Men of the 30-ID in Germany - December 1944

Viehhofen lay between the Inde River and the Roer River. Before the fall of Viehhofen, Altdorf was exposed and under observation from the high ground east of the Inde. Now Viehhofen lay exposed to enemy troops on the high ground east of the Roer. The waters of the river became no man’s land and were to remain so for months to come, until the Roer Line was stormed, like the Siegfried Line before it. Love Co and later Item with King Cos were shelled consistently in Viehhofen, so much in fact, that unit movement had to be postponed at times. The 3/120-IR companies were for some days the only 120-IR units on the front lines. The day after the attack, Item Co relieved Love Co which returned to Erberich. And on the following day, King Co took over the positions of Item Co which joined the remainder of the battalion. These companies maintained constant patrol liaison with the 17-CRS in Altdorf, and the 414-IR at Schophoven. The constant rains during this period made quagmires of the fields and turned pathways into streams. Communication and transportation were major problems. In the meantime, from December 13 to December 16, the battalions continued training, including a review of map-reading, mine-laying, and weapons techniques.

So sound tactically had been the operations of the 30-ID that Gen William H. Simpson, commanding the US Ninth Army, directed that our troops prepare demonstrations of what they had accomplished. The 120-IR had the lion’s share of this honor. On December 13 and December 14, demonstrations were conducted showing how we had supported the 117-IR attack upon St Joris and how we had maneuvered to seize Lurken, Langweiler, Laurensberg, and Obermerz by flank attacks. Observers included Gen Simpson and nearly all senior commanders of the Ninth Army units. The 2/120-IR journal records the distinguished assemblage in an entry at 1505, December 14: ‘Lt Gen Simpson, three Corps commanders, six Division commanders and a total of about eighty officers were present at our demonstration’. All commented favorably.

30-ID – Road to Belgium

The division landed across Omaha Beach on June 10, 1944. The 120-IR captured Montmartin-en-Graignes the following day and then defended the Vire-Taute Canal Line. The 117-IR attacked across the Vire River and the 120-IR assaulted across the Vire-Taute Canal on July 7, establishing a bridgehead at St Jean-de-Day which the 3-AD exploited. As the division advanced on St Lô it checked a German counter-attack along the main Hauts-Vents Highway on July 11, and Pont Hébert fell after protracted fighting on July 14. Patrols reached the Periers-St Lô road on July 18 and the division attacked across it on July 25 to drive beyond St Lô during Operation Cobra. The division took the very well-defended Troisgots on July 31 and relieved the 1-ID near Mortain on August 6. It was subjected to a strong German counter-attack which ruptured its lines in the area on the following day during the Battle for Avranches. The division went over to the offensive again on August 11 and forced back German gains to Mortain.

30-ID at Hill 314 August 8 1944

The 30-ID then pushed east behind the 2-AD, taking Nonancourt on 21 August. It crossed into Belgium on September 2, and advanced over the Meuse River at Visé and Liège on September 11. The 120-IR occupied Lanaye (Holland) and captured the locks intact the same day, and on September 14, the 117-IR and the 119-IR advanced into Maastricht. The 119-IR and the 120-IR attacked toward the West Wall north of Aachen and the former reached positions commanding the Wurm River on September 18. The division attacked across the river between Aachen and Geilenkirchen on October 2 against strong German opposition, and the following day the 117-IR seized Ubach after house-to-house fighting as the 119-IR finally captured Limburg Castle. The division was assisted by the 2-AD as it continued slow progress in the West Wall but was checked by a German counter-attack on October 9 which isolated the 119-IR at North Wuerselen. The encirclement of Aachen was completed regardless on October 16, when the division made contact with the 1-ID. The division then rested and next attacked south in the Wuerselen area on November 16. It won the Battle for Warden on November 18 and the 120-IR captured Lohn on November 23 and then held it against two German counter-attacks. The division reached the Inde River on November 28 with the capture of Altkirch and cleared most of the region between the Inde and the Roer by December 14. In response to the German Ardennes counter-offensive the division was rushed to the Malmédy Stavelot sector on December 17, 1944.

The 823-TDB and 30-ID held off the 1.PD and the 2-PD ensuring the success of the Normandy Breakout and victories at St Lo


News reached the Regiment on December 16 that the German High Command had that day launched a large-scale offensive to our south, and that it was using paratroopers (Fallschirmjaeger) up and down the front. Patrols were dispatched at once from all battalions to keep an eye out for enemy parachute troops, and the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon had the mission of scouting the Birk-Euchen-Broichweiden area. Between Bardenberg and Birk, enemy soldiers were thought to have landed by night and to be lurking in fields and harassing traffic. Rear echelons were out in force, and a few prisoners were rounded up. Men of the 120-IR will remember Sunday, December 17. They will remember returning from the religious services in the little church and chapel of Broichweiden, thinking how near the war seemed, planning for as merry a Christmas season as possible in the devastated German country town. Company commanders had already cleared out day rooms and platoons had cut their own Christmas trees.

Suddenly, at about noon, the entire Regiment was alerted. With misgiving, troops received hasty orders to be ready to leave by 1600; hurriedly, the men rolled their packs. King Co had been relieved from its positions in Viehhofen at 1100 that morning by the 17-CRS, and at noon had just reached Kohlsheide, close to Kerkrade, where the men had been promised they would have two weeks’ recuperation period. Unloading had not been completed nor had billets been assigned when the disappointing word came: ‘Prepare to move’. The 17-CRS was relieved from attachment to the 120-IR and attached to the 29-ID. Word came that the entire 30-ID was on the move; our Regiment was to join the convoy behind the other two. Darkness came and the men grabbed what sleep they could before climbing the organic and Quartermaster vehicles which were to take them – where?

The real story reached the men much later and sifted down slowly. In brief, it was as follows: With typical German strategy, the Wehrmacht had struck in the least suspected and lightly defended area: the Ardennes. It was here that in 1940 they had attacked through Belgium to France, with Paris as their target. Now they were trying again to cross the shadowy Ardennes. They had a new target: Antwerp; and a new object: to split the Allied Armies and isolate the troops in the North. This was their immediate object, but more important in the Nazi mind was the breaking up of an Anglo-American winter drive in this sector which would certainly be coordinated with the Russian winter offensive. They succeeded in delaying our drive into Germany, but they were to pay an expensive price. Von Rundstedt chose the approximate boundary between two American Corps, the V, and the VIII, for his main strike, and wedged his way through St Vith toward Bastogne. Once his spearhead had blasted its way almost to St Hubert he apparently planned to knock out both flanks and widen his breakthrough. Here is where the 120-IR entered the picture.

American soldiers pass an abandoned and burning German Mark VI-2 King Tiger, which may have simply run out of gas before being wrecked. La Gleize, Belgium, December 1944

Movement to Belgium

The Command Post at Langweiler closed at 2230 on December 17 and the Regimental Convoy departed at midnight. Down the highway through Broichweiden to Aachen, the Kaiser-city, battered and ghostly in the dead of night, trailed the entire Division. Enemy aircraft were active; men were alert for bombing and strafing; flares in rapid succession lighted up the roads from all sides; ack-ack guns sputtered on both flanks. The convoy was unharmed, however, and moved steadily forward to an area in the vicinity of Hauset (Belgium). The Regimental CP opened at Eynatten (Belgium) at 0105 on the morning of December 18. The Battalions were placed in Regimental perimeter defense. The 117-IR was assembled to our south, the 119-IR to our southwest; forming a Division perimeter defense. The key to future operations came with the order that the 30-ID was now attached to the V Corps in the First Army, which was to contain the north flank of the breakthrough. Regiment closed its CP at Eynatten at 1027, December 18, and moved through the wooded, snow-sprinkled hills south of Eupen. About 2000 yards north of Malmedy, at Beverce, the Regimental CP was established by 1300. In October, Yanks had first moved into Malmedy on the heels of the retreating Germans, found it the most hostile of the ‘liberated’ towns in Belgium, and remembered that the whole area before World War Two was German.

On December 18, two battalions of the 120-IR moved through Malmedy to take up defensive positions outside the town which marked approximately the north flank of the German penetration. They found it a colorful, busy city, where GIs had once had recreation and amusement, and people who had never heard a shot fired were hastening up and down the streets. By now, US Army rear-area outfits whose signs still remained on the corners had left the area; most of them had abandoned equipment, food, and drink in an effort to escape the powerful Nazi counter-drive.

Operations Zones

The 1/120 took the Regiment’s left flank on the heights in the vicinity of Chodes, where its CP was located. Two Companies, Able and Charlie were positioned to defend the town on a line parallel to the mountain crest road which, farther west, ran down into Malmedy; the position also encompassed the hamlets of Boussire and G’Doumont. Originally in reserve, Baker Co was later detached from the 1/120 and attached to the 3/120, which had meanwhile deployed itself to protect the south and southwest of Malmedy, including a large portion of the highway leading to Stavelot, as yet in enemy hands. This latter town was later wrested from the Germans with extreme difficulty by the 117-IR. The 2/120 remained at Bévercé in the Division reserve, setting up roadblocks and planning front-line reinforcement in case of a German attack. George Co moved to Francorchamps to set up an additional defense around the Division Headquarters. As the men dug in on the heights above the town, they laughed about one of Goebbels’ master propaganda tales, broadcast by ‘Axis Sally’ from Berlin during the Division’s journey to Belgium. On the way to halt the German drive was, as ‘Sally’ called it, ‘the 30th Infantry Division, Roosevelt’s elite SS troops’.


The 3/117, had established some defense lines around Malmedy early on December 18. The next day, however, Item 120 relieved the battalion of the 117-IR, and the 120-IR assumed responsibility for the defense of the Malmedy sector. Control of the road nets was an important factor in the defense of this area. The Wehrmacht had been successful in its drive because, though tanks had been canalized by the wet weather, armor had been able to crash through all blocks. The defense was the order of the day. Positions were dug deeper and camouflaged more skillfully. The 1/120 sent a patrol east, which contacted the 16-IR (1-ID) at Weismes (Waimes) at 1528; a one-squad contact outpost was established at once. Combat patrols moved to the southeast but did not contact the enemy. The Norwegian-American 99-IB-(S) became attached to the Regiment and at once took positions around Bévercé with one company defending a bridge one-half mile southwest of the village, and another protecting the crossroads on the road MalmedyBaugnez, southeast of Malmedy. The 30th Reconnaissance Troop, also attached, patrolled the road running west from Malmedy and south to Thioux. Other attachments were the 526-AIB (S) in positions along the road running parallel to the main highway southwest of Malmedy, the 291-ECB, manning roadblocks throughout the Regimental area, and the 823-TDB.

Tuesday, December 19, was pretty cold and wet, and soldiers of the Regiment were noting that civilians in the area spoke fluent German and had sons in the German army. The warning came from higher headquarters to trust no strangers, particularly civilians, since friendly elements had been fired on when they entered Malmedy. Suspicion was not to end with civilians, either, since three Germans had already been captured in American uniform, and 150 were reported to be operating similarly disguised behind our lines. And along with these disconcerting facts came the notice that a strong attack was to be expected at any time. Sensing trouble ahead the troops were alert and suspicious. Patrols were aggressive but found the enemy defending only key routes and strong points; it looked as though the main power was being withheld for an attack against us.

120-IR (30-ID) Malmedy or Vicinity December 1944

The following day, at 1330, the 1/120 moved from Chodes to the heights southwest of Weismes. This operation brought our lines closer to those of the 16-IR (1-ID) and extended the Regimental area to the advantageous hills of Chivremont and Arimont. Able Co defended the 1/120 front while Charlie Co maintained contact with the 16-IR; Baker Co was relieved of attachment to the 3/120, reverted to 1/120 control, and took over the defense of the roadblock at Monbijou. Baker 99-IB-(S), was then released from this defense, attached to the 3/120, and assumed the former positions of Baker 120, along the highway southwest of Malmedy. The 3/120 took over most of the 291-ECB roadblocks. The 30-ID was transferred from the V to the VIII Corps on this date.

Pressure on the Regiment increased gradually, and light concentrations of artillery and mortar began landing in our area. In the late evening of December 20, Intelligence notified the front-line troops that enemy forces would probably hit our lines at about 0300 the next morning. Almost on the hour, a strong German motorized patrol ran into 1/120 defenses along the main road into Weismes; a half-track bounced on several of our mines across the road, sent equipment (much of it captured from Americans) flying into the high oaks on either side of the road, and left several Germans burned hopelessly, one screaming intermittently all night. Another infantry beside the track was shot at and shelled; many surrendered. One prisoner had been a ballet manager and had taken his troupe to America before the war. In perfect English, he explained that America could never win the war, ‘for Germany has so many new secret weapons’! In the early daylight, the enemy performed another typical trick. During the night, three Germans had driven a captured US M-8 scout car toward the crossroads in front of Able 120’s” positions. There, another of our mines had knocked a wheel off the M-8, and the Germans had remained all night in a house near the crossroads. The next morning they found a jeep left by a TD outpost near the house; perceiving a comrade burned and only semiconscious on the road a few yards in front of our lines, they mounted the vehicle and rode boldly in front of our riflemen to where the wounded man lay. The jeep was challenged by the roadblock. The driver answered in thickly accented English, ‘You are crazy!’ Hurriedly he picked up the moaning body and started to turn the jeep around. With rifle grenades, bazooka, and M-1, the doughboys of Able 120 blasted him. Two men were killed instantly; the other two were wounded and captured. With such unbelievable boldness and unflinching courage did the Nazi mind plan to befuddle the enemy and rule the world!

Rome Square Malmedy

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