30th Infantry Division – (117-IR) – Malmedy – Stavelot – La Gleize (12-44)


Headquarters 117th Infantry
APO 30 US Army
December 4 1944

During the month of November 1944, the 117-IR (30-ID) made substantial additions to its already voluminous record of victories and successes in the destruction of the German Army. In the great offensive that carried the Allied Armies to the banks of the Roer River, the 117-IR, in the initial assault, carried out what was termed by higher headquarters as three perfect infantry attacks with artillery, tank, direct fire, and other supporting weapons coordinated faultlessly. Although engaged offensively for but a short part of the period, the Regiment captured more than 800 prisoners, large supplies of enemy ammunition, weapons and other equipment.

At the beginning of the period, the 117-IR was maintaining an active defense along a line running from Schaufenberg, Alsdorf to Kellersberg, northeast of Aachen in Germany. Deep penetrations were made repeatedly into enemy territories by Recon elements. The aggressive and highly successful patrolling by units of the 1/117 evoked the commendation of the Regimental Commander.

On November 15, the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star and Bronze Star awards were made to members of the regiment by Gen Leland S. Hobbs, the CG of the Division. The following day, the troops, in a perfectly conducted attack, gained the town of Mariadorf located between Wurselen and Aldenhoven in Germany.

Within fifteen minutes from the inauguration of the assault, this section of the enemy’s MLR (Main Line of Resistance) had been taken. Dense enemy mining was encountered by the attacking force, the Krauts having made extensive use of the wooden box-type (Schu-mine 42, Shoe-mine, also known as the Schützenmine 42) which was extremely difficult to detect. Numerous casualties were suffered while crossing the mine fields and considerable mortar and artillery fire encountered. However, strong concentrations of friendly artillery and mortar fire had neutralized the bulk of the enemy resistance prior the attack. 104 German prisoners were taken during the day’s activity.

The attack was resumed at 0700, November 17, with the 1/117 cleaning out the remainder of the town of Mariadorf and progressing 650 meters beyond the Aachen – Koln Highway against stubborn enemy resistance. Only ground weapons were available for fighting considerable Panzer opposition. Because of the inclemency of the weather a scheduled air mission had to be canceled. The 2/117 jumped off towards Hoengen, and although subjected to severe hostile artillery and mortar fire as well as a fiercely determined infantry, seized the town by 1645. 228 additional prisoners were captured during this operation.

At 0730, November 18, the 1/117 launched an attack upon the town of Warden, Germany. The initial blow was thwarted by powerful screens of enemy artillery and small arms fire, as well as direct direct fire from dug-in Panzers. At 1115, the attack was renewed, but again the devastating superiority of opposing fire power caused heavy casualties and stopped the advance short of its goal. Baker Co 1/117 alone lost more than 70 men in the short engagement.

At 1515, following closely behind an intensive artillery preparation and friendly fire from direct fire weapons, the 1/117 plus Fox Co 2/117, launched a coordinated attack against the strongly fortified town. Our troops rode forward on tanks, 4 men upon each tank. Three rifle companies and 11 tanks approached the city from three sides.

The enemy utilized concrete emplacements, houses as strong points, and with support of at least 4 direct-fire assault guns resisted the drive fiercely. Nevertheless, the key town was seized and cleaned out in bitter house to house fighting. Another 209 prisoners was captured in addition to tons of ammunition and 2 self-propelled assault guns.

On November 19, the 2/117 passed through the 1/117 and attacked southward in the direction of Kinzweiler. Simultaneously, the 3/117 directed an attack against Sankt-Jöris. Mortar and artillery barrages and direct fire from supporting arms preceded the drive in each instance. Both objectives were taken within 30 minutes, as the troops of the 117-IR again rode forward upon the armor. 223 prisoners was the bag for these skillfully executed operations, while our forces sustained only light casualties.

During the balance of the month, the 117-IR constituted Corps Reserve. The battalions alternated in going back to a Rest Camp for well earned periods of relaxation. Reorganization, maintenance and training was also conducted. The training included practice firing with mortar, bazookas and other small arms.

On November 28, Gen L. S. Hobbs again awarded numerous decorations to officers and enlisted men of the Regiment for heroic acts and meritorious service. These decorations included the Distinguished Service cross to Lt Col Robert E. Frankland, Commanding Officer the the 1/117, and an Oak Leaf Cluster for the Silver Star to Col Walter M. Johnson, the Regimental Commander.

Ele W. Pearce
WOJG, 117th Infantry
Assistant Adjutant.

Map by Gene Thorp © 2013 Rick Atkinson



When the enemy initiated its spectacular counter-thrust against the American 1-A on December 16 1944, the 117-IR was in a Rest Status at Mariadorf, Germany. Training schedules were being conducted while the battalions and special units alternated in taking advantage of the Rest Camp facilities at the Rolduc Abbey in Kerkrade, Holland for 48 hours periods. Rockets firing and armored demonstrations took place during the second week.

On December 11, Gen Hobbs presented the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze and Silvers Stars to officers and enlisted men of the Regiment. Additional awards were made by the CG of the 30-ID on December 16 and on the same day, Col Walter M. Johnson, Regimental Commander, departed for London on a short leave. Constant vigilance was maintained by the troops as renewed enemy activity became manifest. The command was alerted frequently to be on guard for hostile aircraft. Two German planes appeared over the Regimental Area during the early hours of December 17, but dropped no bombs. At about the same time, 6 Nazi Paratroopers were picked up in the vicinity of Bardenberg (Kohlscheid), Germany.

At 1140, December 17, the 117-IR was alerted to move southward within 6 hours. The Quartering Party left 2 hours after receipt of the order. Col Johnson returned from Brussels at 1550 and the Command Post at Mariadorf was closed by 1945. Original plans called for movement through Aachen to an Assembly Area near Eupen, Belgium, where the 117-IR was to be attached to the V Corps.

Brig Gen William K. Harrison, Assistant Division Commander 30-ID, intercepted the convoy en route with the instructions to proceed to Malmedy, Belgium and to assume an all around defense of the area without delay. A temporary Command Post was set up for the night at Kettenis, Belgium, and orders issued for continuing the move.

The 3/117 was to lead out at 0230, December 18, preceded by the Regimental I&R Platoon and a platoon of the 30th Recon Troops. Enemy aircraft harassed the convoy with flares and dropped some bombs causing no casualties and little effect upon the movement and by 1010, December 18, the Regimental Command Post had been established in Malmedy, Belgium.

The enemy penetration was then in a fluid state. Forward elements had reached the town of Stavelot, Belgium on the way to Liège. Able Co 526-AIB had been driven from this key objective by superior forces after knocking out 3 hostile Panzers. The 3/117 took up an immediate defensive position around the south-eastern edge of Malmedy while the 1/117 and the 2/117 advanced toward Stavelot.

By 1245, December 18, the 2/117 was in position between Stavelot and Malmedy, dominating the main road linking to the 2 towns and destroyed 3 German Mark V Panthers as well as 2 personnel carriers in 90 minutes. The 1/117 moved into Stavelot and occupied the city by 1520, after disposing of a sizable force of infantry and armor. A counter-attack sustained several hours later with the enemy using 3 American half tracks and 3 US Jeeps was quickly repulsed and all of the vehicles knocked out. The next day, December 19, the bridge over the Amblève River was blown out.

The northern salient of Von Rundstedt’s mighty efforts was contained along this line and the imperiling of Liège averted by the determined and aggressive action of the troops of the 117-IR.

HQ 30-ID 01-1945

Both photos above shows the Headquarters and Divisional Command Post of the 30th Infantry Division in December 1944. On the right, the same building as it looks today in 2019.

Bridge Amblève River StavelotOn December 19, the 3/117 was directed to La Gleize, Belgium. With the 120-IR (30-ID) assuming responsibility for the defense of the Malmedy Sector. The 3/117 proceeded to this objective at 1115. At the same time, the Regimental Command Post of the 117-IR was moved to Francorchamps, Belgium.

After knocking out a Mark V Panther, the 3/117 took up a defensive position in the axe Neuville – Ruy – Moulin du Ruy. Love Co was moved ahead to Roanne. King Co was sent up to Court while Item Co remained down the Valley between Ruy and Moulin du Ruy.

A twilight attack upon the 1/117 was dispersed by artillery fire. The 823-TDB incapacitated 4 German Panzers during the day’s operations including 2 Mark VI King Tiger, while Able Co, 105-ECB (Engineer) destroyed the bridge over the Amblève River leading to Stavelot from the south. This feat was accomplished in total darkness under extremely hazardous conditions. During the night, Able Co 1/117 smothered several enemy attempts to penetrate its line.

Mark VI Panzer King Tiger # 109The following morning, Gen Hobbs authorized the use of the Fox Co 2/120 in support of the 1/117 in case of emergency. Strong forces of German Panzers and infantry attacked the right flank of the battalion, engaging Able and Baker Cos in a stiff fight and compelling the units to withdraw approximately 100 meters. In the mean time the enemy was reported to be constructing a bridge across the Amblève River southeast of Stavelot.

Artillery concentrations slowed up the German advance and demolished the river installations. The Krauts began then assembling a massive force upon the south bank of the river confronting the 2/117’s positions; but, the artillery hurriedly put an end in this threat with a voluminous barrage which inflicted heavy casualties upon the foe. Whereupon, the 2/117 completed the task of cleaning out the remaining enemy troops north of the Amblève River and 2 platoons out posted the area from Challe to Chefosse.
During the afternoon of December 20, the 526-AIB was counter-attacked west of Stavelot and the 3/117 reported strong enemy opposition at the road junction north of La Gleize.

However, with a Task Force from the 3-AD which was attached to the 117-IR at the time, King Co battered down the fanatical resistance of the enemy and reached the outskirts of the town by 1800. The attack was resumed during the night and King Co, with the cooperating Task Force, succeeded in penetrating La Gleize only to be surrounded by the Krauts. Encirclement was averted with a slight withdrawal to the north after the 3/117 had opened the wedge.

My Experience

1/Lt Frank W. Towers, Mike Co, 3/120. In early December 1944, the 30-ID was in a more-or-less static combat situation, with much aggressive patrolling going on, probing into the German defenses in the vicinity of Langweiler, Germany, just a little bit north of Aachen. It was bitter cold, rainy and muddy, and the forward progress was very slow.

We were still waiting for the build-up of supplies, to enable us to make the crossing of the Roer River as soon as possible, and to then be able to continue on. All supplies up to this point were being brought to us from Omaha Beach – 450 miles to the west, so it was a slow process of bringing up adequate supplies, and replacements, to keep a Division in a static position, and yet build up a reserve for future action.

In the meanwhile, all of our battalions not on line, were being sent back to Kerkrade, Holland, to our Rest Center, an ancient monastery by the name of Rolduc. Each battalion rotated at this time, each one for 5-6 days, so everyone had an opportunity to get some badly needed rest, showers, clean clothes and limited entertainment, as well as good hot meals, and to enjoy hot coffee and donuts supplied by the American Red Cross girls.

Upon returning to the front lines again, each company received intensive training in tank and infantry tactics, learning how best to coordinate and communicate with each other, in preparation for the big assault that was to come momentarily. This continued on a daily basis, until Sunday, December 17, when at about noon, the entire division was placed on alert, and was to be ready to move out on a moment’s notice. An unusual way to announce the beginning of a proposed assault across the Roer River, we thought, but we soon found out that the assault by our division had been called off. All weapons, other equipment and ammunition were loaded on our organic vehicles, and other attached transportation that had been provided to enable us to move additional supplies as well as the entire division’s manpower. We then stood by for further orders, to direct the movement at a moment’s notice.

Unknown to us at this time, December 17, 1800, the German Army had struck the day before, in a least likely area in the mountains of the Ardennes in Belgium. This particular defensive line, from Bastogne northward to Malmedy, was held by the newly arrived and green 106-ID and 99-ID.

The rationale being, that this would be a god place for them to get their initial exposure to combat experience, through patrolling and coming in very limited contact with enemy patrols, and further, no one in their right mind, would mount an attack of any consequence, in a mountainous area in the middle of the winter. It would be too confining to the narrow and winding roads, which would be a prime necessity for attacking troops, and to maintain their supply lines and any traffic across the mountains and through heavy woods, which would impede vehicles and troops.
Guess What ? That is right where they mounted their attack !

It must be mentioned here, that the 106-ID and the 99-ID were stretched out over 85 miles of a defensive position, with little or nothing to their rear as reserve troops. They were stretched out there all by themselves ! A big miscalculation by SHAEF Headquarters, and Damned poor US Intelligence !

They had been adequately advised of unusual activity to the front, but it was dismissed as rumor, hallucination and a few other reasons to downplay any reports of activity to the front. How wrong they were at SHAEF, in their evaluation of these reports ! Their plan was to break through, capture some supply and fuel dumps of the 1-A, then race on to Liège, thence to Antwerp, which had recently been cleared and made operational, thereby shortening our supply line from Omaha Beach.

This would have effectively cut off the entire Canadian Army, the entire British Army and the US 9-A. Hopefully, this would allow the Germans to sue for separate peace treaties with each of these Armies, enabling them to end the war in the West, and allow them to devote their full attention to the war in the East against the Russians. That was the Plan.

At about 2200, the night of December 17, our 30-ID was ordered to move out – to where, no one seemed to know. Just follow the vehicle ahead of you ! Soon, we were able to realize, by orienting on the stars above, that we were moving south, but to where or why, was still a big question. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, with some of the men still being awake and partially conscious and listening to the American Forces Network on their radios, there was a break-in on that frequency by our nemesis and rumor monger, Axis Sally, the major German propagandist, who informed us : the 30-ID, the elite Roosevelt’s SS Troops and Butchers, are en route from Aachen to Spa and Malmedy, Belgium, to try to save the 1-A’s Headquarters, which is trying to retreat from the area, before they are captured by our nice young German boys. You guys of the 30-ID might as well give up now, unless you want to join your comrades of the 1-A Hqs in a POW Camp. We have already captured most of the 106-ID, and have already taken St Vith and Malmedy, and the next will be Liège.

Axis Sally was the generic nickname given to female radio personalities who broadcast English-language propaganda for the European Axis Powers during World War II.

These included : (Left) Mildred Gillars : born Mildred Elizabeth Sisk in Portland, Maine, she took the surname Gillars in 1911 after her mother remarried. At 16, she moved to Conneaut, Ohio, with her family.
In 1918, she enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan University to study dramatic arts, but left without graduating. She then moved to Greenwich Village, New York City, where she worked in various low-skilled jobs to finance drama lessons. She toured with stock companies and appeared in vaudeville but she was unable to establish a theatrical career.
In 1929, Gillars left the US for France, where she worked as an artist’s model in Paris. In 1933, she left the US again, residing first in Algiers, where she found work as a dressmaker’s assistant.
In 1934, she moved to Dresden, Germany, to study music, and was later employed as a teacher of English at the Berlitz School of Languages in Berlin.
In 1940 she obtained work as an announcer with the Reichs-Rundfunk-Gesellschaft (RRG), German State Radio.

(Above) Rita Zucca : Zucca’s father, Louis, owned a very successful restaurant in New York’s Midtown district in the 1930s and 1940s, called Zucca’s Italian Garden. Located at 116-118-120 West 49th Street, the restaurant had its own promotional postcards which displayed a distinctly refined setting.
Zucca spent her teenage years in a convent school in Florence and, as a young woman, had worked in the family business.
Zucca returned to Italy in 1938, working as a typist and renouncing her American citizenship three years later to save her family’s property from expropriation by Mussolini’s government. Rita Zucca became then the broadcaster for the Italian sector.

We were stunned, as only then did we have any clue as to where we were going, or the reason for this sudden movement. We arrived at the prescribed destination on the afternoon of December 18, and light defensive positions had already been established all around. Malmedy had not been taken, as Axis Sally had said, and we found that Malmedy had been our objective destination.

Malmedy was in our defensive sector, but St Vith was not, being just south of our sector. However, St Vith had been captured by the Germans. Prior to our arrival in Malmedy, it had been hurriedly occupied by the 291-ECB, which had hastily erected road blocks on the most strategic roads and approaches to the town.

SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper was the commander of the 1.SS-Panzer-Regiment (SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke 1.SS-Panzer-Division), the spearhead which was to attack Malmedy. Due to the many defensive road blocks established by the 291-ECB Peiper was unable to get into Malmedy and then he opted to skirt the area to the south, and make a dash for Stavelot then Stoumont by back-roads. The main incentive for this routing, was to reach our 1-A’s over 8000 meters long fuel depot located between Francorchamps and Stavelot were about 400.000 Jerrycans piled up for a total of almost 2 millions gallons of gasoline. Had they attained their goal, we could not have stopped them, and they would have been on their merry way to Liège and Antwerp. There were no reserve troops in this area to block his advance.

En route through this area, Peiper met up with Able Co, 285-FAOB composed of about 140 men in over 30 vehicles that were passing across the front of Peiper’s advance at Baugnez, commonly known as Five Points Crossroads, as they were en route to St Vith.

Needless to say they were all captured and herded into an adjacent field, lined up, and methodically machine gunned down. Following this, some of the German soldiers walked through the mass of bodies, and any that were moving or groaning, were shot in the head. Thus, this became the noted Malmedy Massacre. This was not the only isolated incident of this nature, in which this type of atrocity was committed. Their reasoning for committing this act of atrocity, was the fact that they did not have the men or vehicles to keep them as POW’s nor the food to feed them, and further, they would impede their rapid advance so that they could not maintain their schedule.

This massacre occurred on December 17 in a field behind a prominent café at the Crossroads, Café Bodarwé, and it was not until January 1 1945 that the uneven humps in the ground – the bodies had frozen in grotesque forms, and were covered with 4-6 inches of snow – were discovered to be US soldiers and were found by men of the 120-IR. A few of these men did manage to survive, one of whom was Bill Merricken, and his story, and the story of others, led to several of the Germans being captured later on, having to stand trial at the Dachau War Crimes Trial after the end of the war.

Later on that same day of the massacre, Peiper’s troops were passing through Ligneuville, they captured 8 more Americans of the 9-AD, and they were executed by a pistol shot.

Some of the most intense and viscous fighting of the entire war took place in this area due to the cold weather, lack of warm clothing, food, supplies and ammunition. Temperatures hovered below freezing during the day, windy and with snow falling on many days, and temperatures running as low as – 20 centigrades at night. During this December – January period, we endured the coldest winter on record up to that time, according to local authorities, and although fighting was severe and continuous, we actually had more casualties from frost bite of the feet and hands, than actual wounds from enemy action.

This required an enormous number of replacements continually throughout these two months. The logistics of keeping us supplied with ammunition, food and replacements, was an on-going nightmare for our Service units.

In order to assist Peiper in the execution of the Plan, the 6.Fallschirmjäger-Regiment (Airborne) was dropped well behind our lines. In this area, on the Western outskirts of Malmedy, one of our men, Pfc Francis S. Currey, engaged a group of German tanks, a half-track and two anti-tank guns, and he single handely with a BAR a bazooka some hand grenades and a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a US half-track that had been knocked out and abandoned earlier as well as a .30 caliber heavy machine gun. He knocked out 3 German tanks, one of which had the fake US markings and US Star on the turret and on the sides, two half-tracks, killed several German soldiers, and in the midst of all of this, saved the lives of 5 of his comrades from certain death, or of being taken prisoner. For this, Francis S. Currey was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the Belgian equivalent, the Belgian Military Order of Leopold II with Palm.

In the meanwhile, the Germans had claimed the capture of Malmedy. The headlines of the Stars & Stripes proclaimed this ! Thus our Air Corps partners, the 9-AAF (we called them 9th Luftwaffe) came over with their heavy B-24 bombers on December 24, and opened their bomb-bay doors directly over Malmedy.

The town had been liberated in September 1944, with little or no fighting, as the Germans were on the run at that time, heading for their defenses along the nearby border of Belgium and Germany. So, Malmedy had been spared of any appreciable damage, and when we moved into the town on December 18, it was a beautiful and picturesque resort town, where everyone was merrily going about their business as usual. This suddenly changed the whole picture ! Malmedy was a total disaster, with the entire center of the city laid to waste. Many civilians were killed and wounded, but we were fortunate in losing only a very few men of our own. Our biggest loss was our Christmas dinner, which was being prepared that day. Spam and bread is what we got ! Three of our Company’s kitchens located within the City, were totally destroyed.

Of course our Air Corps ‘friends’ apologized, and they still could not understand just what went wrong. As they were apologizing, the 9th Luftwaffe was again on its way, to make sure of the knock-out, and they bombed Malmedy again on Christmas Day ! This in spite of the whole city having been covered with our normal phosphorescent panels, to indicate that the area was occupied by our own forces. As I mentioned, the entire center of the city of Malmedy was a total wasteland, and the next day, the Stars & Stripes proudly proclaimed, Malmedy had been retaken by our troops, due to the strong support of the Air Corps, in stopping the German advance through Malmedy.

[…] I drove between these two points frequently, day and night, so it was prudent to find the shortest route between these two points. This led me to an unimproved road up over a hill to the northwest of Malmédy, and through the settlement of Burnenville, situated on the top of the hill. This route saved me many miles of travel and hours of time.

So, on the fateful day of December 24, as I was traversing this route, and was about to descend the slope of the hill down into Malmédy, I heard the drone of planes to my rear. I told my driver to stop right there. We looked back and saw this great flight of B-24 bombers. What a wonderful sight to behold ! I said to my driver, the Germans are going to catch hell somewhere, and he agreed. Little did we know at that moment that their target was Malmédy !

In a few moments, we were appalled when we could see the bomb-bays of the planes open, and the bombs began to tumble out ! It was total horror as we watched the bombs drop all the way down to their target, the heart of the City of Malmédy ! Clouds of smoke erupted from this point, then flames reaching hundreds of feet into the air over the city. I had a small camera with me, and I took a few photos of the planes, dropping their bombs, and then of the city shrouded in smoke and flames.

It was later learned that three of our 3rd Battalion kitchens had been totally destroyed, and about 25 of our men were missing in action, all presumably in and around the kitchen areas, and no trace of them was ever found.

There is some question as to just when this action occurred, as everything and every body was in a state of chaos. Whether this action took place on December 24 or December 25 is questionable, but the fact remains that we were bombed on both days. All of the Company’s records were destroyed in these bombings, so all we have is the accounts written in the history books, and the recollection of others many years after the event.

We cranked up our Jeep, and raced down the slope of the hill, and crossed the bridge over the river on the north side of the city. That was as far as we could go, as there was debris from the bombing all over the streets, making them impassable. People were running around screaming for help and needing assistance. Knowing where all of our medical facilities were located in Malmédy, all that I could do was to direct them to the nearest medical facility, where they could get help.

Upon reaching the Regimental CP located in the City Hall, I found that all of the phone lines were out, and radio communication with the Division was not possible due to the distance and the interference of the hills between the two headquarters. I was delegated to race back to the Division Hqs and advise them of the disaster that had just occurred, and to summon assistance at once.

Almost immediately, as many of the Medical officers and staffs were summoned and dispatched to go to Malmedy to render any assistance possible to our own troops first, then to render assistance to the civilian population as needed. Needless to say that the 105-ECB was dispatched also, to render assistance in clearing the main routes through the city as quickly as possible. It was remarkable to note that, although the entire heart of the city was destroyed, the St Quirin Cathedral was virtually untouched ! Talk about Miracles !

However, we recovered from this disaster rather quickly, as most all of the necessary ground support was almost immediately available, since we were in the midst of the 1-A supply depots, which had been abandoned by them on December 16, 17 and 18.

In another action, in the small village of Petit-Coo, another of our 30-ID men, T/Sgt Paul Bolden, earned the Congressional Medal of Honor. He charged a building housing 35 Germans, under the cover of one of his comrades, who was armed only with a rifle. The Germans had pinned down his company for some time with heavy automatic weapons and small arms fire. His covering comrade was killed by this intense fire, but undaunted, he hurled fragmentation and white phosphorus grenades into the doorway and windows of the house.

He received return fire and was hit by 4 bullets in this action, then, despite his wounds and weakened condition, he charged the house again and sprayed it with a sub-machine gun. He waited for the Germans to come out to surrender, but none came out. Thirty five dead Germans were in the house. None escaped. T/Sgt Paul Bolden was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was presented to him by President Harry S. Truman in Washington, DC in September 1945, after returning home with the Division.

Many more actions such as these two CMH recipients occurred, but were never adequately documented, so those involved in these incidents were awarded 65 Distinguished Service Crosses, and an untold number of Silver Stars.

Finally, by the end of January, the Battle of the Ardennes had ended, and the front lines were nearly back to where they had been when the attack was first made on December 16 1944. Hitler’s elite 1.SS-Panzer-Division, the Adolph Hitler Leibstandarte, had been totally destroyed, and was never able to reorganize and come back into battle, as it had done before.
Around the February 1 1945, our 30-ID was relieved in this area, and we returned to Germany, to nearly the same position that we had left in mid-December, and again prepared to attack over the Roer River […]

At 0800, December 21, the 105-ECB established a road block at Roanne. Shortly thereafter the Tank Destroyers attached to the 2/117 demolished 3 Nazi Tanks which had pierced the right flank of the 120-IR. With all points of direct contact firmly stabilized the enemy endeavored to infiltrate the 1/117 positions by swimming the Amblève River. Baker Co 1/117 sharpshooters picked them off like clay pigeons in a shooting gallery. None succeeded in getting across the river but a few managed to escape the watery grave.

Approximately 150 Krauts were eliminated in this spectacular fashion. Mines impaired the 2 lead tanks of the 3-AD TF McGeorge advancing on La Gleize from the west. The 2 rear tanks were put out of action by enemy fire. Consequently, the remaining armor in the center of the column was wedged in and could not be moved. The TF then attempted to enter La Gleize from the south. Meanwhile, 117-IR’s Item and Love Cos, by an attack through the woods from Roanne, attained Ster and Renardmont after overcoming strong opposition, occupied Parfondruy while heavily engaged from both side of the river and made contact with the 1/117 in Stavelot. The 823-TDB assisted in the operation by knocking out some more US M-8’s and M-10’s which were used by the enemy.

22 V1s Robot Bomb were observed passing over the Regimental CP between 0000 and 0700 on December 22, all of them headed in a north-westerly direction. The 1/117 jumped off early to attack the Chateau des Montis, encountered heavy fire from hostile tanks and infantry, but cleared the town past the crossroads and established a road block while maintaining an active defense of the sector. The 2/117 also defended actively, knocking out a number of German vehicles. The 3/117, less King Co, which had started out of the Chateau des Montis before daylight, was stopped by a superior enemy force, so it supported the attack of the 1/117 and assisted in defending the area.

During the evening of December 22, the Krauts managed to infiltrate in the west of Trois-Ponts. Love Co 3/117 moved into Ster in order to protect the south flank of the regimental line. Easy Co 2/120 relieved the 3rd Platoon of Able Co 105-ECB which had been holding out at Petit-Coo after assisting TF McGeorge recapture the Aid Station at Arrêt de Coo while Able Co 1/117, cleaned the remaining enemy out of Stavelot.

A V1 Robot struck in the 2/117 area but caused little damage. About the Nazi Prisoners of War which have been identified in the killing Belgian civilians in cold blood, Col Johnson requested that photographic evidences be taken of all the atrocities. He then cautioned the troops that the Krauts is not surrendering easily, that no chance should be taken with them since some were dressed in American uniforms and that gas mask were to be carried at all times.

On December 23, the 2/120 which was attached to the 117-IR and Love Co 3/117 jumped off in the early morning hours to clean the woods on the north bank of the Amblève River. The 1/117 and the 2/117 maintained a vigorous defense and engaged in continuous patrolling. Further enemy penetration was held and contained despite fierce efforts by the Krauts to augment its break through.

As the 3/117 was liquidating the opposing force in the woods on the west bank of the Amblève, I&R reconnoitered the edge of the forest between Stavelot and Roanne, picking up stragglers and probing enemy strength. The enemy still hold strong fortified positions in La Gleize and on the hills south of the town. Elements of the 117-IR and the 3-AD tenaciously held their line east and northeast of La Gleize. At 0730 December 24, TF Harrison attacked the town from three directions, north, south and west and by 1030, this enemy strong point was in American hands, along with 300 German prisoners, 200 American prisoners recaptured and large quantities of materiel and supply, mostly American, were seized.

King Co 3/117 was released from attachment with TF M and proceeded to Moulin du Ruy. The 1/117 and the 2/117 continued defending their respective sectors. An enemy patrol struck George Co 2/117 at 1500 December 24, and evidently captured 2 enlisted men. The 1/117 was instructed to mine the bridge to it’s front while the 2/117 had to check for the vehicular traffic moving west to east in its area. Because of heavy Nebelwerfer and direct fire from emplaced tanks the mines could not be laid so the bridge was ordered destroyed. Enemy resistance north of the river was whittled down further and Item Co 3/117 moved down to the railroad track under cover of darkness while Lover Co 3/117 took up position on the edge of the woods.

By December 26, the Nazi bulge in Belgium was firmly hold and the 117-IR had practically wiped out the entire German SS Regiment. Not many prisoners were taken but enemy dead filled the forests, the fields, and the river. In the Regimental Sector alone, 22 Tanks were knocked out, 12 half-tracks, 32 trucks, and seven guns of various caliber destroyed, in 9 fighting days. The balance of the month was spent in vigorous patrolling and active defense of the corridor. A Patrol from the 1/117 swam across the Amblève river and returned with 3 more prisoners.

William A. Buckley
Captain, 117th Infantry
Personnel Officer.

For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Francorchamps 4970
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be

Thank You for your support !

(NB : Published for Good – June 2019)

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