On December 16 1944, at about 0530 in the morning, the Germans began the northern part of their counter-offensive with a massive, 90-minute artillery barrage using 1600 artillery pieces across a 80 miles front on the Allied troops facing Sepp Dietrich’s 6.SS-Panzer-Army. The Americans’ initial impression was that this was the anticipated, localized counterattack resulting from the Allies’ recent attack in the Wahlerscheid sector to the north, where the 2-ID had knocked a sizable dent in the Siegfried Line. In the northern sector the 6.SS-Panzer was held up for almost 24 hours by a single reconnaissance platoon and four US Forward Artillery Observers dug in on a ridge overlooking a key road intersection in the village of Lanzerath.
December 16 1944
At 0630 German troops counterattacked striking on the battalion fronts, while laying down heavy artillery barrages in Hunningen, Belgium, site of the Regimental CP, and Regimental Aid Station. The 1/394 Section was operating an Aid Station in support of its battalion on line in the Losheimergraben sector, while the 2/394 Section supported its battalion on line in the Weisserstein sector. The 3/394 Section was set-up at Buchholz, in reserve.
At 0900 the three battalion surgeons called for additional litter bearer teams to assist in the evacuation of casualties sustained from the heavy enemy artillery barrages and small arms fire. Six squads of litter bearers were secured from Collecting Co Baker, 324th Medical Battalion and were rushed to the front lines. A second call for litter bearers and additional ambulances was received at 1000 from the battalion sections. Personnel from the Regimental Aid Station along with infantrymen from Regimental HQs and Service Companies were rushed to the 3/394 area where an attacking German Combat Patrol had inflicted heavy casualties upon the reserve battalion. Casualties were treated and evacuated by aid men and litter bearers under the heaviest artillery barrages and machine gun fire that the regiment had been up against in the war. Evacuation of casualties from the Battalion arid Regimental Aid Stations continued under the most hazardous of conditions as the roads leading to the rear were raked with artillery fire.
At 1300, the 3/394’s Aid Station was shelled and the building housing it was shattered by exploding shells and shrapnel. The Aid Station was moved into the cellar but the constant shelling of the area forced its withdrawal to Losheimergraben, where it went into operation in unison with the 1/394’s Aid Station. Casualties from both battalions were treated at the station under heavy shell fire. HQs Section Aid Station received its bitter taste of the enemy’s surprise attack at 0500 with the station being shelled. This necessitated its moving into the basement of the house and walking and litter wounded were treated there under the poorest of lighting and working conditions.
December 17 1944
The enemy continued its attack on our positions and kept up the shelling of the forward and rear areas, but the battalion aid stations and the Regimental Aid Station operated in the same positions they held at the close of the first stages of the enemy attack. The Second Battalion operating an advanced aid station 200 yards from the front line, pulled it back to the rear station where it operated until the regiment received word to withdraw to Murringen.
At 1400 the Regimental Aid Station received word to prepare for a withdrawal to Murringen. All equipment and personnel were loaded on the detachment’s 2½ ton truck. All of the section’s dental equipment as well as various medical and organizational equipment was lost in the withdrawal. Arriving in Murringen at 1405 the Regimental Aid Station was set-up in the building occupied by Collecting Co Baker, 324th Medical Battalion, prior to its withdrawal from the town. Casualties left behind by the Collecting Company were treated in addition to our own wounded. The three battalion aid stations entered Murringen at 1900 and immediately went into operation. Basements of shell torn houses were used for cover by the station personnel from the inclement weather so that treatment of casualties could be carried out without a great deal of discomfort to the wounded. The 1/394 and 3/394 Sections made its withdrawal under heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire and suffered a number of casualties which necessitated the leaving of aid men and litter bearers behind to treat the wounded.
After a fairly quite night the 2/394 Medical Section was kept busy treating and evacuating casualties. Late in the afternoon the Section was divided into two parts, motor and foot, and a withdrawal to Murringen was started. The foot element started cross country with the 2/394 HQs Company to set up a new command post and upon arriving at the designated point at 1700, no companies could be found and the party then made its way to the CP of Charlie 393, where it spent the night under German Artillery barrages. An enemy patrol neared the CP but was dispersed by rifle and machine gun fire and three enemy soldiers were injured. The three Battalion Medical Sections each lost one jeep and trailer in the artillery barrages.
Shortly after the Regimental Aid Station had set-up in Murringen, the town was shelled by the enemy and the barrage lasted the remainder of the night, forcing the aid station to be moved into the cellar of the house where five litter patients were placed and treated along with a large number of walking wounded. Lighting was poor and though candles and flashlights were used the patients were given the best of care.
December 18 1944
As the minutes ticked by, the shelling of the city continued and Burp Guns could be heard in the area. It was the second sleepless night and meal less day for the Medics but the officers and enlisted men spent the night treating and dressing the wounded and giving plasma to the more serious casualties. Knowing that we were cut off and completely surrounded by the enemy we took security measures, emptying our pockets of all personal items in case of capture by the enemy. Time passed slowly and the shelling of the town seemed to increase with each minute, but at 0145 word was received that the Regiment was going to make a withdrawal at 0230.
Due to the fact that no ambulances were available to transport the wounded, Headquarters Section was faced with the problem of evacuating the litter and walking wounded personnel. A check was made with the 2nd Division’s Collecting Company Baker and it was found that they had a number of ambulances not in use but when permission to use them was asked for to transport the casualties it was refused and in turn they transported their aid station personnel in the vehicles. It was then decided to unload the Section’s 2½-ton truck of Medical Supplies and Equipment and use it for the transportation of the wounded. Four litter wounded were placed on the truck and three Medicos were designated to accompany them. The walking wounded and remainder of the Station personnel boarded the Regimental CP truck, while the officers traveled by jeep. The convoy, composed of the three battalions and special units located in the Murringen area, pulled out at 0235 for Krinkelt, and moved to within two miles of the city when the order to abandon vehicles was given due to enemy action at the head of the column. Troops then began to move on foot in the direction of Krinkelt, but were halted alongside the roads when small arms fire was heard and flares lit up the terrain. A patrol of Infantrymen went ahead and upon returning informed the Commanding Officer that the city was now in American hands. Troops then boarded the vehicles and the convoy made its way through Krinkelt and on to Wirtzfeld, at which point trucks were unloaded and plans for regrouping of the regiment were put into effect. The wounded were rushed to the 2nd Division Clearing Company in Elsenborn, Belgium and later evacuated on to Evacuation Hospitals.
Approximately one hour after arriving in Wirtzfeld the battalion aid stations and the Regimental group accompanied their respective units on a march to Camp Elsenborn. A number of company aid men encircled by the Germans broke through the barrier and reached the safety of the American lines joining up with the 2-ID and the 30-ID units. During the course of events Headquarters and 2/394 sections each lost one jeep and the latter one trailer. The foot elements of the 2/394 spent the night at the 393 CP and left that place at 0800 for the old 2/394 CP site. Troops from the rifle companies were contacted in the vicinity of the old CP and a withdrawal was started and after an hour’s march was halted for an hour and a half by heavy enemy artillery barrages. Reaching the outskirts of Murringen, the troops were pinned down by machine gun fire and artillery. A shell hit in the area and shrapnel from it wounded a soldier from George 39 (9-ID), in the leg. An improvised litter was used to carry the wounded man to the city where strong opposition was met. In an effort to break through enemy positions, a number of men were wounded but one house was taken over and a fiercely contested house-to-house fight ensued with the 2/394 being forced to withdraw due to the enemy’s superiority in manpower. Two aid men T/5 Floyd B. Morgan and Pvt Raymond Goeckler remained behind to treat the wounded.
At 1700 the withdrawal was in effect with the troops fighting their way through 2500 yards of enemy territory. An artillery barrage pinned the troops down for 45 minutes with Howe Co suffering eight casualties. T/5 Gray G. Smeltzer, Howe Co aid man, remained behind with the wounded and later made his way to the 23-IR (2-ID) who sent patrols out to evacuate the wounded, while the remainder of the 2-394 made its way to Krinkelt and on to Camp Elsenborn. The Battalion Aid Stations and Headquarters Section then moved to Elsenborn where a check-up on personnel was made and it was found that one-third of the Detachment was missing and that the Headquarters Section truck had succeeded in its mission of evacuating the casualties. The Regimental CP truck carrying walking wounded and aid station personnel had not as yet arrived. T/Sgt Clarence F. Flynn, Acting First Sergeant, who was a passenger on the CP truck arrived at the Regimental Aid Station and reported that the Regimental CP truck had been ambushed by the enemy a half-mile outside of Murringen. Five of the passengers were wounded when the truck was machine gunned. Sgt Flynn was instructed to treat a wounded officer by the Germans and while he was rendering aid the other members of his party were marched away. The enemy left a company at the truck to guard it as well as Sgt Flynn and his patient.
Sgt Flynn and Lt Murray escaped from the Germans, when the Cannon Co 394-IR, fired point blank at the ambushing Jerries. The Germans hit the dirt for protection as did Sgt Flynn and Lt Murray, but the latter two didn’t stay there, they crawled to a ditch on the side of the road and as the shells burst they dashed out across the fields escaping their captors. At one time on their trudge to Krinkelt they were within five feet of a German Machine Gun emplacement and stayed there twenty minutes, unable to move. The machine gun crew finally pulled out because of the terrific barrage laid down by the Cannoneers. The Battalion Aid Stations and Company aid men left Camp Elsenborn early that afternoon for the front. While the remainder of Headquarters Section, four officers and six enlisted men pulled out for the city of Elsenborn at 1400. Bn Aid Stations were set up in Elsenborn and advance stations put into operation at the front, with Headquarters Section setting up a station near the Regimental CP.
December 19 1944
1/394, 2/394 and 3/394 Sections had advance aid stations operating in support of their respective battalions in defensive positions on the line. Headquarters Section was in a static position. A number of the men from the battalion aid sections returned to duty on this date after a march of two to three days. Sgt Irvin S. Rosen, Headquarters Section, who was captured on the morning of December 18 on the CP truck by the Germans returned to duty on this date. He made his escape from the enemy, when they pleaded with him to enter the city of Krinkelt. He told them he wouldn’t guarantee his return and instead of telling the Americans to surrender he gave 2-ID troops information as to the location of the enemy. From Dec 20 1944 to Dec 27 1944, the Battalion Sections operated advanced and rear aid stations, under periodic artillery fire as did Headquarters Section.
M-1C Medic Helmet – International Military Antiques