The two lead companies met withering small-arms fire. Item 120 moved out, and desiring to gain contact with King 120, swung more and more to the right. After clearing Geromont, Item Co continued 300 to 400 yards, still without contacting King Co. A sudden wall of small-arms resistance met the Item Co riflemen as they trudged through the knee-deep snow toward Houyire. Members of the lead platoon heard their commander, Lt Andrews, yell ‘Keep moving!’ just before he fell a strong platoon. Still undaunted, they pushed forward to take the remainder of the high ground that they found farther to the south overlooking Ligneuville. Suddenly came much firing to Item 120’s right rear and soon the sounds were discovered to emanate from a platoon of King Co, led by Lt Merle J. Sheen, which was struggling with an enemy force. The remainder of King Co was still battling far behind, and Item Co’s platoon joined with that King Co to continue the drive forward. The two platoons made an advance of 1000 yards, overcoming an enemy patrol and reaching within 500 yards of German artillery pieces. Then, at 1500, word reached the group that King and Love Cos had gained the main heights of Houyire, and that the remainder of Item Co was to return there, leaving King Co’s platoon on the outpost.
MALMEDY BELGIUM MISTAKEN BOMBING 23 AND 25 DECEMBER 1944
(Official Record after Investigation)
Conclusion & Information – January 1945
(Added to the 120-IR Report by Doc Snafu)
Allied Air Commanders’ Conference
This was held at SHAEF in Versailles (France) on Thursday, January 4, 1945. (Gen Carl Tooey Spaatz, US Strategic Air Forces in , reported: Eight Air Force had operated – Towns in the battle area, had also been attacked, including (so it was said) Malmedy which was on our north side of the line. Gen Spaatz was reporting presumably about the period since the last conference on 28 December. (Cited) That conference report was the source of information for the following statement in the Air Force history: One such town, Malmedy, was the scene of a tragic error, for it was held by Allied troops at the time it was bombed. The reference was to the heavy bombers of the Eighth Air Force, but no date was mentioned, on an allusion to the December operations of Ardennes.
(1). Notes on the Allied Air Commanders’ Conference, Jan 4, 1945. Files of the Air Historical Archives, Air University, Maxwell Field (Alabama). (2.) The Army Air Forces in World War Two, Volume Three, Europe; Argument to V-E Day, Jan 1944 to May 1945. Chap. 18, Autumn Assault on Germany, by John E. Fagg. p. 670. In army Library; General Reference Section, OCMH; Air Force Historical Office.
Malmedy bombing on December 23, 1944, by 322d Bombardment Group (M), 99th Combat Bombardment wing, 9th Bombardment Division (M). (1). IX-BD (M) Mission Summary (afternoon) Dec 23, 1944. (Dated Dec 24, 1944) Zülpich (Communications Center); 322 BG: 28 a/c dispatched (including 2 PFF a/c). 5 a/c bombed other targets, dropping 64 250 GP. 3 window a/c. 18 a/c failed to bomb: 6 a/c flight leader could not locate target due to weather. 2 PFF a/c returned to base after navigators determined that formation would be 12 minutes late at target due to late takeoff. 6 a/c bombed the town of Malmedy, 1/2 mile West of the bomb line, due to misidentification of the target. XXX 4 a/c other reasons: 2 a/c jettisoned bombs when a/c was hit by flak. 1 a/c could not catch formation. 1 a/c did not drop as the leader jettisoned. Bombs of 1 a/c which landed at Couvron unaccounted for. 4 a/c attacked casual target, the location, and type are unknown at this time. No photo coverage or visual observation. 1 a/c attacked the town of Gladbach (F-230410). No photo coverage or visual observations of results. No losses, 18 a/c flak battle damaged, no casualties.
Failures to Bomb
Group N° 322; (1). Personnel Bombardier misidentified target; (2). Other bombs hit the town of Malmedy in friendly territory. (Observations) Weather Zülpich 322-BG: Clear, Snow on the ground, Visibility 4-6 miles in base; (S/A Photo Reports) 322-BG cameras photographing 100%; (Flak Analysis)(annex) Zülpich Rail Communications Center. 322-BG; No a/c was lost to flak, but 18 were damaged; Flak in the target area started out to be moderate and inaccurate. However, as the a/c reached the inner defense zone of 18 heavy guns, the fire became intense and accurate. This target represents one of the more heavily defended areas of the enemy’s communication system. Moderate to intense fire could be expected from the 18 heavy guns plotted. (IX-BD Photo Interpretation) S-2 Report(First Phase Interpretation), signed (typed name) by Capt Bernhard O. (Hougen), Photo Interpreter.
Photos of 322-Bomber Group Target hit: Malmedy, (A). Target Briefed: Zülpich (Primary); Target Briefed: None (Secondary); (B). M.P.I.: Center of Town; A.P.: Same. (C). N°. & Type of a/c dispatched: 26 B-26s. 11 attacking; (D). Bombing b: 3’s 6’s, …:6’s. (E). N° and size of bombs dropped: 4 x 1000 GP, 150 x 250 GP; (F). Heading a/c when bombs dropped: Approx. 30′.; (G). Time bombs dropped: 1526; (H). Activity at target: None.; (J). Results of the bombing: Due to operational difficulties, weather, and enemy activity, the a/c could not fly their designated positions in their respective boxes and flights; it is impossible to determine the bombing by either boxes or flight due to this. 6 a/c. P.N.B. Bombs hit through the center of the town of Malmedy, on buildings and streets in the town. 1 a/c. P.N.B. Location of strikes undetermined due to poor quality of photos hits in fields, a/c hit by Flak, one engine out, jettisoned bombs. No photos of other bombings. NB. PNB was probably Primary Not Bombed, according to postwar AF sources.
322-BG OPFLASH Report To be teletyped to the IX-BD within two hours after the last plane landed. (A). Briefed Primary: Zülpich; (B). N° A/A attacking: Primary; 6 Secondary. Believed Lammersum (F3435) hit the center of town, Excellent; (C). Bombs. 86 Secondary; (D). Results of Bombing: Primary, None; Secondary: Believed Lammersum hit the center of town and walked through, Excellent; (E). N° a/c: (as to casualties), 5 damaged; (F). Flak: Target: Moderate and Inaccurate; Elsewhere: IP Intense and Accurate; (G). Altitudes of Attacks: 12.000 Secondary; (H). Time over Targets 1526-1530, Secondary. The more official OPFLASH from the 322-BG was the teletyped OPFLASH N° 228 for 23 Dec. At 231915A Dec., to the IX Bomber Command (to A-2) and CG, 99th Combat Wing. It contained more of the above information of the preliminary report, but, as amended at 2210A, to indicate some of its above data. The most important was Par. B & D to read: 11 a/c Secondary – Lammersum (F-3435).
Pilot Interrogation Reports
Maj G.J. Watson; Eft Leader; Box 1, Flt. 1, Pos. 1; took off, 1408, landed, 1655. Altitude, 12.300; hour, 1526. Hit town – not target – might be Lammersum. Excellent results in town. Bombs Dropped a load of 13 x 250 GPs. Weather Ground haze. CAVU. Flak is Intense and accurate. Opposition None.
Lt D.R. Gustafson; 451 Sq; Box 2, Flt. 2, Pos. 4; took off, 1340, landed 1700. Altitude, 12.000; hour 1529. Hit the center of town and walked out. Not target. Excellent, Bombs Dropped a load of 16 x 250 GPs. Weather 0/10 in haze. Flak is Intense and accurate. Opposition None.
Lt R. W. Eyeberg; 452 Sq; Box 1, Flt. 1, Pos. l; took off, 1404, landed 1705. Altitude 12.300; hour 1526; Hit the town of Lammersum – not the target; Excellent on town; Bombs Dropped load of 16 x 250 GPs. Weather Ground haze. CAVU. Flak is Intense and accurate at IP. Opposition None.
Lt R.W. Pike; 451 Sq; Box 2, Flt. 2, Pos. 1; took off at 1328, landed at 1700. Altitude 12.000; hour 1530, Bombs through the center of town – not target. Excellent results. Bombs Dropped a load of 13 x 250 GPs. Weather haze on the ground. CAVU. Flak is Intense and accurate. Opposition None.
Lt E.S. Isaac; 450 Sq; Box 1, Fit. 2, Pos. 45 took off, 1408, landed 1720. Altitude 12.000; hour 1526, Hit center of town – not target. Excellent results in town. Bombs Dropped 12 of 13 x 250 GPs. Weather CAVC. Flak is Intense and accurate. Opposition None.
X Conley; 451 Sq; Box 2, Flt 2, Pos. 2; took off, 1335, landed 1730. Altitude 12.000; hour 1530, Bombs blanketed the small town, did not bomb primary, 3 or 4 runs on T/0. Bombs Dropped a load of 16 x 250 GPs. Salvoed bombs around. Weather over secondary, grd-haze 2/10 strato. Flak Primary target, intense and accurate. Opposition 2 ME-109s SE Zülpich.
322-BG Log of Million Dec 23 44
Zülpich Defended Area
1145 – Notified of target by operations.
1230-1300 – Prebriefing.
1520 – F/0 #399 and Intelligence annex received.
1640 – Interrogation started.
1730 – Interrogation ended.
1845 – OPFALSH and 2-hour phone report.
A. IX Bombardment Division; (1). Typed summary of FO #680. The 322-BG of tre 99-BW was to bomb, blind, the Zülpich Railhead (F-230327), at 1530. (2) A chart (typed) of the wing’s mission and details. The 99-BW’s target was the Zülpich Railhead (F-230327). The notation ‘Spec. Photos’ was entered in the target column, probably indicating the requirement to take them or the target had been set up as the result of such photos. Specifically, the target was a small railhead 7 miles from the bomb line, and in general, Zülpich was to be bombed as a small village with an important road net. Attack’s objective was to destroy supplies in the railhead and to cut communication in the area. A Tactical Significance column applied to railheads of Münstereifel Zülpich and Niddegen, as follows: The German 7th Army which jumped off in an attack about 6 days ago are depending on these 3 feeder line railheads for all types of supplies and reinforcements, as the Germans expected to capture a lot of supplies and as they did not, they are rather in bad need of supplies. Bombing Visual and Blind. NB. Bombline mentioned was that of the Medium Bomber interdiction line which curved westward from the Rhine River and Bonn to pass midway between Zülpich and Düren.
The 2/120 found its assignment tougher. Thirimont and the hill behind it were considered by the enemy to be the key to the area, and he clung to them tenaciously. Artillery, mortar, and small-arms fire were deluged upon the attackers. George 120 with one platoon of How Co attached, pushed forward and with supreme effort gained the outskirts of Thirimont. Alone the company fought to the main street in the rural settlement. Fox Co had been assigned to clear the route for armor since the path which George Co guided upon was unsuitable for tanks. But Fox Co met the most petrifying fire and was forced to halt when the casualty toll reached a demoralizing total. All officers in the company except the commander became casualties. Tanks endeavoring to lead the way struck mines. This left George Co in possession of a third of the town without support; it had taken approximately fifty prisoners but its casualties were also numerous. We saw some men in white uniforms, like the ones our men were wearing, said Lt Robert S. Warnick, one of George Co officers, and they came into town over the way Fox Co was scheduled to use. We shouted to them and figured that at last, we had some reinforcement. But the men in white began shooting at us, and with binoculars, we picked up their Jerry uniforms; we had to tighten our defense and keep fighting.
It wasn’t till we tried to send our prisoners back that we realized we were surrounded. The Krauts had closed around at our rear, and we realized we were cut off in that Godforsaken town. At the same time the men were fighting all over the place, in the houses that were spread far apart, and mostly from room to room. All we could do was hope Easy Co would break through the Jerry ring and come to our help. Just before noon, we spotted about a hundred infantrymen counter-attacking us, and we had to call for all the artillery we could. We kept fighting without losing ground until evening came on, and we still hadn’t received any help. When we spotted more tanks and infantry coming toward us, we drew in our 1st Platoon and tightened up for the defense. About this time we received permission to withdraw; 2 and the company commander, Lt Charles W. Moncrieff, called the officers together to decide how we could best extricate ourselves without taking too many casualties in the process. It was at best a ticklish situation. The officers met at a house near the main road in town, and it wasn’t easy to get there, because the Krauts had the road zeroed in with automatic fire, and everyone that crossed it had to run to dodge the bursts of fire directed down the street at him. We were all together deciding how to get out of town when the enemy tanks broke through the lines and cut our company in half. They came whipping up the street right at the house where we were. We had to call artillery on the street to keep the tanks at bay.
The enemy infantry began to rush the house, but we managed to hold them off. But the tanks kept firing at us in the house all the time. Almost half the company was on the other side of the street. It was stupid to try to get to them because the street was held firmly by the enemy, and it would have been hopeless for us to attempt to drive all the tanks off. We decided that it was a case of letting the individuals on the other side of the road act for themselves; by infiltration, they might have reached safety. Then we began our own withdrawal, and most of us reached the battalion, although Lt Moncrieff was wounded.
Gen Hobbs was at the battalion CP and spoke with Lt Moncrieff before he was treated by the medics. Plans were meanwhile being completed for an attack on Thirimont by the 1/120, and the remnants of George Co were assigned to help Fox Co take a strong point outside the town at the same time. The strong point was a tough objective, particularly for so battered a company as Fox, and it was not seized till after the fall of Thirimont. The elements of George and How Cos left in Thirimont were found later to have been captured. Meanwhile, after supporting the initial attack by fire, the 1/120 was in readiness for an attack on Ligneuville and had moved forward toward Baugnez. Because of the heavy resistance encountered by the others, the 1/120 did not continue onward; instead, Able Co outpost Five Points Crossroads, while Baker Co was positioned in defense of Geromont. At noon the commanding officer, 1/120, was ordered to prepare plans for a night attack on Thirimont, flanking it from the west. Our first, and unsuccessful, attack had been from the north. The Regimental Command Post had moved from Bévercé to Monbijou in the morning and, as evening came, plans were completed for the seizure of Thirimont and Haussart the next day. Because it had ample time to work over the details of the operation, the 1/120 made sure that each man was thoroughly oriented and knew his exact duties.
At the dark hour after midnight on January 14, an advance party from Baker Co moved out from Five Points to establish a block on the Ligneuville road, 1000 yards east of the high ground at Houyire. The remainder of the battalion followed when the roadblock was set up, moved 1000 yards south almost to the block, then swung east into the Pange Stream Valley and up the steep hanks and winding road into Thirimont. The riflemen of Charlie Co led the way. That company was to seize the rear outskirts of the town; then Able and Baker Cos were to push through and take the remainder of Thirimont. At 0445, the enemy began to snipe and drop mortar shells, and his opposition increased steadily until in the early dawn the battalion was forced to halt. Snow prevented any armored support, and tanks bogged down in the soft stream bottom. Patrols sent to flank enemy strongpoints were unable to advance. When daylight began to glimmer over the housetops, it became suicidal to attempt to move heavy weapons over the open ground to the support of the battalion, and the plans for Able and Baker to go through Charlie Co were postponed. Charlie Co pushed slowly onto its outskirts objective and held its ground along the hedgerows which zigzagged on each side of the road.
At 1330 came a light counterattack in which thirty infantrymen with one tank were repelled. Inside the town elements of the German 9.Fallschirmjaeger-Regiment (3.Fallschirmjaeger-Division), had set up an ironclad defense, and they fought with the fanaticism of which Hitler must have been proud. As darkness was closing in, at about 1730, they counterattacked with one battalion of infantry advancing in waves and supported by one company of tanks. Charlie 120 in the lead rallied its firepower, and called for artillery. The enemy pushed madly forward to within fifty yards of our hastily dug-in lines along the hedgerows and roadways which make Thirimont a complicated network. These two tanks were knocked out by artillery, and the infantry backed off. Pressing our advantage we forced the enemy to withdraw to the east and pounded him with artillery as he fled.