322nd Bomber Group flying to a Bombing Mission (IWM)

2/120’s Christmas Operation

Meanwhile, on December 23, the 2/120 was attached to the 117-IR. Easy Co was at once reattached to ‘Lovely Ladies’ task force, the 33-AIB, which attacked from the Bois de Lancre, two miles west of Stavelot, south to the high ground between Petit-Coo and Ster. Easy Co met considerable difficulty, and Fox Co was ordered to the assistance of the force and committed east of Easy Co in the vicinity of Ster. No artillery preparation was fired for either of these attacks. The enemy resisted boldly and with heavy fire. Two machine gunners of How Co, Pfc Andrew S. Melendrez and Pfc John D. Boutin, both in support of Easy 120, observed that the riflemen were pinned down by heavy small arms. They edged and crawled to a forward flank, set up their machine gun and sprayed the enemy positions. As a result, the enemy abandoned their posts, and Easy Co was able to advance to its objective.

Medal of HonorFox Co found its advance halted at 1400 by a strong point on its right flank. A squad led by S/Sgt Thomas Munoz, volunteering to investigate the obstacle, moved around to the right, where they found the enemy in a house on the outskirts of Petit-Coo. While his squad deployed, Munoz rushed to the house, knocked on the door in, fired on six retreating Germans, and killed three. Others were doubtless wounded. The strong point was reduced and the right flank was secured. The objective fell to Fox Co. On December 23, there was enacted the most remarkable individual exploit of the Regiment’s history. It cannot be said that it was the bravest deed because time and time again men of the Regiment reached the ultimate of courage. But no one exceeded the great courage shown by S/Sgt Paul L. Bolden and, above all, no other soldier accomplished a mission of such great difficulty. Elements of Easy 120 were pinned down by extremely heavy automatic and small arms fire from a house 200 yards to their front in Petit-Coo. S/Sgt Bolden told the platoon leader that he could take out the enemy, thereby saving lives that might be lost if a squad or larger unit assaulted the house. Accompanied by T/Sgt Husscll L. Snoad, he crawled toward the enemy. Reaching a position near the house, S/Sgt Bolden charged, covered by his comrade. The enemy replied with intense fire and killed T/Sgt Snoad, who bravely was firing into the Germans from an exposed position. S/Sgt Bolden in rapid succession hurled fragmentation and white-phosphorus grenades into the building, rushed to the door, kicked it open, and cut loose with his submachine gun. He was struck solidly, not glancingly, by four bullets in his shoulder, chest, and stomach. Miraculously keeping his feet, he withdrew a short way to shelter and waited for the surviving Germans to come out and surrender. When none appeared to give themselves up, despite his ebbing strength, he again charged the house, firing as he advanced. No Germans remained alive and when our troops arrived they counted thirty-five enemy dead, all or most of whom having been killed by S/Sgt Bolden. S/Sgt Bolden recovered completely from his wounds, which undoubtedly would have killed a lesser man, and later President Truman awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor at the White House. The Regiment lost an outstanding leader when T/Sgt Snoad gave his life to assistant S/Sgt Bolden. Courageous, self-sacrificing, a superb soldier, a real man was T/Sgt Russell L. Snoad.

(Illustration) Riflemen of the 99-ID fire on targets near Rocherath December 17, 1944

On the following day, the 2/120 plus Love Co 117-IR, were ordered to attack toward the north banks of the Amblève River from a Line of Departure extending 1000 yards east of Petit-Coo. Attached to the 117-IR, George Co was also to participate in the attack, but from another direction. The enemy was still clinging to the high ground on the north banks of the Amblève which swerved to make an arrowhead in the vicinity of Trois Ponts (Belgium), two miles south of Petit-Coo. In an effort to drive the enemy from the banks and the arrowhead north of the river, American troops were to drive south from the area around Petit-Coo, which had been seized by Easy and Fox Cos the day before, and also to push to the west from Parfondruy, a small town a mile west of Stavelot. In this driving in from all sides, the 30-ID hoped to push the enemy back from the north tips of its Bulge. George Co’s mission was to drive west from Parfondruy and to meet the remainder of the battalion (and Love Co 117-IR) in order to tie in on the left (east) bank of the objective.

Operations Area

On Christmas Day, at about 1000, George Co struck across the open ground lying parallel to the river. There the enemy brought down torrents of artillery, mortar, and automatic fire. Furthermore, an American armored artillery battalion, firing short, placed a heavy concentration on the company. Casualties sustained reached an overwhelming figure, and the company reeled back slightly, establishing an east-west line with its left flank touching Parfondruy, and dug in for the night. Aidmen tended to the casualties in a house near the Parfondruy road but were unable to evacuate the seriously wounded because of the intense fire between the house and the town. Members of the mortar section volunteered to help the men out, and successfully carried the wounded to safety. George Co was ordered to withdraw the following day to Parfondruy. George Co was not the only unit to suffer on the first day of the attack. From low ground into the woods upon the heights over1ooking the Amblève, Fox Co and Love Co 117-IR, slugged forward. The snow sifted down occasionally, and the air was biting. After encountering heavy fire, they dug in only halfway to the objective by nightfall.

The day after Christmas, the 2/119-IR was attached to our 2/120-IR. Its companies attacked through the companies on the line to take the high ground swiftly. The enemy had withdrawn during the night, and by early morning, 30-ID troops could see the river from the northern heights. George and Fox Cos 119-IR defended a line embracing the arrowhead near Trois Ponts and the ground around the woods, Coreux. That same afternoon, George 120 followed a long route from Parfondruy to replace George 119 in its positions on the point near Trois Ponts. Fox 117, was attached to the 2/120 and relieved Fox 119. Fox 120, took positions along the cast banks of the Amblève River between Petit-Coo and Trois Ponts, and Easy 120 held ground to the left (east) of George Co along the river.

During the next two days, the 2/120 troops had an opportunity to see evidence of German savagery. They saw old Belgian farmers who had been shot in cold blood. One pregnant woman had been shot in the back; the bullet, tearing a hole in her abdomen, had thrown the unborn child to the ground. Children had been peppered with automatic fire. The Nazis had spared no one in their ferocious drive, no doubt believing that if it succeeded no one would care about the slaughter; if it failed the slaughterers were doomed anyway. On December 28, the 2/120 was relieved of attachment to the 117. That regiment took over positions along the river bank, and the 2/120 returned to Francorchamps in Division reserve.



# 2-37AE-P17
(Official Record after Investigation)
(Added to the 120-IR Report by Doc Snafu)

DECEMBER 24 1944

No Malmedy bombing evidence was found in the air force records. Such an incident was not mentioned in this IX-BD’s Mission Summary, of December 23 and December 25. Descriptions of missions to the nearby Zülpich (Germany) and Nideggen (Germany) did not refer to formations striking Malmedy by mistake. Records were not examined of the 387-BG, 397-BG, 410-BG, and 416-BG, which also attacked those two communication centers, inasmuch as they «are unsuspected. Some Eight Air Force heavy bomber attacks were made within the tact!cal area, but Malmedy was not among them, according to the day’s mission report N° 760.

Examination Documents
(1) IXth Bombardment Division, Mission Summary, December 24, 1944. In Maxwell Field (Alabama). Air University. Air Historical Archives. (534.333), December 1944. Mission Summaries, December 1944. (2) Eigth Air Force, Mission N° 760. German Luftwaffe Airfields and Communication Center, December 24, 1944. In Ibid. (520.332) or (AF-8-SU-OP-S, December 24, 1944.


Christmas 1944

It wasn’t the Christmas some of the men had looked forward to back in Germany, but there were some features that marked it a special day. For instance, the 1/120 kitchens produced a luscious turkey dinner, and men were transported to houses where it could be eaten in comparative warmth and comfort. The 2/120 had its big meal on December 26; the 3/120 had to wait several days before the bombed-out kitchens could be replaced. The Regimental commander sent each man a ‘stocking From Santa’, tied with a reel ribbon, and containing a pack of chewing gum, four bars of candy, and a gray wool sock, which made a pair along with the one that held it. Warmth was the greatest concern of every man, and the socks and candy gave a lot of it. Of course in the mountains Christmas trees could be had for cutting. Troops decorated these trees with antiradar foil dropped by airplanes. Even if it was not the holiday the men had hoped for, a certain Christmas spirit could not be extinguished. Perhaps the faces of the little children on that terrible day before when bombs were raining on the town, made Lt Col Greer offer his ‘Santa Claus’ suggestion. Or perhaps it was the memory of the Yuletide he had known back home. At any rate, he told his men about the Children’s Hospital in Malmedy and remarked how good it would be for the men to give the contents of their stockings and some of the fruit and nuts that had been sent them from home to the little children who would have no gifts. And his idea caught like wildfire.

All the members of the Battalion and many in the other battalions sent in their ‘stockings’ for the donation. The 230-FAB would not consider being left out and sent a half load in a 1 1/2-ton truck, filled with Christmas goodies. Finally, Lt Col Greer took two 3/4-ton trucks, fully loaded, to the children in the Malmedy Hospital. The 3/120 Journal remarks at 2030 on Christ￾mas night: Lt Col Greer returned from being Santa Claus. Someone who had a Christmas anyway (He) should be congratulated for the merciful thought that started the avalanche, particularly after the three days just gone through, which would and did remove all semblance of mercy from many of our hearts and thoughts. Col Greer returned … with a sparkle in his eyes that could have been a tear of happiness. He drew a picture of joy and thankfulness. One man was to write of that memorable Christmas day: Everyone seemed happier after the episode in spite of the awful licking they had taken. GI Joe had done it again. Also to be noted, during this period enemy action was light. Artillery and mortar fire was sporadic and only harassing in nature.

Defense means constant improvement of positions, and troops spent Christmas week perfecting their personal and collective installations. Patrol activity continued; contact was maintained with adjacent units. Up to this time, the 1/120 alone had laid 7000 antitank mines and stretched barbed wire by the truckload along the bushy fields sloping down from the heights around Malmedy.

Malmédy was mistakenly bombed on three consecutive days, Dec. 23-25, 1944, by U.S. Army Air Force planes targeting other towns in the region. The death toll from the bombings topped 200 and included U.S. soldiers. Many more were wounded

Images above: Christmas in the USA, in Italy, in the Philippines, and even in Germany (1945)


# 2-37AE-P17
(Official Record after Investigation)
(Added to the 120-IR Report by Doc Snafu)

DECEMBER 25 1944

Flight and Reports. Erroneous Malmedy bombing by four 387th Bomber Group aircraft occurred during the executed afternoon mission of the IX-BG against St Vith. The 387-BG and the 323-BG dropped approximately 362-533 of 250 GP Bombs, plus some 100’s, enveloping the town in smoke. Briefing by the 387-BG was at 1300, and 36 B-26s were dispatched at 1430, to fly a course southeastward from an undesignated point, below Spa and Stavelot to St Vith. Actually, the flight passed between Stavelot and Malmedy, bombed about 1600, then turned right at St Vith for the return. Green Flight flew farther north, dropping 64 x 250 GPs upon Malmedy. This was Flight A, Box I, led by Pilot Anderson and Bombardier Shannon, followed by Pilots Missimer, Patterson, and Mueller. The 387-BG realized at once that a mis-bombing had taken place, but believed Born (P-850040) to be the locality, a view repeated by the IX-BD in its first report.

This town was mentioned in the Group’s interrogation report, which was likely made within two hours of the landing. The more official OPFLASH to the IX-BD carried the same information. In turn, the IX-BD’s 15 Minute Mission Report noted in the ‘deviation from the route’ column that ‘859040 bombed by 1 fight of the 387-BG. Thus, based on a pilot observation, early reports pointed to Born as the victim. Photographs revealed it to be Malmedy, which was acknowledged immediately by the IX-BD Camera of the 387-BG operated 100%, and 1/Lt Ben Wann, IX-BD Photo Interpretation Officer reported Box 1, Flight A did not bomb the primary. Apparent misidentification of the target as primary completely enveloped by smoke. Hits in the town of Malmedy approximately 10-3/4 mi. North West of primary.

Official confirmation was made by the IX-BD’s Mission Summary for December 25, dated December 26. Referring to the 387-BG: The leader of one flight misidentified primary. This a/c plus 3 others dropped 64 x 250 GP at Malmedy – friendly territory. Bombardier and navigator believed they were synchronized on the primary. The Gee operator obtained a fix 3 minutes from BRP which corresponded with visual observation. Snow cover and haze made pinpoint navigation difficult. The section Failures to Bomb classified personnel as responsible, the reason: Leader misidentified primary, dropping at Malmedy – friendly territory. The only other detail was provided by Unsatisfactory Bombing Report as issued probably by the IX-BD. Bomber misidentified target. Bombed torn of Malmedy, 12 miles North Northwest of St Vith. Bombardier and Navigator were both positive they were on briefed target. The Gee box was not working well but the operator obtained a supposedly accurate fix on course 3 minutes from BRP. This fix corresponded exactly with the bombardier’s visual observation and no doubt existed as to his correct position. Snow cover and haze made pinpoint navigation difficult. All details concerning error not yet coordinated

Misidentification Reasons

Personnel error was the apparent cause. Flight officers believed St Vith to be their position, inasmuch as navigation and visual observation agreed. The weather seemed to favor the latter. Plane-to-ground visibility was three to four miles. Detailed photography was obtained, sufficient to identify the victim.


Albert 1er Square Malmedy

Previous articleMalmedy – Francorchamps – Spa – etc (Then and Now)
Next article(AAR) 825th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Stavelot-Malmedy) (December 1944 – January 1945)