In the early years of World War Two, the German Army amply demonstrated its ability to exploit victory to the fullest. After the tide had turned against the Germans, it became apparent that they also possessed the more outstanding ability to quickly recover from a defeat before their opponents could thoroughly exploit their success. Less than a month after suffering inapparently decisive defeat in which it was crushed and battered beyond recognition, German 7. Armee established a coherent front line from the Meuse River to the Schnee Eifel Range in September 1944. Committed in this wide arc and supported by a motley conglomeration of last ditch reserves, the army’s remaining elements successfully defended the approaches to the Reich. During its withdrawal from Falaise to the West Wall, the 7. Armee passed through three distinct phases.
– 7. Armee rout following narrowly averted annihilation in the Falaise Pocket, 7. Armee ceased to exist as an independent organization, 7. Armee shattered remnants were attached to the 5. Panzer Armee until the September 4 1944, 7. Armee was apparently reconstituted under the command of Gen d. Panzertruppen Erich Brandenberger
– 7. Armee then passed through the phase of delaying action while it reorganized its forces and re-established the semblance of a front line. Despite persistent orders from above to defend every foot of ground, Gen Brandenberger realized that a fairly rapid withdrawal was called for, if his forces were to reach the West Wall ahead of American spearheads
– delaying action ended officially on September 9 1944 when the the 7. Armee was charged with the defense of the West Wall in the Maastricht – Aachen – Bitburg sectors. Along with the fortifications the army took over all headquarters and troops stationed in this area. Of the the 7. Armee 3 corps, the LXXXI Corps was assigned the northern sector of the West Wall, from Herzogenrath to Düren witch position to Rollesbroich and the Huertgen Forest sector
LXXIV Corps was committed in the center, from Roetgen to Ormont and the 1. SS Panzerkorps was to defend the West Wall in the Schnee Eifel sector, from Ormont to the boundary with the 1. Armee at Diekirch.
When the US VII Corps launched its reconnaissance in force on Sept 12, the 7. Armee was in the midst of this process of transition. While some of its elements had already occupied their assigned West Wall sectors, others were still fighting a delaying action well forward of the bunker line.
Defense of Aachen and the Stolberg Corridor
On Sept 12, the forces of LXXXI Corps, under the command of Gen Lt Friedrich-August Schack, were committed from Breust on the Meuse River eastward to Hombourg and Moresnet, thence south along the West Wall to the boundary with LXXIV Corps Eupen – Roetgen – Zülpich – Bonn. Four badly mauled, understrength divisions were committed in the LXXXI Corps front line. In the northwestern sector, between the Meuse River and the Aachen area, the 275. Infanterie Division and the 49. Infanterie Division held the line against the US XIX Corps. In the southeastern half of the LXXXI Corps zone, opposite the US VII Corps, the 116. Panzer Division and the 9. Panzer Division faced the US 1st Infantry Division and the 3d Armored Division. The sector of the 116. Panzer Division was defined in the northwest by the boundary with the 49. Infanterie Division : Hombourg – Schneeberg Hill – along the West Wall to Bardenberg. In the southeast the boundary with the 9. Panzer Division Welkenraedt via Hauset and Brand to Stolberg. The organic strength of the 116. Panzer Division under the command of Gen Graf Gerhard von Schwerin, was organized in two armored regiments – the 60. Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the 156. Panzer Grenadier Regiment – the 116. Panzer Aufklarung Abteilung and the 116. Panzer Artillerie Regiment.
Commanded by Gen Maj Gerhard Mueller, the 9. Panzer Division had only arrived in the LXXXI Corps zone on Sept 11. Its sector extended from the boundary with the 116. Panzer Division to the boundary with the LXXIV Corps. According to Gen Brandenberger its first wave had consisted of but 3 companies of panzer grenadiers (advance detachment of either the 10. Panzer Grenadier Regiment or the 11. Panzer Grenadier Regiment), 1 engineer company, and 2 batteries of artillery. Gen Schack amalgamated these elements with the remaining forces of the 105. Panzer Brigade (Maj Volker). Since its attachment to the LXXXI Corps on Sept 3 this tank brigade had lost most of its armored infantry battalion and all but ten of its tanks. Instead of committing the weak elements of the 9. Panzer Division in the West Wall, the LXXXI Corps had found it necessary to send these forces into the front line. Badly mauled on their first day of action – as was to be expected – the remaining elements of the Kampfgruppe 9. Panzer had assembled in Eynatten during the night of Sept 11/12. They were to fight a delaying action back to their West Wall sector while all other elements of the division still en route from their assembly area at Kaiserslautern were to be committed immediately in the West Wall upon arrival. In addition to the units enumerated above, the LXXXI Corps also commanded the 353. Infanterie Division (Gen Paul Mahlmann). This division was exhausted and possessed very few organic contingents. Far to weak to be committed in a front line sector, its headquarters and remaining elements were moved to the assigned West Wall sectors of the 116. Panzer and the 9. Panzer to establish liaison with the various headquarters and local defense units in the rear of the LXXXI Corps.
On Sept 9, the 7. Armee had attached to the LXXXI Corps the Wehrmachtbefehlshaber [Military Governor] for Belgium and Nortnern France with his staff and troops, the Kampfkommandant of Aachen (Col von Osterroth), the 253. Grenadier Training Regiment of the 526. Reserve Division, (the other two regiments of the 526., the 416. Gren Training Regiment and the 536. Grenadier Training Regiment, were attached to the LXXIV Corps while the division headquarters, at Euskirchen, remained directly subordinated to the 7. Armee) and a strange assortment of independent battalions representing the proverbial bottom of the barrel. Some of these were Luftwaffe Fortress Battalions (Luftwaffe ground troops hastily organized in infantry battalions usually without sufficient training, poorly armed, and of little combat value); others were called Landesschuetzen Battalions (the term is vaguely equivalent to home guard and these Landesschuetzen Bns were usually composed of men from fifty to sixty years old) which were quite inadequately armed, without heavy weapons, and composed of men as old as the hills. The situation in the LXXXI Corps area was complicated further by the presence of police and Hitler Youth detachments who attempted to make themselves useful by doing such work on the West Wall fortifications as they saw fit, but refused to cooperate with the military.
The various independent battalions described above were subordinated to the 353. Infanterie Division prior to their commitment with the front line divisions. By order of FM Walter Model (Commander in Chief, Army Group B) the newly arrived 8. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn, 12. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn, and 19. Luftwaffe fortress Bn were attached to 353. Infanterie Division on condition that they would be employed only in defense of the West Wall. The division reported that by 1800 on Sept 12, the Schill Line eastern and more strongly fortified bunker belt of the West Wall – would be occupied by the 19. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn, committed in the area northwest of Wuerselen northeast of Aachen, the 3. Landesschuetz Bn in the area northwest of Stolberg, the 12. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn in the vicinity of Stolberg, and the 2. Landesschuetz Bn south of Stolberg. The 8. Luftwaffe Fortress Bn was designated 353. Infanterie Division reserve.
Gen Schack learned on Sept 12 that the first of three full strength divisions, the 12.-ID, the 183.-VGD and the 246.-VGD, destined to reinforce the Aachen area during September 1944 would arrive in the LXXXI Corps sector in a few days. Hitler had ordered 12.-ID (Col Gerhard Engel), just rehabilitated in East Prussia after service on the Eastern Front, to begin entraining for the Aachen sector at 0001 on Sept 14. Southwest of Aachen the forces of the 116.-PD enjoyed an uneventful night from Sept 11 to Sept 12. This enabled them at 0800 on Sept 12 to occupy positions along the railroad from Hombourg to Moresnet, and from Moresnet along the Gueule River Creek via Hergenrath to Hauset. The object was to establish a coherent defense line which, based on a railway tunnel and a creek, would facilitate antitank defense. The division committed the 156.-PG-Regt on the right, between Hombourg and Moresnet, and the 60.-PG-Regt on the left along the Gueule River. The 116.-P-Rcn-Bn was disengaged and recommitted at day break north of the Gueule River with the mission to establish contact with the 9.-PD at Eynatten.
The forces of the 116.-PD found their mobility greatly restricted by the work of overeager German demolition engineers who had destroyed all the Gueule Creek crossings from Moresnet to the north of Eynatten and had blocked all roads leading to the West Wall with the exception of the Moresnet – Gemmenich – Aachen road. These obstacles seriously interfered with Gen von Schwerin’s intention to withdraw to the West Wall on September 12. But during the morning Gen Schack ordered von Schwerin not to occupy his West Wall sector before receiving special orders from the LXXXI Corps, and to hold out in front of the West Wall generally as long as possible. The lull enjoyed by the 116.-PD was shattered at noon on September 12 when American tanks probed German defenses north of Montzen and Hombourg.
Shortly thereafter the storm broke over the heads of the Germans. The American reconnaissance was followed up by a tank attack toward Hombourg. At the same time American armor crossed the railway between Hombourg and Moresnet. American infantry pushed up the road from Hombourg to Voelkerich and Bleyberg. While the 156.-PG-Regt fell back before these attacks, American troops crossed the Gueule River Creek between Moresnet and Hergenrath in the early afternoon and infiltrateded the lines of the 60.-PG-Regt. Gen von Schwerin was forced to withdraw at about 1530 in a northwesterly direction from Moresnet along the Gueule River Creek. The peculiar direction of this withdrawal was probably necessitated by the fact that German engineers had blocked the roads leading northeast. While the US 1st Infantry Division launched its drive on Aachen and broke through the lines of 116.-PD, the US 3rd Armored Division jumped off from Eupen toward Eynatten and crossed the German border at Roetgen in the sector of 9.-PD.
33-AIB/3-AD : Picture bellow – Driving the Jeep is T/5 Charles D. Hiller, sitting next to him is Henri Souvee, a Belgian patriot (in an American uniform)
West of the Eupen – Aachen road the Americans took Lontzen and Walhorn; east of the road they pushed into Raeren. From Walhorn they launched a tank attack toward Eynatten, which fell into American hands at 1345. Elements of Kampfgruppe 9.-PD there withdrew northeastward. These elements and the local defense units under the command of 353.-ID were unable to interfere seriously with American operations. Later in the afternoon Gen Schack was disturbed by a civilian report that American forces had occupied Rott at 1800, conveying the impression that they had broken through the West Wall south of Rott. The rumor that the Americans were just south of Rott caused panic among the men of a Luftwaffe AA artillery unit committed at Rott. The 3.-Btry (889.-Regt) of the 7.-FD smashed the optical equipment of their three 20-MM antiaircraft guns, abandoned their positions, guns, equipment, and belongings, and fled. The cause of the false alarm seems to have been an American armored rcn patrol on the Aachen – Monschau road.
In the evening of Sept 12, the 353.-ID reported American armor converging on Roetgen from the west. Elements of the 253.-GT-Regt observed American tanks and jeeps, followed by strong infantry detachments on personnel carriers moving along the Raeren – Roetgen road. Two American tanks and four armored cars accompanied by infantry pushed into Roetgen. One platoon of the security company in Roetgen (the 328.-RT-Bn of the 253.-GT-Regt) was pushed into the southern part of the town. Intensive infantry fighting developed as American armor advanced to the northern periphery of Roetgen. Keeping out of the range of German AT weapons, the tanks fired into the West Wall bunker embrasures, while American infantry guns laid down a heavy barrage in front of the obstacle wall. Low-flying aircraft attacked the obstacles and defense positions. By 1900 the volume of American artillery and tank fire began to dwindle. The Germans remained in possession of all the West Wall fortifications. An hour later German reconnaissance found that the Americans had left Roetgen. At 2000, Sept 12, American tanks and infantry advancing between the Hergenrath – Aachen and the Eupen – Aachen roads toward the Scharnhorst Line – the first (western) band of West Wall fortifications – captured Bunker 161 on the Brandenberg Hill, two miles north of Hauset. Forces under the Kampfkommandant of Aachen were immediately committed in a counterattack to wipe out this American penetration of the West Wall. They failed in this endeavor but were able to stop the American attack temporarily. At the same time American armored cars and a few tanks also reached the West Wall about half a mile southeast of Schmidthof and apparently decided to lager there for the night. Late in the evening of September 12, Gen Schack issued an order to his divisions which defined their assigned West Wall sectors and outlined the further conduct of operations. The 116.-PD was charged with defending the city of Aachen. The Kampfkommandant of Aachen with attached troops was subordinated to 116.-PD, as were all elements of the 353.-ID and the 526.-RD in the sector. The 8., 12. and 19.-Luft-Bns as well as the 453.-GT-Bn (253.-GT-Regt). The armored elements of 116.-PD were to fall back to the West Wall only in the face of superior American pressure while the attached forces would move into the fortifications ahead of the main body in order to complete the improvement of the positions. The 9.-PD, with attached remaining elements of 105.-P-Brigade, was assigned to the defense of the sector between the 116.-PD and the boundary with the LXXIV Corps – the Stolberg Corridor and northern the Wenau Forest. All elements of 353.-ID and the 526.-RD in this sector of the West Wall were attached to the 9.-PD. These were the HQs 253.-GT-Regt (Col Feind), the 328.-RT-Bn and the 473.-RT-Bn. The division was authorized to withdraw its organic elements to the West Wall only in the face of overwhelming American attacks. In the West Wall the main effort of resistance would center around the roads leading toward the fortifications from the south and southeast. The divisions were ordered to station strong outposts forward of the MLR (Main Line of Resistance), equipped with heavy infantry weapons and antitank guns, who were to do all in their power to delay the American advance.
[- LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div
at 1500 Sep 15 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; Sitrep, 9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps;
on Sep 16 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
The geographic location of the 9. Pz Div sector fated this division to bear the brunt of the Battle of the Stolberg Corridor. Never possessed of organic elements sufficient for an adequate defense, the division also sustained very heavy losses in this action Thus it had to be shored up regularly by all kinds of reinforcements, sometimes of a very dubious value. The designation 9. Pz Div became a collective term for a veritable hodgepodge of unrelated armor, antitank, infantry, and artillery units.
In the sectors of the 116.-PD and the 9.-PD this outpost line was to extend from west of Gemmenich – west of Hauset – east of Raeren to west of Roetgen. The 353.-ID received orders to relinquish control of the Scharnhorst Line and all elements committed there to the 116.-PD and 9.-PD. Three Land Bns (1/9, 2/6, and 3/6) remained temporarily attached to 353.-ID for special assignments. (Land Bns 1/9 and 3/6 were attached to the 9.-PD two days later).
Following its arrival in the LXXXI Corps zone the anxiously awaited 394. Assault Gun Brigade (six or seven assault guns) was to assemble in the vicinity of Brand. In corps reserve, this assault gun brigade would be ready to participate on snort notice in counterattacks with both 116. and 9.-PDs. The Arty Group Aachen, composed of the artillery regiments of 116.-PD and 353.-ID and the Flak Group Aachen was placed under the command of Col Pean (Commander, 116.-P-Arty-Regt) and received orders to collaborate closely with the 49.-ID, the 116.-PD and the 9.-PD in coordinating its fire with the main effort of defense.
[- LXXXI Corps to all Divs;
at 2230 on Sep 12 44 LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
The night from the 12/13 September passed quietly. During the small hours of the morning the 8., the 12., and the 19.-LF-Bns were attached to the Kampfkommandant of Aachen in order to be committed at daybreak in a counterattack against the American penetration of the Scharnhorst Line on the Brandenberg Hill south of Aachen. At 0600 September 13, the 116.-PD and the 9.-PD assumed command of their new West Wall sectors. With some local defense units in the front line, Gen von Schwerin disengaged the organic forces of 116.-PD – badly in need of regrouping and some rest – in order to assemble them in the Richterich – Wuerselen area northeast of Aachen. That move made it impossible to commit these forces against the penetration on the Brandenberg Hill before the afternoon. In addition, if the enemy continued to advance and exploit his success, which had to be expected in any event, he could not be prevented from entering the town [Aachen] from the south by noon.
Tagesmeldungen, 116. Pz Div, Sep 13 44, LXXXI Corps KTB. -]
During the night from the 12/13 September, the city of Aachen had been in the grip of chaos. Since Gen von Schwerin was to assume control on September 13, he drove into Aachen the evening before on the way to his command post at Laurensberg. He found the population in panic. It was the picture Hitler had made all too familiar in Europe – but now, for the first time, the shoe was on the other foot. Women, with small children and babies, had loaded their last possessions on small hand carts and prams and walked into the night without having any idea where to go; they were driven only by fear and the threats of the Party that every person who did not leave the town would be shot as a traitor. Stirred by humane motivations and worried about the effect of the panic and the jammed roads on the morale and mobility of his troops, von Schwerin decided to put an immediate stop to the disorganized flight. When he sent his officers out to contact the police with orders to halt the evacuation, they returned to him with the shocking news that the entire police force and all government and Party officials had left Aachen; not one police station was occupied. Thereupon Gen von Schwerin took matters into his own hands. He sent his officers out once more to persuade the frantic populace to return to their homes. In so doing he exposed himself to the grave charge of having countermanded a Fuehrer order commanding the evacuation of Aachen. In the morning of September 13, the city was nearly calm again for the time being all signs of panic had disappeared. All buildings housing the Party and municipal administration were deserted. South of the city Kampfkommandant Col von Osterroth launched another counterattack against the American penetration at Brandenberg. Osterroth’s attempt of the night before to restore the situation had failed. The Americans were now in possession of the Bunkers 160 and 161 and were feeding additional forces into their salient. All morning attempts by the weak forces under the command of Col von Osterroth to seal off the penetration remained inconclusive.
[- (Schwerin); (7. Armee to LXXXI Corps);
1140 on Sep 13 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
As mentioned above, Gen von Schwerin’s organic forces were executing a maneuver which prevented them from participating in the fighting southwest of Aachen before late afternoon. He believed that the American penetration at the Brandenberg Hill would develop into a main effort attack against the city, and he knew that the Luftwaffe battalions would be no match for their opponents. Convinced that the Americans would have Aachen occupied in a matter of hours, von Schwerin privately thought this the best solution for the old city. After much searching through empty public buildings, von Schwerin finally found one man still at his post, an official of the telephone service. To him Gen Schwerin entrusted a letter, written in English, which the official promised to take to the commanding officer of the American forces as soon as they had occupied Aachen. The letter read as follows :
I stopped the absurd evacuation of this town; therefore, I am responsible for the fate of its inhabitants and I ask you, in the case cf an occupation by your troops, to take care of the unfortunate population in a humane way. I am the last German Commanding Officer in the sector of Aachen
In desiring to spare Aachen the terrors of becoming a battleground, von Schwerin deviated sharply from Hitler’s avowed determination to turn the city of Charlemagne into a fortified stronghold where each house would be fanatically defended to give the Allies a foretaste of what to expect inside Germany.
Meanwhile, however, the tactical situation had changed. Gradually it dawned on the Germans that the Americans were not going to exploit their opportunity to walk into Aachen but that they intended, rather, to envelop the city by driving up the Stolberg Corridor in the direction of Eschweiler. By noon on September 13, von Osterroth’s men had finally succeeded in sealing off the American salient south of Aachen. Col von Osterroth thought he could hold the line against the American tanks if the assault guns of 394.-AG-Brigage just detrained at the Aachen-Nord Railway Station could be committed against them the LXXXI Corps ordered 116.-PD to wipe out the American penetration at the Brandenberg Hill at all cost. Unwillingly von Schwerin ordered his division, which had just arrived in the Richterich – Wuerselen assembly area, to turn around, march back to the other end of Aachen and assemble there for the counterattack. Although some replacements had arrived in the morning, and the battalions had an average strength of about three hundred men, the fighting power of the division was still low. Only about thirty tanks and assault guns were operationally fit, and the troops were tired and battle weary.
[- von Osterroth;
Tagesmeldungen, 116. Pz Div, at 1315 on the 13 Sep 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
[- Rad; (LXXXI Corps to the 116. Pz Div)
at 1230 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Von Schwerin ordered the 156.-PG-Regt to march through the city while the 60.-PG-Regt bypassed Aachen on its southern periphery. At 1600, the division jumped off against the American salient at the Brandenberg Hill.
[- Tagesmeldungen: (116. Pz Div)
on 13 Sep 44, LXXI Corps KTB, Kamnfverlauf -]
It made some headway against American armored reconnaissance which had advanced to the outskirts of the city. The armor withdrew to the break in the German MLR, and 116.-PD was able to close the gap, without attempting to recapture the American-held pillboxes after darkness had set in.
[- Rad; (116. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 2235 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
[- ApB, 0100 on 14 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Anlagen, Tagesmeldungen, 1.IX. -15.X.44. Referred to hereafter as A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
Shortly after noon on the 13 September, the US 3rd Armored Division resumed its drive up the Stolberg Corridor. South of Rott the Americans cracked a number of bunkers and at 1225 achieved a penetration in the MLR. American armor advanced up the road toward Rott, filling in the antitank craters in its path.
[- 9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps;
at 1225 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Less than an hour later hour later US forces were within one mile of Rott, and 9.-PD mustered all its available forces for a counterattack to be launched from Kornelimuenster. Gen Mueller asked the LXXXI Corps Operations Officer to move all available corps reserves to Kornelimuenster.
[- Gen Mueller to LXXXI Corps;
at 1340 on 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Realizing that the Stolberg Corridor, rather than the Aachener Stadtforst [Aachen Municipal Forest south of Aachen], was the scene of the US VII Corps main effort in his sector, Gen Schack ordered 116.-PD to transfer half the assault guns of the 394.-AG-Brigade to 9.-PD at Kornelimuenster.
[- LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div;
at 1420 on the 13 Sep 44, and LXXXI Corps to the 116. Pz Div, at 1430 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
The 3rd Armored Division drive up the Stolberg Corridor was in two-pronged, with one group attacking the direction Schleckheim – Kornelimuenster, the other toward Rott and Mulartshuette. At 1630 ten American tanks appeared before Rott while other US forces had already bypassed the village and were located east thereof. Headquarters and headquarters company of 9.-PD sped to Rott in an effort to hold the line there. Other forces of the division attempted to screen off at Mulartshuette by means of obstacles and demolitions. In the early afternoon American tanks and infantry penetrated a German strong point south of Schleckheim and continued their advance toward that village.
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1630 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1730 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1420 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
A race was now on between US armor and three assault guns of 394.-AG-Brigage driving on Kornelimuenster from different directions. At 1600 eight American tanks were observed on the road from Nuetheim to Kornelimuenster. The German assault guns were expected in Kornelimuenster at 1800. They arrived on schedule, and a battalion of 9.-PD, reinforced by these three assault guns and a few 75-MM Pak AT guns which the division had picked up, began to establish a line of resistance from the northern periphery of Schleckheim via the northern edge of Nuetheim to the southern periphery of Kornelimuenster. Of the first eight US tanks, four were knocked out by Panzerfaust, but fifteen more tanks wheeled off to right and left in an effort to roll up the 9.-PD line.
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 1830 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
At 1845, fifteen US tanks broke through the line of bunkers and dragons teeth at Oberforstbach, while American infantry advanced along the road north of the Aachen Reservoir (Langfeld – Nuetheim – Kornelimuenster). Five American tanks attacked the Bunker 109 on this road about halfway between the reservoir and Nuetheim. Somewhat later the Germans reported American forces before Kornelimuenster, near Mulartshuette, and in Hahn. At Rott, the HQs Company of the 9.-PD and 105.-P-Brigade launched a counter-attack in an effort to halt the American drive on Mulartshuette. German engineers hastily began to demolish all crossings over the Vicht River between Stolberg and Zweifall.
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div:
at 1915 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
At the LXXXI Corps headquarters American intentions emerged more clearly. The corps operations officer called Gen Mahlmann of the 353.-ID to inform him that the enemy will probably launch a drive bypassing Aachen from the penetration area near Kornelimuenster and Hahn, toward the second band of defenses [Schill Line]. The three Landesschuetzen battalions under the command of 353. were alerted to stand by for action. The Corps also ordered the 116.-PD to transfer the 8.-LF-Bn and one battery of artillery to 9.-PD.
[- LXXXI Corps to Gen Mahlmann;
at 2040 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 116. Pz Div;
at 2320 on the 13 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
An American soldier slogs through deep mud carrying ammunition to a waiting Sherman tank of 3rd Armored Division during the battle for control of the Stolberg area, Germany, 1944.
As Sept 13 1944 drew to a close, the American advance against the LXXXI Corps sector had been checked temporarily. The salient north of Hauset was wiped out. The penetrations on both sides of Walheim had been sealed off in the line Kornelimuenster – Hahn. The southern prong of the 3rd Armored Division attack which had advanced across Rott, had been checked at Mulartshuette. The night from the 13 to the 14 September 1944 passed quietly in the entire LXXXI Corps sector. The Germans observed strong American infantry and armored forces assembling in the Schleckheim – Walheim area but found Oberforstbach unoccupied. In the southern outskirts of Aachen, American reconnaissance in the morning of the 14 September probed the 116.-PD front line at Bildchen toward Bunker 189 and Grenzhof. Then American infantry with strong artillery support jumped off against the entire division front and broke through the bunker line in many places. The bunkers were bypassed singly and fought down from flank and rear by US infantry while American tanks followed up the attack. After noon the bunkers at Bildchen and Koepfchen, southwest and south of Aachen respectively, were in American hands. The 116.-PD forces were now defending a semi circle around Aachen, from the Vaelser Quartier west of Aachen to the boundary with 9.-PD southeast of the city. Their intentions were to defend this line and to counterattack southward whenever possible.
[- Rad; (116. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 1255 on 14 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
A short time later the division was forced to admit that all attempts to regain the belt of bunkers had failed because the densely wooded terrain (Aachen Municipal Forest) made adequate tank support and artillery observation impossible. As American forces drew closer to the city, the panic in Aachen reached a new high. According to Gen von Schwerin conditions were catastrophic. No police or civil authorities had yet returned to Aachen. The old museum director of Aachen, accompanied by a few city officials who had stayed at their posts, came to see von Schwerin to tell him that a group of leading citizens had chosen him, the museum director, to form a provisional city government. The general gave orders for the evacuation to proceed, provided rail and motor transport were available, but emphasized that it would only result in clogging up vital thoroughfares. In addition to having to cope with the frantic civilian population, 116.-PD, which on September 14 assumed direct command of all German elements in its sector, also had trouble with the Luftwaffe. In total disregard of the division commander’s orders the Luftwaffe attempted to pull its AAA batteries out of Aachen. FM Gerd von Rundstedt (Commander in Chief West) himself had to interfere, reminding Luftwaffe anti-aircraft troops that they were to take orders, like everybody else, from the superior headquarters to which they were attached. Gen von Schwerin also complained that his Luftwaffe fortress battalions had a tendency to desert their positions in the face of even minor attacks.
[- LXXXI Corps to Gen von Schwerin:
at 0930, September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- Rpt, A Gp B to OB WEST
at 1200, September 14 1944, OB VWEST KTB -]
[- Rad; (116. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 1310, September 14, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
MS # B-058 (Voigtsberger). Gen Maj Heinrich Voigtsberger commanded the 60. Pz Gren Regt. When Count von Schwerin was relieved of the command of 116. Pz Div on September 15 1944, Gen Voigtsberger became acting division commander until the new commanding officer, Gen Maj Siegfried von Waldenburg, arrived on September 19 1944 -]
Gen Clarence M. Huebner, Commanding General, 1st Infantry Division, Aachen, September 1944
Early in the afternoon of September 14, strong American infantry and armored forces rolled up the bunker line from the direction of Brand, Niederforstbach and Oberforstbach. By 1500 they had gained a line extending from the Beverbach Creek via Linzenshaeuschen (on the Eupen – Aachen Road) to the Friedrichsberg Hill. The 116.-PD, attempting to hold the line from the West Wall to south of the Vaelser Quartier, from there to north of Friedrichsberg Hill – Linzenshaeuschen – the Beverbach Creek, had lost contact with the 9.-PD on its left, southeast of Aachen. The Germans noted that their opponents were employing new tactics to crack the West Wall bunkers : the Americans would launch strong infantry attacks covered by smoke screens while the tanks followed to backup the attack and to support the infantry in knocking out the bunkers one by one. The Americans made heavy use of artillery and smokescreens.
[- LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div;
at 1500 on September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Southeast of Aachen in the sector of 9.-PD, the American combat commands resumed their drive up the Stolberg Corridor in the morning of September 14. Having taken Oberforstbach and Niederforstbach, they captured Kornelimuenster at 1030 and Breinig at 1100. American tanks were observed shortly after noon continuing northeastward from Kornelimuenster toward Buesbach. About the same time the Germans reported an American tank driving from Mulartshuette northeastward toward Zweifall. A few hours later, at 1715, American infantry, tanks, and armored cars entered Zweifall. After fifteen minutes the infantry had captured the first four bunkers (Bunker 330, Bunker 334, Bunker 335, and Bunker 336) in the second band of West Wail fortifications, and the task force continued eastward through the breach in the direction of Vicht and Mausbach.
[- LXXXI Corps to 353. Inf Div;
at 1715 and at 1720 on Sepptember 14 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps to the 9. Pz Div;
at 2000 on September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
In view of the American breakthrough at Zweifall, the LXXXI Corps ordered the 9.-PD to take command of the second band of the West Wall along with the Landesschuetzen battalions (III/6 and 1/9) committed there. HQs 353.-ID would be disengaged to receive another assignment. Reinforced by the 3 assault guns of the 394.-AG-Brigade, the 9.-PD married these assault guns to a company of motorized infantry and committed these forces in a counterattack against the American task force driving on Mausbach. The LXXXI Corps issued strict orders to the 9.-PD to throw back the Americans before the end of the day and to regain full control of the second belt of the West Wall bunkers. The front line of the 9.-PD now extended from the southern edge of Brand – southern edge of Buesbach – east of Zweifall to the West Wall east of Roetgen. At 1800 the Germans reported that at least two hundred American tanks had assembled in Kornelimuenster. Additional columns were seen moving north from Walheim. Up front the American spearhead reached the southern outskirts of Stolberg at 2000. Apparently the Americans then decided not to continue their advance toward Stolberg and Eschweiler that evening. Instead, they worked on their encirclement of Aachen in the area between Aachen and Stolberg.
[- 9. Pz Div;
at 2030 on September 14 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
Late in the afternoon American forces broke through the 116.-PD line between the Beverbach Creek and Lindert, 2 miles west-southwest of Brand, and stabbed into the flank of the 60.-PG-Regt. The 116.-P-Rcn-Bn was committed in support of the division’s flank southeast of the Aachen Municipal Forest. American tanks and armored cars driving north from the Walheim – Oberforstbach – Niederforstbach area pushed through Brand at 1830. Less than an hour later, at 1915, American tanks captured Eilendorf and the steel plant at Rothe Erde [Red Earth] east of Aachen. The city was now ringed on three sides. The LXXXI Corps received reports that sizeable elements of 116.-PD, AAA Group Aachen and the Kampfkommandant were withdrawing to the northeast, supposedly in line with an order issued by Col von Osterroth. Gen Schack immediately ordered that all withdrawing elements be rallied and committed in a counter-attack from the Wuerselen area southward toward Rothe Erde. Contact between 116.-PD and 9.-PD was to be reestablished at all cost through the efforts of all able officers of the 116.-PD HQs. A rear area fortress engineer headquarters received orders to block the Autobahn to Cologne.
[- Gen Schack;
at 2145 on September 14 1944 LXXXI Corps KTB, Kamnpfverlauf -]
By special repeat order from Hitler Aachen was to be evacuated – if necessary, by force. The 116.-PD was ordered to support the evacuation measures by regulating traffic. The police would also be available after 0100 on September 15. They were finally returning to Aachen. The mission of the 116.-PD on September 15 was to hold the Schill Line at all cost and to make an effort to wipe outthe American penetrations at Rothe Erde and Eilendorf.
The Siegfried Line – West Wall
In spite of Gen Schack’s orders the projected counterattack against this salient had not yet been launched at daybreak. The semicircular front around Aachen remained intact from the Vaelser Quartier to Steinebrueck in the morning of September 15 but buckled just east of Steinebrueck when American infantry and armor pushed the 116.-P-Rcn-Bn back to the railroad leading out of Aachen northeast of Burtscheid. Reinforced by the MG-34 Bn which had been rallied after an earlier attempt to withdraw, the reconnaissance battalion established a defense line along this railway embankment. The attackers did not immediately attempt to break through this line. The Americans devoted a large part of the day to the concentration of strong forces in the area south of Burtscheid. Judging from the movements they observed and from American artillery fire, the Germans estimated that at least one infantry division was assembling south of Aachen.
[- Tagesmeldungen 116. Pz Div;
at 2100 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB -]
East of the city, in and south of Eilendorf, American tanks and motor transport also continued to assemble until, according to German estimate, US forces there had been brought up to the strength of about one armored division. In view of the American build-up the Germans expected that VII Corps would launch its all-out attack against Aachen on September 16. Although ground operations seem to have been limited to reconnaissance while this build-up south and east of Aachen was in progress, American artillery subjected Aachen and suburbs to heavy fire. The West Wall bunkers north and the south of the Aachen – Stolberg road in particular received strong rocket projector fire.
[- Tagesmeldungen LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div;
at 0915 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
At 1530 on September 15, American infantry began to infiltrate the bunker line south of Rothe Erde in the direction of the Geisberg Hill. The Landesschuetzen battalion there abandoned its positions, but seven German assault guns held the line behind the pillboxes. At 1700, American forces jumped off in simultaneous attacks from the Buschhaus toward Burtscheid, and from Eilendorf north and northeast in the direction of Verlautenheide and the Geisberg Hill. The defenders were able to repulse both attacks. Thirty American tanks rolling northward from Eilendorf were forced to withdraw in the face of concentrated German artillery fire; the Germans claimed the destruction of two US tanks.
[- LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div:
at 1718 on September 15 1944 -]
[- KTB, Kampfverlauf. 116. Pz Div;
at 2100 on September 15, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldung -]
In turning back the American drive on the Aachen suburb of Burtscheid, the Germans had narrowly prevented the invader from venturing into the streets of the old Imperial City for the first time. To the 116.-PD Gen Schack relayed the Hitler order demanding the fanatic defense of Fortress Aachen : In the event of an enemy penetration of Aachen, each and every house will be defended. A strategic withdrawal from the southern to the northern periphery of tne city is out of the question.
[- LXXXI Corps to 116. Pz Div:
at 1718 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
Shortly after midnight, on September 15, Gen Schack had repeated his order to the 9.-PD that the Americans must be forced out of the second band of West Wall bunkers near Mausbach at all cost. During the remaining hours of darkness the 9.-PD made such preparations for the counterattack as it was capable of. One replacement battalion was en route to the division; in addition 10 tanks were moving up to the front. In the small hours of the morning the Landesschuetzen battalion committed on the division’s southern wing (probably 1/9) abandoned its positions; it was necessary to move up another battalion (probably the 328. Repl Trg Bn) from Schevenhuette in order to plug the gap.
[- LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div;
at 0015 on September 15, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; -]
[- Rad, (9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps)
at 0353 on September 15, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
The division launched its attack against the American salient at dawn and was able to drive away US armor south of Mausbach. Some bunkers were apparently recaptured in the first assault; two bunkers remained in American hands. Two hours later the division headquarters had no news on the outcome of the counter thrust toward Vicht and Zweifall other than the report that the two bunkers south of Mausbach had not been captured yet. For the third time the LXXXI Corps ordered : the 9.-PD armor will attack the enemy and throw him back behind the West Wall. There is no time to lose. In the early afternoon the division was able to report that as a result of its counterattack all bunkers of the MLR from northeast of Buesbach to Zweifall were once more in German hands. An American attack on Buesbach had been repulsed by four tanks of the 105.-P-Brigade and four assault guns of the division’s AT company committed there earlier in the day. The German success, however, was very short lived. Throughout the day the 9.-PD had watched the American build-up with growing apprehension. In the early morning the division had expressed concern about the assembly of two hundred US tanks in Kornelimuenster to which more were steadily being added. At 1500, a German runner reported a concentration of eighty US tanks in Breinig.
[- LXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div;
at 0015 and 1500 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
In the early afternoon the German attack bogged down in the face of the American artillery preparation. Under the heavy American artillery, tank, and mortar fire the division sustained serious losses and was unable to execute any movements. The Germans sensed that the American attack was imminent. At 1550 on September 15, American tanks and infantry jumped off from their assembly area at Breinig and headed for Mausbach. A furious battle ensued in which the Americans lost six tanks, but were finally able to capture Mausbach and the Weissenberg Hill. An attempt to continue the drive was stopped by a German counterattack launched from Gressenich. At 1600 the Americans threw a second punch against 9.-PD. Forty tanks jumped off from the Eilendorf – Brander Forest assembly area and rolled east. Fifteen minutes later they faced the German obstacle wall. Although they were unable to achieve a penetration there, the 9.-PD – had to report that : our infantry was smashed in the Mausbach area and in the east of Eilendorf. On the extreme left, southern wing of 9.-PD, where the 328.-RT-Bn had occupied the Scharnhorst Line, American forces also achieved a penetration at 1730 and captured one strong point. In the right and central sectors of the 9.-PD weak organic elements of the division, the 105.-P-Brigade, and two training battalions (the 473.-RT-Bn and March Bn Zorn) held the second belt of the West Wall fortifications except for the American penetrations east of Eilendorf and at Mausbach.
[- Tagesmeldungen. 9. Pz Div
at 1910 on September 15 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps
at 2100 on September 15 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB -]
In the 116.-PD and 9.-PD sectors the front lines had not changed much over the previous day. Nevertheless, fighting had been extremely bitter on September 15, and both sides had suffered heavy losses. The 9.-PD alone had accounted for forty-two US tanks. The Germans had also sustained serious casualties. Army Group B issued an order for all battle worthy elements of 9.-PD still in the assembly area at St Wendel to move up to the front immediately.
[- A Gp B
at 1345 on September 16 1944, A Gp B KTB, LetzteMeldung -]
[- 7. Armee to LXXXI Corps
(relaying Order, A Gp B to 7. Armee), at 2340 on September 15 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeres-gruppe, Armee -]
The LXXXI Corps Situation in Mid-September 1944
The following study of the German situation in the LXXXI Corps sector omits mention of the 275.-ID and the 49.-ID. Although subordinate to the LXXXI Corps, these divisions did not participate in operations against the US VII Corps at this time. Several days later, the 275.-ID was shifted to the southern wing of the LXXXI Corps to plug a gap between the LXXXI and the LXXIV Corps. The division will be described when it enters into this story. On September 16 1944, the organic fighting forces of 116.-PD consisted of the 50.-PG-Regt, the 156.-PG-Regt and the 116.-P-Rcn-Bn, a total of 5 battalions with a combat strength of roughly 1600 men.
The term combat strength is employed here in translation of the German Kampfstaerke, defined to include only men actually engaged in the fighting or in immediate support of front line fighters forward of a battalion command post. The term Gefechtsstaerke, rendered as fighting strength, applies to all men who fight or support fighters forward of a regimental headquarters. See : Gen Order Nr. 1/2000/44 g., 25 Apr 44, OKH/Gen St d H/Org Abt.
In addition the the 12.-LF-Bn and the 19.-LF-Bn, the 453.-GT-Bn, and possibly other elements were attached to the division. The 302.-IT-Bn, en route to the front, was about to join these forces under the command of 116.-PD. Division armor on September 16 was reduced to two Mark IV tanks and one Panther (Mark V). The division had one assault gun left; four assault guns of the 394.-Assault-Gun-Brigade were attached. Five assault guns of the 217.-Assault-Gun-Brigade and elements of the 902.-Assault-Gun-Brigade were en route to the division. In other anti-tank weapons the division possessed nine 75-MM Pak AT guns, of which one was self-propelled. Five additional 75-MM Pak AT guns were said to be en route from Koenigsberg in East Prussia. The 116.-Panzer-Artillery-Regt had three batteries of 150-MM howitzers and one battery of 105-MM howitzers. Two other 150-MM howitzer batteries were attached – the 2. Btry, 992.-Artillery-Regt and the 3d Btry, 997.-Artillery-Regt.
[- Tabulation of Armored Vehicles, 116.-PD
on Sep 16 1944, and Weekly Strength Report as of 1200 on Sep 16 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps to 7. Armee
Sep 22 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
[- Tabulation of Tanks and Antitank Weapons
LXXXI Corps, 2200 on Sep 17 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B
Sep 16 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw -]
[- FM Model to CofS, 7. Armee
1350 on Sep 16 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps to Cmdr 13. Luft Fort Bn
1850 on Sep 17 1944, and Sep 17 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
The 116.PD also expected the 13.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Bn and the 107.-Pz-Bn. The latter, though intended for the Aachen sector, was shifted instead to the Arnhem – Nijmegen area when Operation Market-Garden got underway. As for the 13.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Bn (645 men), it was either never attached to 116.-PD despite orders, or remained with that division for only a few days before appearing on the roster of units of 9.-PD.
Since its arrival in the LXXXI Corps area Gen Mueller’s 9.-PD had been reinforced by additional organic units as well as by the attachment of miscellaneous other forces. On September 15 1944 the committed organic strength of 9.-PD consisted of the Battalion Schemm made up of the remaining elements of the 10. and the 11.-PG-Regts. This battalion had a combat strength of 5 officers and 136 enlisted men.
Schemm seems to have been the commander of 11.-Pz-Gren-Regt
Between Sept 11 and Sept 15 1944 the following infantry battalions had been attached to 9.-PD :
HQs 253. Grenadier Training Regiment
328. Replacement Training Battalion
473. Replacement Training Battalion
Landesschuetzen Battalion I/9
Landesschuetzen Battalion III/6
8. Luftwaffe Fortress Battalion
Replacement Battalion Nagel
Replacement Battalion Zorn
547. Security Battalion (Remaining Elements)
Of organic armor and antitank forces the 9.-PD had the 2.-Co or the 33.-Panzer-Regiment, with 15 Panthers (of which only 8 were operationally fit), and elements of the 50.-Aantitank-Bn with 6 assault guns and about 15 75-MM Pak AT guns. Attached were remaining elements of 105.-Panzer-Brigade with 5 Panthers and 3 assault guns, the 105.-Panzer-Grenadier-Bn, and 3 assault guns of the 394.-Assault-Gun-Brigade. In addition the 9.-PD expected 6 assault guns of the 217.-Assault-Gun-Brigade and 10 tanks which were supposedly en route to Dueren. The organic artillery of 9.-PD consisted of 2 batteries of 150-MM howitzers, the 2nd Bn of the 102.-Panzer-Artillery-Regiment with 3 batteries of 5 105-MM howitzers each, + 1 reinforced battery of the 287.-Flak-Battalion with 1 88-MM, 3 37-MM and 3 20-MM AA guns, 2 of which were quadruple-mounted. Attached to the 9.-Pz-Div-Artillery were 1 battery of the 12.-SS-PD with 5 105-MM howitzers and the 490.-Heavy-Howitzer-Battalion – 3 batteries with a total of 9 150-MM howitzers. As for engineer forces, the 2. Co, 16.-Panzer-Engineer-Battalion was attached to 9.-PD.
[- Strength Rpts, 9. Pz Div to LXXXI Corps
16 and 21 Sep 44, and Comments on Strength Report of 9. Pz Div -]
[- LXXXI Corps G-3 Off, 16 Sep 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
[- Tabulation of Tanks and AT Weapons, LXXXI Corps, 2200 on 17 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen; Report, Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw.; LXXXI Corps to 9. Pz Div, 1500 on 15 Sep 44, and FM Model to CofS, 7.Armee, 1350 on 16 Sep 44, and 17 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; TWX (Weekly Strength Report as of 1200 on 16 Sep 44), LXXXI Corps to 7. Armee, 22 Sep 44, and Tabulation of Armored Vehicles, LXXXI Corps, 16 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div. usw.; TWX, A Gp B to OB WEST, 2350 on 22 Sep 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations-Befehle -]
To sum up : on September 15 1944 the 9.-PD with attached units had an infantry combat strength of roughly 2500 men, approximately 200 machine guns, 13 Panther tanks, 12 assault guns, about 15 75-MM Pak AT guns, 15 150-MM howitzers, 20 105-MM howitzers, 1 88-MM, 3 37-MM and 3 20-MM AAA guns. As a result of the highly inadequate signal communications, the frontage of 9.-PD had proved too wide for effective exercise of command. To remedy this condition the LXXXI Corps committed HQs 353.-ID with 2 companies of Landesschuetzen (possibly Landesschuetzen Bn II/6) in the southern half of the 9.-PD sector. The new boundary between thz 9.-PD and the 353.-ID extended from Schevenhuette – Jaegerfahrt (north of Zweifall) – Vennwegen – Hahn – Schmidthof to Raeren. In the south the new sector of 353.-ID was defined by the boundary between the LXXXI and the LXXIV Corps. For the defense of this sector some elements of 9.-PD were attached to 353.- ID : HQs of the 253.-Grenadier-Training-Regt under Col Feind with the 328.-Replacement-Training-Bn, Replacement Bn Nagel, remaining elements of the almost completely smashed Landesschuetzen Bn I/9 and of the 547. Security-Bn, a heavy weapons company, about 8 75-MM AT guns and one battery of 3 150-MM howitzers. With these forces the combat strength of 353.-ID rose to roughly 700 men. The 9.-PD was left with a combat strength of 56 officers and 1941 enlisted men, organized in two Kampfgruppen under the command,respectively, of Maj Volker and Col Max Sperling (presumably commander of 33.-Panzer-Regt). The rear area functions of 353.-ID were assumed by Gruppe Jungklaus, a rear area headquarters subordinate to the LXXXI Corps, with orders to rally all stragglers in the communications zone and to begin work on a blocking line between the Geilenkirchen – Rheydt Rail Line and the left boundary of the LXXXI Corps – the Roer Position or Schlieffen Line.
[- LXXI Corps to Gruppe Jungklaus
1830 on 15 Sep 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
Late in the evening of September 15, Gen Schack received the cheering news that the first elements of 12.-ID would arrive at Juelich and Dueren during the night and that the transport of the entire division would be completed some 30 hours later. The LXXXI Corps ordered the division to assemble in the Aldenhoven – Pattern – Inden – Lamersdorf – Eschweiler – Laurensberg area. As elements of the division arrived, they were to be readied immediately so as to be available at any time for counterattacks in a southerly and southwesterly direction. Corps, however, assured Col Gerhard Engel that there was no intention to commit his division before it was fully assembled, unless developments compelled a piecemeal commitment of these forces.
[- Col Gerhard Engel, Commander of the 12. Infantry Division, was military adjutant to Hitler from 1937 until 1944. In 1944 he joined the 12. Infantry Division to command the 27. Fusilier Regiment and then rose to the position of division commander. At war’s end he had attained the rank of brigadier general. -]
Arriving among the exhausted and understrength forces of LXXXI Corps, the 12.-ID made a deep impression on both military and civilian population. Here was the first full-strength, rested and fresh division, composed of young, healthy and well-trained men, that the Germans in the West had seen in a long time. The appearance of this division greatly boosted the morale of the troops and the civilians in the area. Organized along the lines of a Type 1944 Infantry Division, the 12.-Infantry-Division numbered 14800 men, of whom roughly one quarter (about 3,800 men) were combat strength. This infantry strength was divided among the 27.-Fusilier-Regiment, the 48. and the 89.-Grenadier-Regiments, and the 12.-Fusilier-Battalion. The division was fully equipped except for its twenty authorized assault guns (FM Model ordered 17 assault guns of 102.-Assault-Gun-Brigade attached to 12.-ID). The 12.-Artillery-Regiment had its authorized strength of 9 batteries of 105-MM howitzers and 3 batteries of 150-MM howitzers. The division’s antitank battalion possessed 12 75-MM Pak AT guns. In view of the desperate situation in the Aachen area, FM von Rundstedt had requested the 12.-ID be moved at top speed. Thanks to this priority and the prevailing misty, rainy weather the division had been able to travel across Germany (from East Prussia to the Aachen area) undetected and un-attacked by Allied aircraft and had thus maintained intact the all important element of surprise. In his Order for the Conduct of Operations and Order of Battle in the West Wall of September 16 1944, Gen Brandenberger wrote :
The enemy is expected to continue to make his main effort in the penetration area east of Aachen […] The 7. Armee will defend the positions from northeast of Maastricht to Aachen and the West Wall to the last man and the last bullet. The penetrations achieved by the enemy will be wiped out. The forward line of bunkers, the Scharnhorst Line, will be regained.
Specifically the mission of LXXXI Corps was two fold. First, its forces were to wipe out American penetrations of the Schill Line east of Aachen. This achieved, the Germans would counter-attack on a large scale to throw US forces out of the area eastand south of Aachen and to regain full control of the Scharnhorst Line. For this purpose the 12.-ID had been attached to the LXXXI Corps. For greater effectiveness the the LXXXI Corps sector was shortened : the 353.-ID with attached elements was now subordinated to LXXIV Corps so that the new boundary line between the two corps extended now from Eupen via Zweifall and Dueren to Cologne. Thus on September 16 opposite US VII Corps Gen Schackhad at his disposal 116. and 9.-PDs and the elements of 12.-ID now arriving in the area. After the 12.-ID was fully committed, intentions were for the 116.-PD to be disengaged and assembled around Eschweiler as corps reserve. Then the 9.-PD also would be relieved and assembled in the area southeast of Dueren at the disposal of 7. Armee.
LCXXI Corps Counterattack and Stalemate
After a strong artillery preparation during the night 15/16 Sep 1944 American forces infiltrated the 116.-PD lines south of Verlautenheide in the morning of September 16 and achieved a penetration by capturing several bunkers just south of the village. The division charged bitterly, “Local defense units and stragglers committed in West Wall fortifications have no combat value, no ability to stand their ground”. While the Americans pushed into Verlautenheide and captured the village, another US armored force jumped off from south of Eilendorf and drove eastward into Atsch at 0515. In the Stolberg Corridor American tanks and infantry assembled during the night between Mausbach and Diepenlinchen while heavy American artillery fire hit the area north of Mausbach and the vicinity of Eschweiler. The Germans also reported American tanks southwest of Schevenhuette and at a hunting lodge south of Zweifall (LXXIV Corps). From these signs the Germans predicted a very wide push north and northeastward at daybreak aimed toward Eschweiler. At Mausbach and on the Weissenberg Hill there was little American ground activity during the morning. The Germans stopped some reconnaissance patrols probing northeastward from Mausbach toward Werth and Gressenich. Early in the morning of September 16 the eagerly awaited first elements of 12.-ID arrived. The situation was now too critical for the LXXXI Corps to keep its promise to Col Engel to give him an opportunity for assembling his entire division before it was committed. In view of the American penetration in the area of Verlautenheide and Atsch and the imminently expected drive on Eschweiler, Gen Schack ordered the 27.-Fus-Regt to go into action straight from the railroad station. As soon as its 1st Bn and AT company had detrained at Juelich, they were moved to the Verlautenheide area by all military and civilian means of transport available – personnel carriers, mail trucks, buses, and the like. The 3. Battalion, arriving in Dueren, received orders to move from Eschweiler to the edge of the woods southwest of Schwarzenbruch in the Wuerseler Forest. The 12.-ID artillery was not expected until 2200 on September 16. Until then the 27.-Fusiliers had to rely on cooperation with the 9. and the 116.-PDs’ artillery.
In the sector of 116.-PD the counterattack of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt took the US VII Corps forces by surprise and was successful. The 1. Bn pushed the American spearhead out of Verlautenheide and captured the strategically important high ground around this village. The battalion continued its drive toward Eilendorf and recaptured most of the bunkers along the Verlautenheide – Eilendorf road. Before reaching Eilendorf, however, the attack bogged down in the face of American resistance. Shortly after noon on September 16, the Americans resumed their drive toward Eschweiler. A two-pronged attack from west and south converged on Buesbach, capturing the village. American forces exerted pressure against the Stolberg area with attacks on Hamm, Schneidmuehle, Muensterbusch and the southern outskirts of Stolberg itself. From the salient at Mausbach and at thez Weissenberg Hill US armor jumped off in a northerly and northeasterly direction. In bitter tank battles which lasted throughout the afternoon VII Corps forces achieved their deepest penetration of the Stolberg Corridor to date when they captured Diepenlinchen and Gressenich, Krewinkel and Schevenhuette. The 3. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt had moved rapidly through Eschweiler toward the endangered Stolberg area. The battalion captured Atsch at 1330. Continuing south, the battalion was able to regain control of Buesbach – but only for a few hours. By evening Buesbach was once more American. In the face of the strong American assault in the Stolberg Corridor the forces of the 27.-FR did not suffice to re-establish a coherent German front from Stolberg to Zweifall and to wipe out the American bridgeheads across the Vicht River. The big German counter thrust had to wait until the 12.-ID could move its own artyllery and its other two infantry regiments into the combat area. In the meantime the 27.-FR could do no more than seal off the latest American penetrations with the aid of the remaining elements of 9.-PD. In view of the very critical situation in this sector German forces were consolidated under one command renamed Kampfgruppe Sperling, the remaining elements of 9.-PD temporarily lost their division status. Effective 2000 on September 16, KG Sperling was attached to the 12.-ID with the prevision that its forces would be released once 12.-ID was fully committed.
[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 1725 on Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- Order, LXXXI Corps to all divs
at 2000 on Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle an Div -]
Report, Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B, Sep 16 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw.
There was another motive for attaching the elements of 9. Panzer Division to 12. Infantry Division. In the morning of September 16 1944. Gen Brandenberger had visited the 9. Panzer Division command post and had asked routine questions regarding the German G-2 estimate of the American situation in the division sector, the location of the 9. Panzer Division front lines, disposition and strength of 9. Panzer Division forces, etc. In attempting to answer these questions Gen Mueller revealed himself as ignorant of the situation in his own sector, whereupon Gen Brandenberger relieved him of his command on a charge of incompetence. The senior regimental commander, Col Max Sperling, assumed command of 9. Panzer Division until evening of September 16. In this study the designation 9.-PD will continue to be used in reference to these units.
Col Engel now commanded the former sector of 9.-PD from the Verlautenheide area to the LXXXI Corps southern boundary. By capturing the strategic high ground of Verlautenheide, the 12.-ID had established a coherent front on its right and had firm contact with 116.-PD. On the left, however, the German flank lay exposed all the way to Schevenhuette. The most important immediate task was to establish contact with the northern wing of 353.-ID in the Zweifall – Huertgen area. The combat mission of 12.-ID was to launch a major counterattack from the Eschweiler – Wenau line to regain the second band of West Wall fortifications from Geisberg Hill to Zweifall. South of Aachen, minor American attacks toward the city on September 16 were warded off by the 60.-Panzer-Grenadier-Regt. A small American penetration south of Steinebrueck was wiped out when the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn counterattacked late in the day and recaptured two bunkers. Police and Party had returned to Aachen during the night from the 14 to 15 September, and the evacuation was once more in full swing. Gen von Schwerin was in big trouble. When US forces had failed to capture the city contrary to his expectation his compromising letter to the American commander had fallen into the hands of Nazi officials. Because of both this letter and his effort to stop the chaotic exodus from Aachen, von Schwerin was relieved of his command and ordered to stand trial before Hitler’s People’s Court. Rather than comply, von Schwerin decided to remain with his division until the fall of Aachen. He felt that his men would know how to protect him against Nazi henchmen.
While his senior regimental commander, Gen Voigtsberger, assumed the duties of division commander until the arrival of Gen von Waldenburg von Schwerin hid out in a farmer’s home in Kohlscheid, northeast of Laurensberg. The reconnaissance platoon of 60. Panzer Grenadier Regiment surrounded the farmhouse with a cordon of machine guns. No police detachment trying to arrest their division commander would have escaped alive. When the capture of Aachen did not materialize, Gen von Schwerin finally decided to present himself at 7. Armee headquarters to appear before a military court.
[- FM Model to OB WEST
2330 on Sep 15 44, A Gp B KTB, Operations-Befehle -]
[- G-1 to G-3, LXXXI Corps
1045 on Sep 16 44 -]
[- 7. Armee to LXXXI Corps
1945 on Sep 17 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- Gen Lt Graf Gerhard von Schwerin; (Schwerin) Apparently FM von Rundstedt interceded on General von Schwerin’s behalf and even proposed – in vain – that the latter be reinstated as Commanding General of 116.-PD. After some months in the OK Officer Pool [doghouse], von Schwerin was appointed Commanding Officer of 90.-Panzer-Grenadier-Division and later Commanding General of LXXVI Panzer Corps in Italy -]
Early in the morning of September 17 the 27.-Fusilier-Regt of the 12.-ID, committed in the Verlautenheide – Stolberg area, resumed its attack to regain the West Wall positions southeast of Eilendorf. In this endeavor the regiment failed. After gaining insignificant ground and recapturing a few bunkers, the regiment bogged down in the face of heavy American artillery fire and suffered considerable casualties. It also ran short of ammunition and was forced to assume a defensive role for the rest of the day. In the defense it was more successful. Its 1. Battalion strengthened the contact with 116.-PD at Verlautenheide, while the 3. Battalion, on the left, came to the aid of the remaining elements of 9.-PD and 105.-Pz-Brigade who had orders to hold Stolberg at all cost. Between Verlautenheide and Stolberg the 27.-Fusilier-Regt, 9.-PD and 105.-Pz-Brigade repulsed all American attacks launched from the Eilendorf area on September 17 and thus enabled the other regiments of 12.-ID to carry out their counter thrust against the Mausbach salient without danger to their right flank. During the morning hours of September 17 first the 48.-Grenadier-Regt and shortly afterwards the 89.-Grenadier-Regt detrained in Dueren. With these forces the 12.-ID was supposed to recapture Mausbach and to restore a coherent German front from Stolberg to Zweifall. The 89.-Grenadier-Regt received orders to assemble southeast of Eschweiler and to launch its attack via Hastenrath – Scherpenseel toward Werth, the Weissenberg Hill and Diepenlinchen. The mission of 48.-Grenadier-Regt was to move through Heistern – Venau – Hamich, and to jump off from Hamich toward Gressenich and Krewinkel, capture Mausbach and reach the Stolberg – Vicht road.
According to orders, the 48.-Grenadier-Regt jumped off from Hamich and captured Gressenich, holding it against immediate American counterattacks from the direction of Schevenhuette. The battalion on the left attacked toward Krewinkel but ran into determined resistance and developed a temporary ammunition shortage so that it was forced to halt its attack. The battalion on the right, driving toward the Mausbach – Diepenlinchen line, had a stroke of unusually good luck. At a point halfway between Mausbach and Diepenlinchen it smashed into the flank of an American attack launched from Mausbach apparently in the general direction of Eschweiler. Coming from an unexpected direction the assault took the Americans by surprise. The 48.-Grenadier-Regt was able to knock out 9 US tanks and to capture fifty-seven Americans including one colonel (a regimental commander, according to German sources). But after achieving this success the German attack bogged down just east of Diepenlinchen in the face of tenacious American resistance. The 89.-Grenadier-Regt had meanwhile launched its attack from the Hastenrath – Scherpenseel area. Instead of waiting for only all its forces to assemble there, it umped off at noon with one battalion in order to meet the threatening American drive on Eschweiler. The battalion pushed south through Werth; in exceedingly bitter fighting it captured the Weissenberg Hill at 1330 and reached the eastern periphery of Diepenlinchen an hour later. There it also encountered such strong American resistance that its attack bogged down.
In view of strong American pressure from Krewinkel and probably also the threat to its left flank from Schevenhuette and the Wenau Forest (US 9th Infantry Division), the 12.-ID decided to shift its weight from right to left and to make its main effort through Krewinkel rather than through Diepenlinchen. Permission was asked and granted to call off the attack while the German forces regrouped. By this time the 2. Bn of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt and additional artillery and antitank forces had arrived on the battlefield. Thus reinforced the Germans resumed their attack at dusk. The main effort drive on the left pushed through the Krewinkel woods into Krewinkel, while on the right the forces pressing south from the Weissenberg Hill and the vicinity of Diepenlinchen penetrated the northern part of Mausbach. This achieved, the 12.-ID halted for the night.
On September 18, the 27.-Fusilier-Regt was to continue its efforts to capture additional bunkers near Muensterbusch, while the 89.-Grenadier-Regt, which had suffered heavy casualties, would regroup and hold its line. The day’s events proved that 12.-ID would not find it easy to dislodge the Americans from their salient beyond the Schill Line, once they had recovered from the initial surprise of being hit by unexpectedly formidable German forces, the Americans lost no time before launching powerful, well supported counterattacks. After American artillery had shot the Germans out of Mausbach and Diepenlinchen during the night, two American task forces launched an attack at midnight from the Mausbach area toward Stolberg, while a hail of artillery fire pounded the 1. Bn of 48.-Grenadier-Regt east of Mausbach with apparent intent to secure the American right flank.
US forces advanced to the southern and southeastern outskirts of Stolberg. They captured the Hammerberg Hill, Burgholzerhof, and the West Wall bunkers along the Vicht River as far as Dinsfeld at 0400 and continued their drive toward the Donnerberg Hill. Another US combat command jumped off toward Stolberg from the Brander Forest and drove as far as the church in Muensterbusch, just west of Stolberg. Perceiving the threatening double envelopment of Stolberg, Col Engel decided not to continue the Mausbach – Krewinkel attack (which no longer looked like an easy thing, anyway) in the morning of September 18, but rather to shift his main effort against the Americans driving on Stolberg. The LXXXI Corps immediately approved his new intentions. As a result German resistance in the Stolberg area stiffened. Though the Germans were unable to gain more than insignificant ground, they successfully stopped all American attacks. During the morning the 27.-Fusilier-Regt repulsed a minor American attack against Verlautenheide, while German artillery hit US positions on the Geisberg Hill. The American drive on the Donnerberg Hill was thrown back with heavy losses; the German counterattack recaptured two bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. The Germans in Stolberg also repulsed an American attack against the southern periphery of the town at 1200, but not before some streets of Stolberg had become a battleground for the first time.
[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 1500 on Sep 18 1944 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf; LXXXI Corps
at 1625 on Sep 18 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
Photos above (a) Diepenlinchen, September 1944, (b) Diepenlinchen, September 1944, (c) Stolberg and the Corridor. Photos made during the battle by Capt Metcalfe. Source : (36thair3ad.homestead.com)
Near Diepenlinchen on September 18, American forces badly mauled the 89.-Grenadier-Regt. Its 1. Bn had orders to attack through Diepenlinchen and penetrate the woods west of that village. Earlier in the morning strong American forces had moved into Diepenlinchen after US artillery had swept the Germans out of there. The 1. Bn suffered very heavy casualties in the face of the American batteries. After a bitter battle the Germans succeeded in capturing Diepenlinchen again, but under murderous artillery fire their attack bogged down just west of the village. Relentless American fire reduced the 1. Bn of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt to one hundred men, about a fifth of its initial combat strength. At 1730, an American counterattack was able to capture Diepenlinchen once more. An American attack from Schevenhuette toward Gressenich was repulsed.
[- LXXXI Corps, at 2100, Sep 18 44 -]
[- LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- A Gp B, at 0200 Sep 19 44, A Gp B KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
According to MSS # A-971 (Engel) and B-816 (Schack) the 2. Bn of the 48.-Grenadier-Regt launched an attack toward Schevenhuette just before dawn on September 18 and surprised American troops there just as they were being relieved by new forces. Thus the Germans were able to capture Schevenhuette in furious house-to-house and hand-to-hand fighting. By an immediate counterattack, however, the Americans surrounded the two German companies in Schevenhuette; the Germans dug in but were unable to hold out. After suffering heavy losses, they finally fought their way back to their own lines. By evening Schevenhuette was in American hands again and continued to threaten the flank of 12.-ID. The story of the above operation has been relegated to this footnote because the writer entertains serious doubt as to whether it ever took place. It seems highly probable that Generals Schackand and Engel, on whose postwar accounts this story is based, confused it with a very similar operation which definitely took place on Sep 22 1944. The German contemporary documents contain no record of any German operations in Schevenhuette on September 18 beyond one solitary hint, in one document, of a later date, which speaks of […] losses sustained in Schevenhuette on September 18 […] But for this single straw, the writer would have simply dismissed the story as one of many historical inaccuracies to be found in the German postwar accounts and it may well be just that !
In the evening of September 18, the 12. Infantry Division front line extended from the southern periphery of Verlautenheide – Hamm, the western edge of Stolberg – the Hammerberg Hill – Niederhof – the Weissenberg Hill – Gressenich. By evening the division had also assembled its fusilier battalion and its engineer battalion. The attack on Diepenlinchen would continue – “perhaps a regrouping period of twenty-four hours will be required first”. Late in the evening of September 18, the Germans outlined their plan for further operations against the Mausbach salient. Since Stolberg was the key to the 12.-ID operations, all elements of the 9.-PD would be committed against the American forces which had penetrated the factory areas north and west of Stolberg. After careful reconnaissance the 12.-ID engineer battalion would jump off at daybreak on September 20 1944 through the woods toward Schevenhuette. With both flanks (Stolberg and Schevenhuette) thus secured, both battalions of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt were to attack southwestward across Diepenlinchen. The Fusilier Battalion supported by 10 Panthers would proceed southeast from the Stolberg area and wheel into the West Wall toward Mausbach. Then all forces were to converge and attack along the West Wall (Vicht River) toward Zweifall.
On the Aachen front American forces made no serious attacks toward the city on the 17 and 18 September. Aside from minor attacks at Steinebrueck and Burtscheid, which were repulsed by the 116.-PD, they contented themselves with an almost ceaseless barrage of artillery fire against German positions in and around the city. The scene of American operations against the 116.-PD was shifting northward where the US XIX Corps was engaged in its effort to envelop Aachen from the north. The division’s armor situation was improved on September 18 by the addition of 15 assault guns of the 902.-Assault-Gun-Brigade. The division also counted a new American jeep among its vehicles – a German prisoner of war had escaped his captors in the stolen jeep. No doubt the man was cock of the walk in his company that day. The events of September 19 1944 – similar to many days of fighting on the Western Front – were shaped by the fact that the Germans were in the habit of attacking early in the morning, while the Americans chose the afternoon to launch their operations. The main actions of the day took place in the Stolberg area. At 1100, forces of the 9.-PD and the 12.-ID were able to recapture the factory belt west of Stolberg as well as three bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill southeast of that town. Sporadic fighting in the area continued past noon.
Shortly thereafter the Americans began the usual very heavy artillery preparation signaling their impending attack. The American operation in the afternoon of September 19 was two-pronged and aimed at an envelopment of Stolberg. On the [American] left strong infantry and armor jumped off from a Muensterbusch – Buesbach base line in a northeasterly direction toward Stolberg. This attack succeeded in recapturing the factory area and in achieving some penetrations in the western part of Stolberg proper. On the [American] right other US forces launched their attack from the woods northwest of Mausbach and captured Niederhof, Burgholzerhof and some bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. In the face of heavy American artillery fire ranging as far as Hastenrath elements of one of the 12. Infantry Division battalion and 6 Panthers launched a flanking counterattack from the woods southwest of Hastenrath and drove down the road via Hochwegerhof toward Niederhof.
[- LXXXI Corps to the 12. Inf Div
at 1800 and 2010 on Sep 19 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- LXXXI Corps, at 2215 on Sep 19 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
1st/Sergeant Walter Petrovich standing in front of a knocked out German Panther tank with an American jeep in the background. According to historian and author Timm Haasler : this picture is showing Panther 132 of 105.-Panzer-Brigade which was lost in September 1944 in Münsterbusch west of Stolberg. The tank was under the command of 1/Lt Crisandt, the company commander of the 1. Company on the day when it was damaged by tanks of the US 3rd Armored Division. With no chance to recover the tank, Crisandt blew up his tank and managed to reach the German lines together with his crew. Crisandt later died during the Battle of the Bulge as a company commander of 33.-Panzer-Regt, 9.-Panzer-Division.
Another German Tiger I tank out of action in Elsdorf, Germany (September 1944)
This counterattack apparently was less than successful, for during the night American troops supported by 5 tanks were able to extend their gains northeastward when they captured Hochwegerhof (about one mile north of Diepenlinchen) at 0200 on September 20. West of Stolberg, on the other hand, the see-saw battle continued : late in the evening of September 19 German troops managed to retake three bunkers. Two of these were located near the railroad running along the southeastern edge of the Wuerselen Forest (just east of Hamm and Kohlbusch) while the third was at the western end of that forest. The Aachen sector was rather quiet on September 19. Early in the morning, the 116.-PD reported increased American reconnaissance activity northwest of Rothe Erde, but aside from that the Americans artillery limited themselves to harassing fire against the German MLR and rear areas for the remainder of the day. All day on September 19 the fate of the 12.-ID counterattack, planned for the morrow, hung in the balance. For one thing, the division faced a serious ammunition shortage. Delivery of at least 6,100 rounds of 105-MM ammunition was essential before the division could carry out its projected attack. Since LXXXI Corps was unable to supply this ammunition, it turned to the 7. Armee for help. The army transport officer reported that an ammunition supply train was expected at Dueren during the night from the 19 to 20 September, but that its contents were unknown.
[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 0200 on Sep 19 44 -]
[- 7. Armee to LXXXI Corps
at 0310 and 0400 on Sep 19 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
It is not clear whether or not this train evetually helped to ease the shortage, since the attack was called off, anyway, and the reasons are complex, involving, among other factors, a change in command at the corps command level
To complicate matters further, the 9.-PD, whose forces were needed to help restore the situation around Eilendorf, was short of fuel. Nevertheless, in the evening of September 19 plans still called for the 12.-ID to go ahead with its attack, although Gen Schack remarked that “the attack by the 12.-ID tomorrow morning will have little success”. In addition to its other problems the 12.-ID already faced a personnel shortage. In the morning of September 20, Col Engel oriented his new corps commander, Gen Friedrich J.M. Koechling about the situation. In stressing the gravity of his situation, Col Engel stated that only 400 men of the 89.-Grenadier-Regt were still available for the defense of the sector east of Stolberg. One engineer company of the 12.-ID, intended to close the gap near Duffenter (American salient at Hochwegerhof) had not arrived and its where-abouts were still unknown.
[- On September 20 1944, Gen Schack was relieved as commander of the LXXXI Corps (in connection with the Schwerin affair) and was replaced by Gen Koechling -]
In view of the critical operational and logistical situation the new corps commander countermanded Gen Schack’s order for a large-scale 12.-ID attack on September 20 and stated that, “in view of the heavy losses sustained and the mighty material superiority of the enemy, he will, in the future, order an attack only when it promises more success; aside from that the main mission will be to hold the line and to avoid unnecessary losses”
[- Gen Koechling to Col Engel
at 0700 on Sep 20 44, LXXII Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
All night long American medium and heavy guns shot harassing fire against the entire LXXXI Corps sector. In the sector of the ll6.-PD an American combat patrol, favored by the early morning mist, attacked the German MLR south of Burtscheid at 0800 on September 20 and was repulsed. Aside from that, action in the Aachen sector was again limited to an artillery duel which lasted all day. Between Muensterbusch and Gressenich the forces of the 12.-ID spent a very busy day trying to defeat American endeavors to envelop Stolberg and to push further up the Stolberg Corridor toward Eschweiler. American operations on September 20 began with an armored infantry drive from Diepenlinchen northeastward toward Werth. Fearing a penetration at the boundary between the 89. and the 48.-Grenadier-Regts, Col Engel ordered an immediate counterattack. This attack, launched at noon on a fairly broad front, succeeded not only inturning back the American attack toward Werth but also in closing the gap between Stolberg and Duffenter and sealing off the American penetration at Hochwegerhof east of Duffenter. The 12. Infantry Division established a coherent front line from the southern edgeof Stolberg – Duffenter – eastward on the Duffenter-Werth road as far as Hochwegerhof – southward to Weissenberg – southern periphery of Gressenich – northern periphery of Schevenhuette. Later in the afternoon American forces embarked on the inevitable daily assault on Stolberg. Again they attacked on both sides of the German-held town. West of Stolberg American forces achieved a penetration at the site of the Stolberg Gun Factory. Driving northward from the Buesbach area American tanks and infantry attacked the Donnerberg Hill, held by one and a half companies of the 12.-Engineer-Bn. The engineers were able to halt the American attack at first, but soon US forces had thrown a ring around the Donnerberg Hill. Two German combat patrols, one from the northwest, the other from the northeast tried to crack this ring but failed. American forces fanned out from the Donnerberg Hill : US infantry attacked from the Donnerberg Hill westward toward Stolberg while US tanks sat on the western slope of the hill spewing fire at the city below. In the meantime other American forces had driven north from the vicinity of Muensterbusch and soon their tanks were plowing up the small vegetable gardens west of the Stolberg factory belt.
[- LXXXI Corps to 12. Inf Div
at 2010 on Sep 20 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
The gardens mentioned were in all likelihood small Victory type gardens cultivated by factory workers and owned communally. This institution is found all over Germany in peace and war and is called Schrebergarten
As the day changed to night, American troops entered Stolberg, and the situation developed into confused, disorganized house-to-house fighting in the city. At dawn on September 21, American armor was observed assembling south of the Donnerberg Hill preparatory to a renewal of the attack. When it came the Germans were ready and stopped the American attack, launched mostly by infantry with some tanks in support, at 0800. Two hours later US forces in battalion strength attacked northeastward toward Duffenter. In conjunction with this drive American troops captured the remaining bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill. With this strategic height in American hands, southern Stolberg was extremely vulnerable to a US assault from the east. In the event that the southern half of the town could not be held, the German forces in Stolberg (9.-PD with attached units) proceeded to establish a switch position across the center of the town, from the Stolberg Mill west of Stolberg cutting across the town to the road junction southwest of Duffenter. The Germans were able to repulse one attack against the southern edge of Stolberg and knocked out 2 US tanks in the process. Late in the afternoon the expected major attack came out of the east, and came so fast that the forces of 9.-PD (Kampfgruppe Volker) in the southern part of Stolberg were cut off before they had had a chance to withdraw northward to the switch position. In very bitter fighting in the streets of Stolberg these elements finally battled their way out of the pocket and joined Kampfgruppe Schemm at the defense line cutting across Stolberg. Half of Stolberg was now in US hands and the attacks, mounting in intensity, continued into the evening. West of the town strong American forces achieved new penetrations in the factory belt while to the east the Americans gained the western slope of the Donnerberg Hill – as on the previous day – and immediately wheeled northwestward to attack the switch position which barred their way into northern Stolberg.
[- LXXXI Corps
at 1120 on Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- LXXXI Corps to Col Engel
at 1530 on Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampferlauf -]
According to the 9.-PD official report on the Battle of Stolberg, September 23 1944, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungender Div., US forces on September 20 1944 had knocked out 8 of the twelve bunkers on the Hammerberg Hill by means of demolition charges and heaviest caliber artillery fire. In most instances the bunkers had had to be destroyed along with their garrisons, which had refused to surrender.
American successes on both sides of Stolberg threatened to envelop the Stolberg Mill – Duffenter Line, and the Germans feared the final collapse of their Stolberg front. Later in the evening the American envelopment (especially the prong west of Stolberg) forced them to withdraw to a new switch line cutting across the northern sector of Stolberg from the vicinity of Schneidmuehle – Atsch southeastward to the village of Donnerberg.
South of Aachen the 156.-Panzer-Grenadier-Regt of the 116.-PD consolidated its defense line on September 21 to free some reserves. The front line of the regiment was re-established to extend from Vaelser Quartier (probably point of contact with 60.-Panzer-Grenadier-Regt) – half a mile north of Hill 321 – half a mile north-northeast of the Steinebrueck railroad station. This move disengaged the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn which was to take over a part of the 12.-ID sector in accordance with the LXXXI Corps orders. In relieving the 1. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt, the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn of the 116.-PD took over the sector from Verlautenheide to the railroad overpass one mile west-southwest of Verlautenheide in the evening of September 21. From there the LXXXI Corps front line continued past the northern edge of the Stolberg factory belt, along the switch position across northern Stolberg to the northern edge of the Donnerberg Hill; from there via Duffenter along the Duffenter – Werth road to half a mile west of Werth – Weissenberg Hill – western and southern edge of Gressenich – nortnern edge of Schevenhuette. The new boundary line between the 116.-PD and the 12.-ID extended, in the combat zone, from Eschweiler (12.-ID) via the railroad overpass one mile west-southwest of Verlautenheide to Brand (116.-PD). Immediately following its relief by the 453.-Replacement-Training-Bn, the 1. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt was moved by motor transport to Eschweiler where it was to assemble for a counterattack, to be launched out of movement with intent to close the gap between Stolberg and Donnerberg. During the night considerable reconnaissance activity took place on both sides. The Germans spotted in numbers of US tanks everywhere and noted much digging and improvement of positions in the vicinity of Hochwegerhof and Niederhof. At 0330, the 12. Infantry Division repulsed an attack by five US armored cars against the Bunker 708 on the Donnerberg Hill. Panzerfaust destroyed two of the armored cars.
At 0730 on September 22, one American armored company (1 tank and a few armored cars) was able to exploit the early morning fog to bypass the Stolberg switch position between Stolberg and Donnerberg and to push north as far as Zinkhuette (zinc mine) and Birkengang east of Stolberg. At the same time, US forces launched repeated attacks with about 50 tanks from the south, southwest, and southeast toward Duffenter and the southern slope of the Donnerberg Hill. After the unsuccessful attempt earlier in the morning to capture Bunker 708, 10 US tanks lumbered up to the bunker and surrounded it. They stayed there for several hours without being able to crack the pillbox. Massed German artillery fire finally destroyed 1 tank and forced the rest to withdraw. German fire was also effective against American assemblies south and southwest of the Donnerberg Hill.
[- 12. Inf Div, at 1120 on Sep 22 44, 12. Inf Div, Sep 22 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Tagesmeldungen -]
[- Off Rpt, Battle of Stolberg, 9. Pz Div, Sep 23 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Meldungen der Div -]
At the same time, US forces launched repeated attacks with about fifty tanks from the south, southwest, and southeast toward Duffenter and the southern slope of the Donnerberg Hill. After the unsuccessful attempt earlier in the morning to capture Bunker 708, ten US tanks lumbered up to the bunker and surrounded it. They stayed there for several hours without being able to crack the pillbox. Massed German artillery fire finally destroyed one tank and forced the rest to withdraw. German fire was also effective against American assemblies south and southwest of the Donnerberg Hill. The Germans who had but 1 Panther and 1 assault gun on the Donnerberg Hill this morning were afraid the counterattack of 1. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt, would come too late to plug the gap. The 9.-PD cried for antitank weapons. This division, which had been promised relief days ago, was still defending the battered ruins of Stolberg as best it could; it took a terrible beating in the process. In only forty hours – from 1800 on September 20 until 1200 on September 22 1944 – the division had lost 841 men, 18 of whom were officers.
At noon on September 22, the factory belt west of Stolberg was once again in American hands. With its last reserves the 9.PD established an antitank defense line facing west and running parallel to the main streets of Stolberg. American attacks at the Donnerberg and southwest of Duffenter continued. In the nick of time the reinforced 1. Bn of the 27.-Fusilier-Regt arrived from its assembly area at Eschweiler and in a surprise attack descended on the US forces which had penetratedto Zinkhuette and Birkengang early in the morning. Attacking at 1300 the German battalion jumped off from the woods east of Birkengang on a broad front toward Birkengang and the village of Donnerberg. Despite heavy American fire the Germans were able to recapture these places rapidly and to continue their attack against the Americans on the western slope of the Donnerberg Hill. Once more the 12.-ID defended a coherent front line. All through the afternoon American forces continued to hurl themselves against the German line, but in vain. Jumping off at 1430, US forces attacked from the south into the city at Stolberg. The exhausted elements of the 9.-PD were able to repulse them in bitter street fighting. At 1700, 12 US tanks renewed their efforts to break through the switch position in the city and achieved a local penetration. But on the whole the Germans heldfast. On that day they inflicted on the Americans the loss of 10 tanks, 2 armored cars, and 2 210-MM self-propelled guns in the Stolberg sector.
While the battle for Stolberg reached a climax in intensity, the central sector of the 12.-ID front was quiet except for a German artillery barrage aimed at smashing US concentrations in the Diepenlinchen – Mausbach area. At the eastern end of the front, however, fighting was as bitter as in Stolberg, with the difference that here the Americans, on the defensive, also demonstrated the ability to stand their ground and to inflict terrific punishment on the attacking enemy. Before dawn on September 22 the 2. Bn of the 48.-Grenadier-Regt had jumped off from Gressenich on a mission to wipe out the American bridgehead at Schevenhuette. Following a thorough artillery preparation the two German infantry companies executed an elaborate enveloping maneuver and attacked Schevenhuette from the northeast and southeast. The American outposts on the eastern perimeter of the village offered such tenacious resistance that the Germans had to kill them to the last man. Upon penetrating the eastern part of the village, the Germans were immediately engaged in such bitter and bloody fighting that they sustained murderous losses. When all officers of the battalion had been killed or wounded, the Germans were forced to discontinue the attack and to withdraw from the eastern part of Schevenhuette, which they had briefly captured. Back in Gressenich the survivors reported that US forces had converted Schevenhuette into a veritable fortress, fully secured by minefields and barbed wire and tenaciously defended by 600 to 700 men.
On the basis of this experience Gen Koechling decided that the gap between Gressenich and the boundary with LXXIV Corps merited special attention. The arrival several days earlier of the 183.-Volks-Grenadier-Division and its commitment in the Geilenkirchen area on the northern wing of LXXXI Corps made it possible to disengage the remaining elements of the 275.-ID and to commit them, somewhat reinforced, to close the gap on the corps southern wing. The 275.-ID (Gen Lt Hans Schmidt) spent the night from the 22 to 23 of September in disengaging its forces from the front and moving them to Dueren for assembly. These elements consisted of about 1,800 men combat strength, 11 75-MM Pak AT guns, 1 organic battery of 105-MM howitzers and 3 attached batteries of 105-MM howitzers. In its new sector in the Wenau Forest the following forces were to join the division : 1. SS-Guards-Company, 1 battalion of Flemish troops, formerly attached to Gruppe Jungklaus, Kampfgruppe Riedl, and the personnel of the 668.-Heavy-AT-Battalion. The 275.-Division artillery was reinforced by the so-called Russian Artillery Group of the 49.-Infantry consisting of 2 batteries equipped with the Russian 76.2-MM infantry cannon and one battery with the Russian 122-MM guns.
[- Having lost its weapons, this battalion was to be equipped with short-range antitank weapons (bazookas and Panzerfaust) until the arrival of new guns. No information is available about the composition of Kampfgruppe Riedl -]
The division received orders to commit its organic troops and Kampfgruppe Riedl in the front line to plug the gap between the 12.-ID and the 353.-ID (LXXIV Corps) while the troops attached from Kampfgruppe Jungklaus were to improve the bridgehead positions at Dueren. The new boundaries of the 275.-ID were : in the north with the 12.-ID – Arnoldsweiler – Birkesdorf – Schlich – Schevenhuette – Vicht; to the south with LXXIV Corps, south of Dueren to south of Zweifall. On September 23 1944, the 275.-ID established its command post at Dueren and occupied its new sector. Late in the afternoon its troops had all but closed the gap, having secured contact with the 12.-ID, but were still marching the Wenau Forest for contact with elements of 353.-ID. The day brought localized fighting in the Aachen and Stolberg sectors, as did the days to follow, but all actions remained inconclusive. The German front, as established on September 22, held against all attacks. The crescendo at Stolberg on September 22 in fact marked the end of the VII Corps reconnaissance in force in the LXXXI Corps sector. The Americans had deeply penetrated both bands of the West Wall, especially in the Stolberg Corridor, but on the whole the Germans had scored a defensive success in denying the VII Corps a decisive breakthrough via Eschweiler to Juelich, Dueren and Cologne. The Germans had both emotional and materialistic incentives for offering such tenacious resistance in this particular area. They were defending the famous West Wall, their own soil and such historic cities as Aachen. At the same time the contested area was highly industrialized and contained many vital war production plants. For instance, a plant in the little town of Weisweiler (two miles east of Eschweiler) produced 40% of the national output of an alloy essential to the entire German steel production. From this point of view also the situation demands that the enemy penetration east of Aachen be wiped out, wrote Gen Brandenberger in a report to FM Model.
[- Gen Brandenberger to A Gp B
at 1100 on Sep 29 44, A Gp B KTB, Anlagen, Lagebeurteilungen – Wochenmeldungen -]
Much of the credit for the German defensive success undoubtedly belongs to German communications and logistics. Had the exhausted elements of the LXXXI Corps which fell back to the West Wall about mid-September been left to shift for themselves, there can be no doubt that American forces would have broken through to Cologne in a very short time. But in spite of the extremely heavy losses the Germans suffered, their situation on September 23 was actually much better than it had been one week earlier. In the space of that week the Germans had accomplished the extraordinary feat of moving three full-strength divisions to the Aachen area. Of these divisions, the 12.-Infantry-Division and the 183.-Volks-Grenadier-Division had arrived and been committed. A third of the 246.-Volks-Grenadier-Division entrained on September 23 in Bohemia with the mission to relieve – at long last – the 116.-Panzer-Division and the 9.-Panzer-Division. This relief was scheduled to get under way on September 23, even before the arrival of the 246.-Volks-Grenadier-Division, with replacement units going into the line. The 116.-Panzer-Division received orders to assemble in the Juelich – Dueren area as Army Group B reserve.
Thanks to the relative quiet in the sector of the 116.-Panzer-Division during the week from the 16 to the 23 September, this division had not sustained any appreciable losses and had been rehabilitated to some extent while still in the line. Attachment of 6 battalions had more than doubled its organic combat strength. There were five times as many tanks and assault guns as there had been a week earlier. The fuel situation, on the other hand, was critical, with division reserves down to about five hundred gallons; as a result division armor and motor transport were nearly immobilized. On September 23, the 9.-Panzer-Division also received orders to disengage its forces but to leave its armor with the 12.-Infantry-Division. The 9.-Panzer-Division, with the 105.-Panzer-Brigade and miscellaneous attached units, had taken the worst beating of all the German divisions in the area. In one week (Sep 14 to Sep 22) the division had lost 21 officers and 1040 enlisted men. These casualties made up over two thirds of the combat strength of Kampfgruppe Sperling (the 9.-Panzer-Division less forces attached to the 353.-Infantry-Division on September 15 1944.
On September 22 1944, the combat strength of the Kampfgruppe was down to 35 officers and 796 enlisted men. These forces were exhausted and suffered from severe combat fatigue, as evidenced by the fact that they abandoned their positions frequently even when supported by armor, and were quite impervious to dire threats from their superiors. The out-standing factor responsible for the heavy German casualties and the shattered combat morale of the survivors, according to German observers, was the murderously efficient American artillery fire. Some units had been wiped out almost completely in three weeks of fighting. Thus, for example, the 105.-Panzer-Grenadier-Bn had gone into the line on September 3 1944 with 22 officers and 716 enlisted men. Most of this strength, 11 officers and 611 enlisted men, had been lost from the 3 to the 22 September, leaving the battalion with 11 officers and 105 enlisted men. The 12.-Infantry-Division had also taken terrible punishment during the week from the 16 to the 23 September. In that single week the division had lost half of its combat strength (from a combat strength of 3800 men it was down to about 1900). According to Gen Engel the heaviest casualties had been incurred during the first two days (17 and 18 September) on the Aachen front. In those two days of German counterattack the 89. Grenadier Regiment had lost one third of its combat strength. The 2. Bn of the 48.-Grenadier-Regt lost half of its strength in Schevenhuette. The heavy losses were due chiefly to the massed and well-directed American artillery fire and to the bloody street and house-to-house fighting in Verlautenheide, Stolberg, and Schevenhuette. In summing up his division’s first week of action on the Western Front Gen Engel writes that the division adjusted rapidly to the different conditions in that theater. He finds the reasons for the relatively successful defense in the high morale and physical fitness of the 12.-Infantry-Division.
Pfc Martin G. Davey (left), of Muskegon, Mich., and Pvt Ora L. Lyons, (right), of East Prairie, Mo., rummage through a stack of 2100 casings left after tank had fired 100 rounds a day for 21 days against a position in Germany. This is one reason for increased shell production in the US. Schevenhuette, Germany, 70th Tank Battalion. Dec 7 1944
Lt James R. Garrett, Haskell, Texas, talks with a Nazi Major who was taken prisoner with others troops during the siege of Aachen. The vehicle carries SS troops and wounded German soldiers. October 1944
Pfc Hoyle E. Lougherthy, Knoxville, Tenn., looks at a warning sign, posted by the Nazis, for the citizenry of Aachen, Germany. The sign means : Take Care, the Enemy could be Listening. October 1944
LXXIV Corps Defense of the Lammersdorf Corridor and the West Wall
Although the Battle of the Stolberg Corridor definitely constituted the VII Corps main effort from the 12 to the 23 of September 1944, this study of the German side would not be complete without an account of the forces facing the US 9th Infantry Division and the 4th Cavalry Group in the Lamnmersdorf – Monschau – Elsenborn area. This sector of the West Wall had been assigned to LXXIV Corps, under the command of Gen Erich Straube. When the VII Corps launched its reconnaissance in force on September 12, the elements subordinate to LXXIV Corps were still fighting forward of the West Wall fortifications. These forces consisted of the exhausted remnants of two divisions, the 89.-Infantry-Division commanded by Col Roesler, and the 347.-Infantry-Division under Gen Wolf Trierenberg. The 89.-Infantry-Division had hardly any organic forces left. Its 1055.-Infantry-Regiment had been completely destroyed in France. Of the 1056.-Infantry-Regiment, about 350 men, were all that remained. The division had lost its entire artillery in France. The artillerymen, engineers, signal and service troops had long ago been absorbed into the infantry. Shortly before the 89.-Infantry-Division reached the West Wall as the so-called “Ost-Bataillon” [East Battalionj of Russian “volunteers” was attached. This battalion consisted of 400 to 500 men, was well-trained, fairly well equipped and possessed 4 Russian 122-MM howitzers. In addition a Landesschuetzen battalion which had done railway guard duty in Belgium was attached to the division. Like all such battalions it was composed of middle-aged, untrained, and poorly armed men. A little later the division also received two companies composed of stragglers and one platoon of military police. The West Wall sector assigned to the division lay in the northern half of the LXXIV Corps sector. The division boundary in the north was identical to the LXXIV Corps boundary with LXXXI Corps, Zuelpich – Schmidt – Roetgen. In the south, the 89.-Infantry-Division boundary with the 347.-Infantry-Division extended from south of Schleiden via Arenberg to about Camp d’Elsenborn. Until the arrival of the 89.-Infantry-Division the West Wall was occupied by the 416.-Grenadier-Training-Regiment (526.-Reserve-Division). This regiment consisted of 1200 to 1500 infantry replacements of all shades of value and fitness.
Its artillery situation was so poor as to appear comical. The regiment boasted 1 German 105-MM howitzer and 1 Italian medium (ca. 150-MM) howitzer. There was only one prime mover to pull both guns. After two days in action the Italian piece ran out of ammunition and from then on served psychological warfare as a “phantom gun”. Whenever the prime mover was not needed for more important purposes, the Italian howitzer was hitched on and dragged around the front to be shown off to the enemy. When the 89.-Infantry-Division took over the West Wall sector, the 416.-Grenadier-Training-Regiment was attached to the division. Intent on building up its strength to two infantry regiments again, the 89.-Infantry-Division maintained the regiment as a unit and later made it organic. On that occasion the 416.-Grenadier-Training-Regiment received the designation of the late 1055.-Infantry-Regiment. In addition to this regiment, the 5.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Bn, the 9.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Bn, and the 14.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Bn were attached to the 89.-Infantry-Division. In AT weapons the division had 14 75-MM Pak AT guns.
[- A Gp B to OB WEST
at 2350 and at 2400 on Sep 22 1944, A Gp B KTB, Operations-Befehle -]
SIB-793 (Neitzel). Col Hasso Neitzel was Operations Officer of the 89. Infantry Division
The southern half of the LXXIV Corps sector was assigned to 347.-Infantry-Division. The remaining organic combat strength of this division consisted of 100 men of the 860.-Infantry-Regiment and 30 men of the 861.-Infantry-Regiment. On September 10 1944 this little band was reinforced by 40 men of a bicycle company. These elements were organized into a Kampfgruppe under the command of Col von Rochow, probably commander of 860.-Infantry-Regiment. After reaching the West Wall, Kampfgruppe von Rochow was redesignated 3. Bn, 860.-Infantry-Regiment, and was gradually rehabilitated to serve as nucleus for a full-strength regiment. Besides these infantry elements the 347.-Infantry-Division still possessed 2 organic self-propelled 150-MM infantry cannon. When the 347.-Infantry-Division took over its West Wall sector, the 536.-Grenadier-Training-Regiment (526.-Reserve-Division) with about 1200 infantry replacements, the 7.-Luftwaffe-Fortress-Battalion, and the Stomach Battalion were attached to the division.
(All officers and men of the Stomach Battalion suffered from ailments of the digestive tract and received a special diet. German testimonies regarding its value in combat differ so widely as to contradict one another)
It also received additional artillery with the 76.-Artillery-Reserve-Battalion (6 105-MM howitzers and 3 150-MM howitzers). In AT weapons the 347.-Infantry-Division possessed 17 75-MM Pak AT guns. The 347.-Infantry-Division may be dealt with very briefly here because it saw very little action during the last half of September 1944. On September 14 Kampfgruppe von Rochow was able to break out of an American encirclement near Camp d’Elsenborn, throw American forces out of Rocherath, and assume command of its West Wall sector. Aside from reconnaissance and combat patrol activity centering around Losheimergraben, the sector remained quiet enough for the division to devote itself to the urgent task of rehabilitation and reorganization.
The sector of 89.-Infantry-Division was the scene of the US 9th Infantry Division’s effort to drive through the Lammersdorf Corridor and gain the Roer River in September 1944. On September 12, the elements of 89.-ID, split up in isolated groups, were committed from west of Muetzenich to southwest of Kalterherberg. Both flanks of the division were exposed but American pressure was so minor that Col Roesler saw no compelling reason to withdraw to the West Wall. On September 13, the division reported that American armored spearheads advancing along the Eupen – Monschau road toward Monschau had reached the edge of the woods north and south of Neu-Hattlich. The next day other US forces pushing north from Buetgenbach in the sector of 347.-ID reached the southern periphery of Kalterherberg at 1100. Elements of 89.-ID established a screening line in Monschau and Hoefen. While fighting began in Kalterherberg, the 89.-ID repulsed an American attack on Lammersdorf. The US 9-ID’s push had begun. Konzen fellin to American hands, and along the Eupen – Muetzenich road American armored units attacked toward the Zollhaus [customs house] at Muetzenich. An American pincer movement aimed at the capture of Monschau emerged clearly, with one prong driving east on the Eupen – Monschau (Ternel – Hattlich) road while the other pushed up on the Buetgenbach – Kalterherberg road. Both drives made progress on September 14. In the evening of the 14 of September American forces captured the customs house at Muetzenich and crossed the German border. US infantry captured Kalterherberg and continued in a north – northeasterly direction toward Monschau while behind them American tanks and armored cars rumbled up the winding road from Kalterherberg to Monschau during the nightfrom the 14 to the 15 of September.
On September 15, the 89.-ID decided to withdraw all its elements to the West Wall. The 416.-Grenadier-Training-Regiment (later redesignated 1055.-Infantry-Regiment) was committed in the northern half of the division sector – Lammersdorf – Monschau area while the remaining elements of the 1056.-Infantry-Regiment were committed in the Hoefen – Alzen sector. The Russian battalion secured the division’s northern flank and boundary with the 353.-Infantry-Division. The Landesschuetzen were committed on the southern flank and boundary with the 347.-Infantry-Division. The Luftwaffe Fortress Battalions were not considered battle worthy and, hence, were employed to man the Schill Line, at this time still well to the rear of the division combat zone. The American pincers continued to close on Monschau. Late in the afternoon on September 15 American forces which had advanced up the road from Kalterberg entered Monschau. While a battle ensued in the town, American armor on the Eupen – Monschau road crossed the railroad tracks east of Muetzenich and headed for a juncture with US forces in Monschau. The town fell to the Americans during the night from Sep 15 to 16, and the 9-ID achieved its first penetration of the West Wall when its forces thrust northeastward from Monschau toward Imgenbroich. Then the Germans rallied to the defense. They recaptured Konzen and Bicierath and reported that they had knockedout one American tank at Muetzenich.
On September 16, the 353.-ID with its sector was attached to LXXIV Corps. In the sector of the 89.-ID the day was uneventful except for an American attack west of Lammersdorf which the Germans repulsed. In the Monschau area the Americans were apparently busy consolidating their gains and contented themselves with continuous and very heavy artillery fire on the German MLR (West Wall). During the night, US forces renewed their attack in the northern sector of the 89.-ID and this time succeeded in penetrating Lammersdorf. In the south American troops entered Hoefen. The see-saw fighting which now began lasted for several days. In the small hours of the morning on September 17, the Germans launched counter-attacks to wipe out these penetrations. In both areas they achieved.
By the morning on September 17, their counterattack had regained the first line of bunkers near Lammersdorf. At noon, however, the Americans renewed their drive north of Lammersdorf with strong infantry and armor and achieved fresh penetrations in the Scharnhorst Line. Another US attack, at Pastenbach south of Lamnersdorf, was repulsed. At Hoefen fighting was very bitter. The village changed hands several times during the day. By evening elements of the 89.-ID had captured the southern part of Hoefen. Their counter-attack continued on September 18 in the morning only one bunker north of Hoefen remained in American hands; by noon the Germans had regained the complete bunker line at Hoefen and had captured 14 Americans. But their success was short lived.
At 1600 on September 18, 15 to 20 American tanks broke through the MLR at Hoefen from the north and achieved a penetration east and south of Hoefen. The Germans were able to seal off this penetration by evening. In the north of the 89.-ID sector two American battalions supported by tanks launched an attack at about 1700 and broke through the West Wall at Lammersdorf, penetrating 3 miles in a south-southeasterly direction to the Kall River valley. There this penetration also was sealed off. The Americans renewed their attack southeast of Lammersdorf at 0930 on September 19 but ran a foul of a German fortified road block established during the night at the road junction half a mile southeast of Lammersdorf. Here this attack ground to a halt. Another American attack at Paustenbach was also repulsed. There the 89.-ID destroyed 2 US tanks and recaptured a Bunker. The Germans noted that the Americans were building up their strength in Monschau. Additional forces including 14 tanks had moved into the town.
[- A Gp B
at 2045 on Sep 19 44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung -[
The Germans were very well informed about what was going on behind the American lines in this sector. In SNSB-793 Col Neitzel gives a rather amusing account of the constant traffic across the German MLR into and out of American-held territory. German soldiers in civilian clothing paid regular visits to Roetgen and Monschau. From the American prisoner collecting point at Roetgen these visitors usually managed to bring back one or two German prisoners of war along with some American rations. From Monschau every move the Americans made was reported back to the G-2 section of 89.-ID.
On September 20, the US 9-ID launched two armored attacks against Paustenbach. The Germans repulsed both and inflicted heavy losses on the attackers. Action in the LXXIV Corps sector shifted to the north where tne Battle of the Stolberg Corridor fanned out southward to draw the 353.-ID and the 89.-ID into its orbit. At 1630 on September 20, American tanks jumping off from south-west of Zweifall penetrated to the monument located about 3 mileseast of that village. Both, the 89.-ID and the 353.-ID immediately launched a counterattack against this salient. The Americans however, were not to be dislodged easily. On September 21 a US tank attack in the woods east of Zweifall threw the Germans back to the Weisser-Veh Creek 1 mile west of Huertgen. A few American tanks reached Germeter. To help restore the situation as soon as possible, the 7. Armee ordered the 341.-Assault-Gun-Brigade shifted from the LXXXI Corps to the 353.-ID. During the night from September 21 to 22, the division intended to move this assault gun brigade, one infantry and one engineer battalion, one artillery battery and five 75-MM Pak AT guns to the area with plans to counterattack on September 22.
[- LXXXI Corps to 353. Inf Div
at 1720, Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Kampfverlauf -]
[- 7. Armee to LXXXI Corps
at 1940, Sep 21 44, LXXXI Corps KTB, Befehle : Heeresgruppe, Armee, usw. -]
[- A Gp B
at 1840, Sep 21 44, A Gp B KTB, Letzte Meldung -]
[- A Gp B
at 0110 on Sep 22 44, A Gp B KTB,Tagesmeldungen -]
The German counterattack to wipe out the first American penetration of the Huertgen Forest apparently did not make any spectacular headway on September 22. On the second day of the attack (23 Sep 1944) the forces of 353.-ID pushed the Americans back to within 3 miles southeast of Zweifall and recaptured one bunker. 3 American tank attacks launched in the Rollesbroich – Huertgen Forest three miles northeast of Lammersdorfwere beaten back. As for the Russian “Volunteers” committed here, the first encounter with US tanks proved to be too much for them. After an appeal by several Russian deserters who rode American tanks into the Rollesbroich Forest and broadcast to their countrymen overa public address system, two thirds of the Russian battalion went over to the Americans in a body. This incident decided the Germans that they were through experimenting with “Osttruppen” [Eastern Troops]. The remaining Russians were moved to the rear where they were disarmedand employed as laborers.
During the last week of September, American combat activity gradually died down in the LXXIV Corps sector. The first American drive for the Roer had been stopped. No one – friend or foe – as yet anticipated the tragic significance which the name Huertgen Forest would acquire in the bloody battles for the Roer River Dams of October and November 1944.