the 23-RCT was to launch its own attack to clear the woods, and raged back and forth through the woods until noon. Extremely heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy; at least two-thirds of the attacking force was killed, captured or wounded, and by 1400, the remnants of the enemy began pulling out to the south.

 First Division troops, complete with camouflage equipment, advance on a narrow road near Faymonville, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, Jan. 16, 1945

While this fight was going on, the 1/18-IR, attacked the elements of the 1.FJB, 9.FJR plus the 15.FJC, 8.FJR and the reserve companies of both regiments which were holding the pocket south of the Amblève River, cleaned the force out of the woods. The complete surprise of the attack from the south resulted in the capture of three 88-MM guns, four 105-MM howitzers, a half-track, and an ammunition dump (ANNEX 6). These two actions on the western flank of the Division sector netted a total of 236 prisoners for the day. To the east, the 16-IR and the 18-IR continued to work their way south under heavy artillery fire.

(ANNEX 6) (Interrogation Report) (Period Jan 17 to Jan 18, 1945) Prisoners of war processed through the Division cage represented the following units:

5.FJR – 6
8-FJR – 19
9-FJR – 50
3-FJAA – 3
3- FJAR – 3
Total: 81 PWs

A major provided rank and a modest amount of information at the Division cage during the day. Commanding the 1.FJB (9-FJR), he was captured by the 18-ID during the hard fighting in the vicinity of 846987, along with his adjutant. The major said that his battalion, before his last engagement, numbered 110 men; it was, however, a battalion in name only. Remnants of the 7.FJC from the 2.FJB had been lent to him and small detachments of clerks, butchers, signalmen, and the like had been moved up from the trains to fill out the ranks. This force held a line running from the river on the left to the looping bend of the railroad on the right.

Last night, the major said, contact with the 8.FJR on the right was broken. Nor was there any word from the 3.FJAAC (Recon) which had been moved into the draw on the right to hold the gap between the 9.FJR and the 8.FJR. On the 1.FJB’s left there was nothing, except possibly American troops; the major didn’t know. Although he realized he was cut off, or soon would be, the major held his battalion in line and was putting up a stiff defense when suddenly American troops appeared from the south and it was all over. The major was captured in his CP, a bunker dug into the side of a hill. I stuck my head out and about 12 automatic weapons opened up, so I came out, he said. The prisoner was brought up in East Prussia and had been an officer in the army for 12 years. He is 32 years old. Before his arrival in this sector 14 days ago, he had been on the Eastern Front as an air observer. Three days ago the commander of the Battalion was wounded by artillery and the prisoner took over. Although he had never been in the infantry before, he had studied infantry tactics by the book at various times during his career. The book doesn’t work when you have men like mine to deal with and no weapons, he added. He was considerably impressed with the conduct of our infantry, observing that in his opinion every soldier was at least the equal of a squad leader. The prisoner also said he had been in Ondenval and Thirimont when artillery TOTs had landed; the effect caused him to view the prospects of the German army with misgivings.

The story of the 3.FJAAC’s (Fallschirmjaeger Aufklarung Abteilung – Recon) move into the gap between the 9.FJR and the 8.FJR was filled out by three PWs from the company, one of them the 1st Sergeant. Most of the company had been moved into the line after dark on January 17, but the 1st Sergeant and two NCOs had stayed behind to bring up the ration truck from Deidenberg. Everything proceeded according to plan until the sergeant and the two men reached the crossroads Am Kreuz (Crossroads IveldingenOdenvalEibertingen) and took the left fork for Ondeval where they were to meet a company guide. The guide didn’t show up, so the men left the truck and went up the road on reconnaissance. Near the edge of the woods, they suddenly ran into a mine-detonating tank that was rumbling along unconcernedly. The PWs thought the tank was one of the Operation Greif captured tanks and let it go by; when, however, they saw the American soldiers following the tank, they grew doubtful. By that time it was too late: the Americans had spotted them. One of the Americans called out, ‘Are you Heinies?’ and the sergeant, unable to think of a crushing reply, said nothing. He and the two men with him were picked up and put in a jeep accompanying the tank. While they were sitting in the back seat waiting to be carried off, a fourth and unexpected German appeared from nowhere out of the woods and asked the 1st Sergeant for a ride back to Deidenberg. Before the sergeant could point out to the newcomer that he was making a very big mistake, the man perceived it for himself and vanished back into the woods. The jeep driver was so astonished at this sideshow that he was unable to hurry the fourth party along with a shot. At this point, the remaining platoon of the Recon Company came marching up the road in a column of twos and stumbled onto the mise en scene. The tank opened up with its 50 caliber machine gun, the jeep took off at high speed, and the prisoners, who were as disconcerted as anybody, were finally disarmed behind the American lines.

A prisoner from the 8.FJR who showed up at the cage with only one shoe explained how he had lost the other. He was a forward observer for a mortar squad and in his foxhole OP when he decided to massage his feet to prevent trench foot. Sitting on the edge of the hole, he had taken one shoe off when one of our mortar-forward observers spotted him. The prisoner heard the mortar shell coming and fell back into his hole. The shell hit the shoe on the edge of the hole and the prisoner was captured before he could get another. At the cage, he admitted to one cold foot and a strong respect for the accuracy of our mortar fire.

Strong and repeatedly-voiced rumors collected from the prisoners indicated a relief of the 3.FJD may be affected on January 20. At least six prisoners, from different outfits, had heard the report and all agreed on the date. Identification of the relieving (or supporting) unit was not so specific. The 2.FJD was most frequently mentioned, followed by an unnamed SS Division, and last, an equally vague Volksgrenadier Division. One PW said that a battalion of the 2.FJD was already at Valender and the rest of the division at Stadtkyll. Another prisoner said that two days ago, at Koln, he had seen elements of 10.SS-PD (Frundberg) packing up. The men said they were on their way to the Hungarian Front.

Krauts & Panzerfausten 1945 - Battle of the Bulge

On January 19, four more enemy-held towns were taken in the worst weather of the battle. Eibertingen, the first, was defended by a force of about 130 replacements and stragglers from the Röhr Busch. The entrance to the town was blocked by a large number of wooden box mines. Self-propelled guns and one tank were in the town, which faced the attacking 23-RCT, and it was only after heavy artillery concentrations forced the enemy to fall back into the town that infantrymen were able to move forward and seize several houses on the northern edge. The enemy counter-attacked immediately, and bitter hand-to-hand fighting resulted, but by 1400 hours the enemy troops began to pull out toward Deidenberg. One hundred prisoners were taken and more than 35 enemies dead were counted in the streets. Montenau and Iveldingen, also taken by the 23d US Infantry, put up less resistance, and only 22 prisoners were taken from the two towns. The most effective resistance was put up by a nine-man strongpoint from the 5.Co, 352.IR in Iveldingen; the same group was later encountered in Montenau after they had been forced back.

With the line on January 20 running roughly on the axis Deidenberg Eibertingen Schoppen, the division attack held up, except for the readjustment of the lines and mopping up of stubborn areas. Most stubborn of these was the Bütgenbacher Heck, where elements of the Fusilier Battalion of the 89.VGD, and the 1.Bn of the 1055.VGR were deeply and skillfully dug in. Division troops succeeded in clearing about 800 yards of the northern edge of the woods in the face of extremely heavy small arms and artillery fire and the relentless weather and terrain. On other sectors of the front, the enemy took advantage of the breather to reorganize his shattered forces and feverishly erect defenses. He was anxious to learn our intentions (ANNEX 5) Division patrols heard digging and construction work all along the front as the enemy tried to bring a coordinated resistance line out of the chaos. This activity, with concomitant stubborn defensive action on the part of the enemy troops in the Bütgenbacher Heck, continued to January 24. It was clear from patrol reports that the enemy intended to make an MLR on the east bank of the Möderscheid River, with an outpost line on the western bank.

On January 24, the enemy’s Morscheck position, which he had captured in the early stages of his December offensive, was retaken. The Morscheck crossroads, possibly the best organized of the enemy’s defensive positions, and probably where he least expected an attack, was held by the 1/1055.VGR. The force was divided by the attack of the 18-IR and the 26-IR US Infantries, and our troops, achieving this breakthrough by surprise, continued to push on south and southwest against stubborn but disorganized resistance. Coincidentally, the enemy positions in the Bütgenbacher Heck were heavily attacked and the enemy was forced to withdraw from the northern part of the woods. A high number of prisoners were taken from the 1/1055.VGR, which held the eastern part of the woods as well as the crossroads, and the 2/1055.VGR which was deployed to the west. Our troops pushing south from the crossroads position, reached Möderscheid shortly before dark. Our positions in the vicinity of the crossroads were counter-attacked by the 2/1056.VGR, which had assembled in Hepscheid, but effective artillery fire beat the attack off. A second attack by 50 enemies was similarly handled. Möderscheid itself fell after a brief struggle when the 3.FJB, 5.FJR, pulled out toward Hepscheid at dusk. A total of more than 280 prisoners were taken during the day.

On the next day, January 25, the enemy was cleared from the ridge southwest of Möderscheid, and the towns of Amel and Mirfeld were taken. The 2/1055.VGR, encircled in the Bütgenbacher Heck managed to extricate only a limited number of its personnel to Hepscheid to organize another line of defense. The 3.FJD, which had been holding the Mörderscheid – Mirfeld – Amel line apparently withdrew to the Heppenbach – Valender area, a move that was reported by several PWs and civilians. The outposts left in the two towns were captured when our forces took advantage of the withdrawal and attacked, not from the southwest as the enemy expected, but from the northeast. The only enemy reaction to this operation was to move a force of about 50 or 60 personnel north from Heppenbach to Hepscheid, but if he had any idea of an attack was discouraged by our intense artillery fire.

Jerries with MG-42 Battle of the Bulge Jan 1945

(ANNEX 5) (Captured Interrogation Report)

The following interrogation report was captured by the US 1-ID. It is a model of its kind in several ways. First, it indicates how much the enemy wants to know about our order of battle, our replacement system, and our organization. Second, it points up again the enemy’s preoccupation with the propaganda value of interrogation, i.e. V-l damage in London, the effect of his leaflets and, the stock question, the progress of Communism in America. Third, and most important, it shows that the soldier in question refused to say a word of value to the enemy. His identification was made by shoulder patches and documents.

89.Infantry-Division, Div CP, January 24, 1945, G-2 Section.

Through interrogation of an American PW taken shortly after midnight 2000 Meters north of Büllingen, the following information was obtained:
– Unit – 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. Through document interpretation, it is believed that the PW probably belongs to the 1/9th Infantry Regiment. The shoulder patch of the 2d Infantry Division, US Army, was worn on the sleeve.
– Name – Sgt Edward G. Morlock, 35129778, 25 years old, single, from Ohio. In the army since September 1941. Sgt for over one year, volunteer; civilian occupation: clerk.
– History – According to documents, the PW was still in Camp Blanding, Florida in June 1944. Five months ago he came to England and has been in this sector for a few months. At one time he came through the outskirts of London, where he observed heavy damage and saw intense labor being done.
– Circumstances of Capture – During the night of January 22/23, he was at an outpost with a few other men two 2000 M north of Büllingen. The PW was somewhat in advance of the others. Here he was surprised by a German patrol of about 5—6 men which he did not notice due to their camouflaged clothing. He was taken PW without a fight; the others escaped.
– Attitude of the PW – The PW shows good soldierly bearing and refuses to give any information, although he has been influenced by propaganda about the supposed maltreatment of American PWs. He refused to give information about his unit, the number of replacements and losses, the location of the 23-IR and the 38-IR, neighboring divisions, or weapons of his unit with the reasoning that he would hurt his friends that way. The PW says that he is ready to take the consequences of his decision.
– Weapons Equipment Rations – As far as weapons are concerned he admitted that he himself had only an M-1 at the time of capture but added that his battalion has heavy mortars, with which they will bombard Büllingen. He would not say how many mortars there are in a company or platoon. From captured documents, it can be assumed that the 2d Platoon, Able Co was supported by 60-MM mortars. With reference to gas masks, the PW said that each man has a gas mask that is always kept within reach. In case of loss, the mask is replaced without penalty. Concerning his basic training, the PW would say nothing. Food was termed excellent by PW; he got warm food twice daily.
– Own Propaganda And Enemy Propaganda – Our own propaganda leaflets and loudspeakers were not observed by the PW. However, he was very much influenced by the US’s point of view. During our breakthrough at one time, we were alleged to have murdered 105 drivers after taking them prisoner. In another instance, German tanks were alleged to have shot several drivers after they had surrendered. To our doubts, he answered that the report can be read in the Stars and Stripes, the US Army Newspaper.
– Miscellaneous – With reference to his serial number the PW said that all volunteers do not have a ‘1’ as a first number. Those who enlisted before a certain date kept their old serial number. Concerning the end of the war, the prisoner said because of the rapid advance of the Russians the war would be over by April at the latest. Our resistance on the western front is still formidable, but what he saw of our transport on his way to the rear he termed ‘catastrophic’. He expressed surprise that soldiers march everywhere and that so many dilapidated vehicles are on the roads. When we explained, he replied that in spite of the weather conditions all the vehicles needed repair and maintenance badly. America and England know how to prevent Communism from spreading in Europe and the more territory England and America occupy the better off Germany will be.

A true copy; s/ Illegible
Interpreter, Schonfeld, Corporal

1-ID Butgenbach January 1945

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