Raids – Hedomont

Hedomont was a tiny Belgian community extending along the crest of a hill 2000 yards south of Malmedy. For Charlie 99-IB-(S), the village was the target of a raid on December 27. Supported by heavy weapons of the 1/120 from their positions on Chivremont, by Baker 99-IB-(S), from the heights southeast of Malmedy, and by the 230-FAB, Charlie 99 attacked at 1600. The company entered the town quickly because it encountered only light mortar fire. Jerry counter-attacked as usual, but Charlie 99 had withdrawn, bringing back prisoners, the capture of whom was the mission for the raid. Observers picked up the counter-attacking forces, and artillery Time-on-Target concentrations along with machine gun and mortar fire from the 1/120 accounted for a large tally of enemy casualties. We often have wondered how the Krauts felt when they learned they lost all those men counter-attacking an undefended and empty town. On December 28, the 3/120 moved some elements into positions south of the highway running east from Malmedy. Baker 120 which had occupied this area, now shifted into locations in the rear of Able 120 to give defense in greater depth.

The 2/120, still in Division reserve, moved at 1315 to Xhoffraix. To ‘feel out’ the enemy, as well as to harass him, raids are good tactics. Hedomont had been first on the list. Otaimont was next. At 1630, on December 29, Baker 99 opened the attack on Otaimont. Supporting fire from the 1/120 and the 3/120 was directed at Hedomont so that the enemy would be deceived about the target of the strike. An hour and twenty-five minutes later, Baker 99 returned with the report that it had encountered no Germans. Additional minefields and concertina were laid during the last two days of the month. Positions had been constantly improved, and by now made a formidable defense line around the ruined Malmedy. Friendly planes finished up the year with a final light bombing on December 30, causing three civilian and two soldier deaths, and three soldiers injured. So, in the black of night, as the snow was falling, 1944 was gone forever. Eventful, if not happy, for American soldiers, it had seen the 120-IR leave the United States in February, spend three and a half months in England, and land in France on June 12; it had seen the Regiment distinguish itself at St Jean de Daye (France), St Lô (France), Mortain (France), Birk (Germany), Altdorf (Germany), and now Malmedy; it had seen the Regiment take each objective and hold it at all costs. The last month of this year had been one of its most eventful. It left the 120-IR on the north flank of the German counter-offensive, holding tenaciously and well.


Like the New Year’s Eve that preceded it, New Year’s Day, 1945, was no more noisy or festive for the 120th Infantry Regiment than the previous week had been. In foxhole strong points which formed a semicircle, starting at a location about 1500 yards southwest and extending approximately 4000 yards southeast of Malmedy, troops thought the snow was colder than usual. The turkey dinner served at noon tasted good, but otherwise, there was still a watch to be stood, weapons to be cleaned, and gloves to be thawed out, before 1730 when the sunset. On our left were elements of the 1st Infantry Division and on our right the 119th Infantry Regiment. The Regimental Command Post was still located at Bévercé.

Raids and Patrols

The enemy to our front was quiet; he did not make himself obvious, nor did he throw any but harassing fire into our area. Though he seemed eager to keep us worried he remained ever-cautious and made no show of power. Higher Headquarters needed more information regarding the unit opposing us. It also wanted to test the defensive power set up against it. With the double mission, then, of worrying Jerry and of capturing prisoners of war, a series of combat patrols pricked enemy lines during the first two weeks of the month. The information these gathered was to be used as a basis for an offensive to reduce the German salient, already being hacked in its western extremities. Three hours into the new year two platoons of Baker 120 set out across the snow to capture German prisoners and to investigate a strong point in a house 200 yards southwest of the road junction at Baugnez, in front of Able 120. When the main body of the raiding party had reached the road junction which came to be called ‘Five Points’ for the number of roads that converged there, the ten-man point had been turned south toward the house. The point came to within thirty-five yards of it when it was fired upon. Capt Pulver recognized two machine guns, one firing from the house, the other from a point 200 yards west of it. He dispatched one platoon to flank the house from the left and held the remainder of the men to keep the attention of the enemy by fire.

Noting more movement the enemy poured automatic fire and rifle grenades on the patrol; the patrol leader was killed. While the platoon flanking the enemy on his right was passing through the fields southwest of Baugnez, some of the men stumbled over uneven humps in the ground. The uneven humps were investigated, and by the light of a bright moon were discovered to be the bodies of approximately fifty American soldiers. They lay in groups, on top of one another, and in disorder. Some were shot in the head. A few of the patrollers remembered stories of men in a Field Artillery Observation Battalion who were captured and murdered in a field near Malmedy. This, then, was the site of the infamous massacre, details of which were later described in Yank. At a later date, the information was confirmed; when the field came into American hands picture recordings were made of the horrifying evidence of German cruelty there. The platoon continued on its mission. Moving to the woods next to the house, they surprised and captured a German prisoner, a slim 120-pound Superman who looked about thirteen years old. (A battalion commander later wondered if he wasn’t so small that he should be thrown back). Word was sent to the patrol leader who, then knowing that the patrol’s mission had been accomplished, withdrew the party back to our lines.

One man in the patrol chose to stay behind. Within fifty yards of enemy gunners, he lay in the deep snow all night. He made slight movements of his hands and feet to keep from freezing, but knowing the enemy would be alert to a movement for some time after the patrol had been stirring, he waited till daylight before starting to creep. He made his way, almost numb, to the man whom he had stayed behind to save, a man who had been hit seriously by machine-gun fire and had fallen into a ditch. He tore his snow suit to make bandages and applied them hastily to the man’s back. Snipers noted the movement by then and started to fire occasionally in his direction. He dragged the man over the snow to the Five Corners, where he found a wheelbarrow. He placed the wounded man inside and wheeled it toward his own lines by a covered route. He tried to solicit help from civilians; one gave him cognac, but all feared German reprisals and turned him away. He reached at last an Able 120 outpost and procured aid there. The wounded man was saved. The man who brought him to safety was his assistant squad leader, Sgt Herman A. Fischer.

Wounded American soldier is being taken over to the Air Station - January 1945

On New Year’s Day, 1945, the Luftwaffe assembled to strike what they hoped to be a decisive blow against American and British airfields. Apparently ‘Fatso Goering’, lover of good drink himself, thought that our flyers would be suffering from New Year’s hangovers. The Luftwaffe, according to reports later received, did execute some damage on Allied aircraft but American and British fighter pilots, alert and ready, shot down many of the German planes. As a result, the Germans suffered far more damage than they inflicted. A squadron or so of German fighters flew low over the Regimental area, apparently lost and looking for landmarks. Our infantrymen manning caliber .50 guns accounted for three. Two were seen falling in flames after having made their way back over the German lines while a third crashed on the edge of the ravine opposite the Regimental Command Post.

Otaimont and Houyire

Malmedy-Baugnez-Hedomont MapOn January 2, two raiding parties were planned. Item 120 was briefed on attacking strategic ground 500 yards southeast of Otaimont from the north through our lines. It was to take prisoners and withdraw on order to our regular positions. Meanwhile, Baker Co 526-AIB was to drive through Hedomont and Baugnez for Houyire, the high ground 1500 yards southwest of Baugnez. It was to be supported by fire from the 1/120, and also to be prepared to withdraw on order. So, at 0830, on January 3, both companies moved out on schedule. The day was foggy, snow fell for almost an hour, and observation for supporting fire was almost impossible. Item 120 met a force of only about thirty men, who offered little resistance. It appeared that the raid would be a fast, snappy affair; the 3d Platoon, leading on the left, had already pushed beyond the town and along a hedge into a wooded area. Then suddenly events took a change for the worse and appearing apparently from nowhere the enemy inflicted seven casualties upon the 3d Platoon. Actually, the new snow had sided with the Germans and had camouflaged their defensive position. The 3d Platoon had walked on top of them before realizing it. But the tankers were speeding into the town, and after some had reached the woods, they helped hush out the enemy. The tanks had to keep shifting position lest German AT teams slip up on them, as they frequently tried to do using their Panzerfaust and Panzerscheck.

Malmedy-Otaimont-Hedomont MapGradually the enemy mortar and artillery fire on Otaimont increased in intensity, and throughout the day was so strong that Item 120 men suffered seven casualties from mortar fire alone. The 1st Platoon lost its leader, and its sergeant and acting runner assumed the leadership during the fight. Capt Charles R. Shaw, commanding the company, says of that platoon runner that he ‘ran it like a veteran, placing the squads in position and supervising their digging-in. All day he continually checked with the company CP and his squads’. Item 120 soon came to know this remarkable runner. His name was Sgt Ramon R. Zepeda. During the severest time of the fight, S/Sgt Charles L. Tate of Item 120 saw a wounded comrade, suffering from the shock from his wounds, dazedly wandering around in an area being sprayed by intense enemy small-arms fire. Disregarding the danger to his life, S/Sgt Tate rushed a distance of 20 yards to the wounded man to assist him in covering. While helping his comrade to safety, S/Sgt Tate was killed. Thus died a brave soldier. There is no greater courage than that of giving one’s life to save another.

Every means are used for the casualties - in the 1-ID Sector (left flank of the 30-ID) Aid Station in Weywertz, they used horses and sled

Item 120 had taken three prisoners when at about 1930, according to plan, it was ordered to withdraw. Resistance proved stiffer against Baker 526-AIB, however. They reached Hedomont, but just beyond the town met withering machine gun fire which made it clear that the Germans intended to hold Houyire at any cost. Artillery had been light until about 1630, but when Baker 526 withdrew, enemy fires increased considerably.

Foxhole Life – 1945

Original Purdue Booties (Signal Corps Photo 1945)The next week saw our defenses ever-improving. Recon patrols explored the wooded areas of the front and located enemy islands of defense. The men in foxholes were living crudely, and there was no small danger of trench foot and frozen hands and ears, as well as common colds. Doughboys were therefore rotated to nearby houses where they might warm up, wash, massage their feet, have haircuts, and eat. Squad leaders led men in daily walks within the area to exercise their feet and keep the men active. Feet are the most sensitive parts of the body to cold, and standing stationary guard for a prolonged period was an uncomfortable and dreaded duty for the men of the 120-IR in the cold January snow. Col Purdue designed ‘booties’, simple moccasins made of three thicknesses of blanket cloth. T/5 Morris Pinter, the Regimental tailor, perfected the design. These booties were worn under overshoes in lieu of shoes and proved of great value in adding to the comfort and preserving the health of the men. Maj John J. Eberhardt and Capt Robert McClain worked incessantly for nearly three weeks procuring a large number of American and captured German blankets required for the project. Furthermore, Capt Robert McClain accomplished a miracle in finding and prevailing upon a salvage repair unit to do the necessary sewing. Care of the feet was vital in this weather, and the ‘booties’ proved of the highest value in adding to the comfort and preserving the health of the men.

Getting inside to warm up

The snow had added new problems to the tactical operations. Patrols began to improvise snowsuits from sheets and old goods in abandoned buildings; almost all the soldiers found material to use as a white cover for their helmets. For transportation of ammunition, sleds and toboggans were found or constructed. On January 5, the 1/119, was attached to the 120-IR, and relieved elements of the 99-IB-(S) in their positions in the vicinity of Bévercé. The 99-IB-(S) and the 526-AIB-(S) were released from attachment to our Regiment. Reverting to Regimental control, the 2/120 took over the positions around Chodes which had been occupied by the 526-AIB. On January 8, the 2/120 relieved the 3/120 on the line, while the latter took over the positions at Chodes.

D-Day in Belgium

Attack plans meanwhile had been drawn up, and D-Day was to be Saturday, January 13. H-hour was 0800. The strategy of the operation was a double strike, one from each flank of the Regimental zone aimed at the enemy’s probable strong points. From the right flank near Malmedy, the 3/120 was to move forward to take Houyire, the high ground southwest of Baugnez, while the 2/120 from Weismes planned to take the settlement of Thirimont and Hauts Sarts, the high ground south of it. Accordingly, on the night of January 12, the 2/120 moved to Weismes (Waime). The 1/120 was to attack through the other battalions after they had secured their objectives; it was prepared to seize Ligneuville.


On schedule, at 0800, both battalions struck. Deep snow slowed the advancing units with tanks and tank destroyers was useless. The 3/120 plan was a ‘pincer’ on a small scale. King Co with tanks attached was to attack between Hedomont and Geromont from the northwest of Houyire, while Love Co was to strike south from the vicinity of the Five Points Crossroads, both to meet upon the high ground. Echeloned to the left rear of King Co, Item Co would move between the lead companies, clearing out Geromont and by-passed pockets en route. The plan looked perfect. But from the minute the attack began, things did not go well.

Illustration but still a German tank hit and burning somewhere in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge

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