7th Armored Division – (Withdrawal) – St-Vith – December 1944

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After Action Report
7th Armored Division
December 1 1944 – December 31 1944
St-Vith & Vicinity, Belgium

The 7-AD was activated on March 1 1942, reorganized on September 20 1943 and sent to the United Kingdom in June 1944. The division landed on Omaha and Utah, on August 13/14 1944, and was assigned to 3-A. The 7-AD drove through Nogent-le-Rotrou in an attack on Chartres which fell August 18. From Chartres, the Division advanced to liberate Dreux, then Melun where the division crossed the Seine River, on August 24. The 7-AD then pushed on to bypass Reims, liberated Château-Thierry and Verdun, August 31, halted briefly for refueling until September 6, when it drove toward to the Moselle and made a crossing near Dornot. This crossing had to be withdrawn in the face of the heavy fortifications around Metz. The 7-AD then made attempts to cross the Moselle northwest of Metz but the deep river valley was not a suitable terrain for an armored attack. Elements of the division assisted the 5-ID in expanding a bridgehead east of Arnaville, south of Metz, and on September 15, the main part of the division crossed the Moselle. The 7-AD was repulsed in its attacks across the Seille River at and near Sillegny, part of an attack in conjunction with the 5-ID that was also repulsed further north. On September 25, the 7-AD was transferred to the 9-A and began the march to the Netherlands where they were needed to protect the right (east) flank of the corridor opened by Operation Market Garden. They were to operate in the southeast Netherlands, so that British and Canadian forces and the 104-ID could clear the Germans from the Scheldt Estuary in the southwest Netherlands and open the shipping lanes to the critical port of Antwerp, to allow Allied ships to bring supplies from Britain.

thionvile-september-1944


uckange-moselle-river

In September 1944, the 7-AD launched an attack from the north on the town of Overloon, against significant German defenses. The attacks progressed slowly and finally settled into a series of counter-attacks reminiscent of World War I trench warfare. On October 8, the division was relieved from the attack on Overloon by the British 11-AD and moved south of Overloon to the Deurne – Weert area. Here they were attached to the British Second Army and ordered to make demonstration attacks to the east, in order to divert enemy forces from the Overloon and Venlo areas, where British troops pressed the attack. This plan succeeded, and the British were finally able to liberate Overloon. On October 27, the main part of the 7-AD was in essentially defensive positions along the line Nederweert (and south) – Meijel – Liesel, with the demonstration force still in the attack across the Deurne canal to the east. The Germans launched a two-division offensive centered on Meijel, catching the thinly stretched 87-CRS (Cavalry Recon Squadron) by surprise. However, the response by the 7-AD and by the British 8th Corps to which the division was attached, stopped the German attack on the third day and from October 31 to November 8 gradually drove the enemy out of the terrain that they had taken. During this operation, at midnight on the night of October 31 – November 1, Gen Robert D. Hasbrouck replaced Gen Lindsay Silvester as Commanding General of the division.

mark-v-222-overloon-holland-09-44

On November 8, the 7-AD was again transferred to the 9-A and moved south to rest areas in the eastern vicinity of Maastricht in Holland. Following an inflow of many replacements, they began extensive training and reorganization, since so many original men had been lost in France and Holland that a significant part of the Division was now men who had never trained together. At the end of November, the Division straddled the Dutch – German border with one combat command in Germany (in the area of Ubach – Palenberg, north of Aachen) and two in the Netherlands. Elements of the Division were attached to the 84-ID for operations in early December in the area of Linnich, Germany, on the banks of the Roer River. The division order of battle was as follows :

CCA
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion
– Able Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
– Dog Co, 87th Cavalry Recon Squadron Mecanized

CCB
– 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion
– 31st Tank Battalion
– Baker Co, 33rd Armored Infantry Battalion
– Baker Co, 87th Cavalry Recon Squadron Mecanized
– Dog Co, 203rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion
– Charlie Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– 1st Plat, Baker Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– 1st Plat, Recon, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion

CCR
– 38th Armored Infantry Battalion
– Baker Co, 40th Tank Battalion
– Charlie Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
– Ordnance Detachment
– Medical Detachment

Division Troops
– 203rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion (-)
– 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (-)
– 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (-)
– 87th Cavalry Recon Squadron Mecanized

Division Trains
– 129th Ordnance Maintenance Company (-)
– 77th Armored Medical Battalion (-)
– 446th Quartermaster Truck Company (-)
– 3967th Quartermaster Troop Transport Company (-)
– Baker Co, 203rd Aantiaircraft Artillery Battalion

Division Artillery was under XIII Corps control and consisted of :
– 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
– 440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
– 489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
– Able Co and Charlie Co, 203rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion

Attached to the division were the :
– 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– 203rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion
– 446th Quartermaster Trucking Company
– 3967th Quartermaster Troop Transport Company

Detached from the division were the :
– 17th Tank Battalion (attached to the 102-ID)
– 40th Tank Battalion (-) Baker & Dog Cos (attached to the 84-ID)

(CCR/7-AD), commanded by Col John L. Ryan Jr, was in the vicinity of Ubach, Germany, on December 1 1944. The only divisional unit in action under division command was Baker Co 40-TB which was supporting the 84-ID’s operations in the vicinity of Lindern. Able Co 40-TB was holding Lindern with elements of the 84-ID. Baker Co 40-TB was sent in to reinforce it. Due to enemy artillery concentrations on the supply route, supplies were brought to the two companies by means of the Blue Ball Express, an innovation using the light tanks of Dog Co 40-TB to bring up trailer loads of rations and ammunition under the cover of darkness.

(CCB/7-AD) under the command of Col Bruce C Clarke, was alerted to move east of the Wurm River, Germany and to assemble at Gereonsweiller, Germany. The mission was to attack southeast from Lindern, Germany, and to seize Linnich Germany by passing through the 84-ID and 102-ID. The 814-TDB was to support the attack. However, due to the progress of the infantry divisions, it was not necessary to commit CCB.

(CCA/7-AD) under Col Dwight A. Rosenbaum, located in the vicinity of Heerlen, Holland, was undergoing a training and maintenance program pending operations to the east.

December 2 1944
The Division Tactical Headquarters was established at Rimburg, Holland. CCB 7-AD moved east of the Wurm River. This placed two combat commands east of that river, prepared for immediate operations to the east, northeast, or north. At 0115, the elements of the 40-TB which had been attached to the 84-ID, were relieved from such attachment. Baker 40-TB was then attached to the 84-ID. While prepared to repel any enemy counterattacks, the division units continued with training and maintenance programs.

December 3 1944
At 1200, the 17-TB was relieved from attachment to the 102-ID and returned to CCR 7-AD control. Proposed operations to the east were dependent upon the destruction of the enemy-held Roer River dam, south of Düren, Germany. The enemy was capable of countering an Allied offensive in this area by flooding the Roer River valley. This would result in either destruction of the troops in the flooded region or the cutting of our supply lines. To eliminate this threat, Allied air forces made several attempts to destroy the dam by bombing. The first of the attempts was made on December 3. While training and maintenance continued for the division as a whole, various divisional units were in action while under attachment to other commands. Baker Co 40-TB was attached to the 84-ID from December 2 at 2230 to December 6 1944 at 1600. Charlie Co 38-AIB was also under attachment to the 84-ID from December 3 1944 at 2100 to December 6 1944 at 1800. The 48-AIB was attached to the 102-ID from December 5 1944 at 1400 to December 9 1944 at 2400 and the 17-TB was attached to the 84-ID from December 9 1944 at 1400 until December 16 1944 at 2000

During the period, detailed plans were made for seizing the town of Brachelen, Germany. The town was defended by the German 694.Infantry-Regiment, the 695.Infantry-Regiment and the 696.Infantry-Regiment from the 340.Infantry-Division. The attack was dependent upon the destruction of the Roer River dam which would isolate the town. When the dam was broken it would take from 4 to 5 1/2 hours for the crest of the flood to reach Brachelen, and as the dam could not be bombed before 1000, the attack was to be launched the day after the destruction of the dam. CCB 7-AD was assigned the job of taking Brachelen. The plan of attack was outlined in Operations Instructions December 11, 0900, known as plan ‘Dagger’. CCA 7-AD was to move east of the Wurm River after CCB’s attack. Both combat commands were constituted as follows :

CCA
– 40th Tank Battalion
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion
– Able Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
– Dog Co, 87th Cavalry Rcn Squadron (Mecz)
– Able Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– 1st Co, Recon, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– Detachment, 77th Armored Medical Battalion

CCB
– 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion
– 31st Tank Battalion
– 38th Armored Infantry Battalion
– Baker Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion
– Baker Co, 87th Cavalry Recon Squadron (Mecz)
– Charlie Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– 1st Plat, Baker Co, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– Detachment, 129th Ordnance Battalion
– Dog Co, 203rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion
– Detachment, 77th Armored Medical Battalion

CCR
– 1 Squadron Recon, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– Charlie Co, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion

December 10
Col Bruce C. Clarke, CO CCB 7-AD, was promoted to brigadier general. At 1000, CCB 7-AD was placed in Corps reserve.

December 11
At 1500, CCB was released from Corps Reserve and replaced by CCA 7-AD.

December 13
Division Main Headquarters moved from Robroek to Heerlen, Holland, while the rest of the division continued training and maintenance, pending destruction of the Roer River dam and the beginning of the operations ‘Dagger’.

December 16
At 1730, the division was alerted for early movement to the VIII Corps in the vicinity of Bastogne. The Assistant G-3, Maj Moeller, and the CG, CCB 7-AD, left at 2100 for the VIII Corps HQ. Instructions were received outlining the division assembly area as generally between Vielsalm and St Vith in Belgium. Advance billeting parties departed for the new area at 2130.

December 17
Movement South. The Division was alerted to move at 0200. It received orders to cross the initial point on the west route at 0330. The column was on the road when further orders were received to delay the movement one hour. Trouble commenced even before the division arrived in the prescribed assembly area. The east route was cut by the enemy south of Malmédy, Belgium, just between the 7-AD Division HQs (TAC) and the 7-AD Division Artillery, necessitating the latter and all following elements to turn back and place themselves on the west route in rear of the troops already moving thereon. This was successfully accomplished, but resulted in a considerable delay in the arrival of the artillery to its firing positions. Traffic on the west route continued to roll fairly well until noon on December 17, then it was slowed by congestion resulting from the ever thickening stream of friendly troops flowing west and northwest from the threatened areas in Poteau, Vielsalm, Beho, St Vith, Belgium. Towards nightfall the traffic congestion increased, and the 7-AD column which extended from Poteau through Vielsalm, then Trois-Ponts and Stavelot to the north, was brought to a complete standstill. The only troops which had arrived in the Vielsalm – St Vith area were the 87-CRS, CCR, CCB, CCA and the Division HQs (TAC). The artillery, the tank destroyers, the anti-aircraft artillery, the engineers and the Trains were still on the road unable to move.

December 18
By daylight the column was rolling again but was again intercepted by the enemy, this time at Stavelot at 0800. Dog Co, 203d AAAB (AW) (SP) was attacked by fire from the southeast of Stavelot, but successfully disengaged and with the one company of ordnance to its rear withdrew to the north. They finally rejoined the division by circuitous route through Spa and Aywaille.

front-battle-of-the-bulge-15-12-1944

December 17
CCB Goes into Position. CCB had closed in an assembly area near Vielsalm at approx. 1100. Gen Clarke, had visited CG VIII Corps, at Bastogne and had been partially acquainted with the general situation as well as it was known at that time. The Corps CG directed him to proceed to the Gen Allan W. Jones 106-ID’s HQs at St Vith and give that division assistance. At 1200, the situation in the sector of St Vith was critical. The 14-CG (Cavalry Group) was retiring meanwhile, the communications with two 106-ID surrounded regiments, the 422-IR and the 423-IR, was sporadic by radio. To the south, the situation of the third 106-ID regiment, the 424-IR, was more than hazy. There was no physical contact between the units. The CG of the 106-ID urged an immediate attack east from St Vith to take and hold Schoenberg in order to provide an escape corridor for the two surrounded regiments. This was prepared for and plans were made and approved by the Division Commander. However, due to the congestion an the roads, it was impossible to get troops of CCB from the vicinity of Vielsalm to St ith in time to launch the attack that afternoon. In the meantime the enemy had approached St Vith from the east and was only three to four thousand yards from the town.

At about 1530, the 106-ID sent elements of HQs 81-ECB, 168-ECB (less one company) and one platoon of infantry, formerly used as CP guard, to block the road to the east of St Vith. The 106-ID made the 275-AFAB located in positions around Ober-Emmels, available to CCB. During the afternoon, the 38-AIB, first CCR unit to arrive southeast of Recht by the east route; the 87-CRS, first unit to arrive by the west route; and troops of CCB were rushed to the east of St Vith, arrived piecemeal, and disposed defensively by the CG of CCB. When this was accomplished, the CG of the 106-ID turned over the defense of St Vith to the 7-AD at 1530. At 2030, the following message was received by telephone from the S-3, CCB :

Request that CCB liaison officer at Division Headquarters be released and returned to CCB HQs in order to get overlay of CCB situation. Have set up defensive line east of St Vith which is tied in in all areas. These are being corrected at this time. While we have been receiving all manner of reports that there are as many as sixty (60) enemy tanks in our sector, the troops have received comparatively little fire – some small arms and mortar fire on their positions with very few casualties. The reserve of CCB consists of 38-AIB minus one company. We feel that we can handle the situation.

It should be noted that at 1640 the 87-CRS and 38-AIB were attached (Vocal Order Commanding General) to CCB.

(above) An SS-Panzergrenadier of 2. Kompanie, SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment 1, Kampfgruppe Hansen, pose for the SS-Kriegsberichter among the wreckage after the attack against Task Force Mayes, 14th Cavalry Group in Poteau (BE), December 18 1944. (bellow) SS-Panzergrenadiers Berthold Nasse and another grenadier of Kampfgruppe Hansen, Panzergrenadier Regiment 1 LSSAH, run after the ambush against the 14th Cavalry, which occurred early in the morning on the road between Recht and Poteau (BE) December 18 1944

CCR – Arrives in Assembly Area
During the afternoon of December 17, while CCB was thus establishing the defense east of St Vith, CCR was moving by the east route into its assigned assembly area generally south of Recht. There it closed less stragglers at 1500. As the 38-AIB was attached to CCB at 1640, the only unit remaining under CCR control was the 17-TB. The CP of the Combat Command was established in Recht.

CCA – Arrives in Assembly Area
Also during the afternoon of December 17, CCA, which had marched behind CCB on the west route, assembled in the vicinity of Beho. HQs CCA closed in Beho at 1755 and the remainder of the command closed in the new area in the vicinity of Beho at 1905. Due to the gravity of the situation east of St Vith and at Recht and in view of the enemy’s approach towards Poteau from the northeast, threatening to outflank CCB on the north, the CO of CCA was instructed at midnight of December 17 to report to the Division CP at Vielsalm and to have his command alerted to move on thirty minutes’ notice after 0700, December 18.

814-TDB – Arrives in Assembly Area
During the afternoon, December 17, the Corps Commander ordered that the 7-AD establish a road block at RJ797944. Upon arrival of the 814-TDB in the assembly area at Vielsalm at 2300, a platoon of destroyers with reconnaissance elements of the 814-TDB was dispatched on this mission. The platoon reached the road junction without incident where it stayed until 1525, December 18, at which time it was recalled. Also the CG of the 814-TDB was instructed to send one tank destroyer company to CCB by way of Beho at first light on the December 18.

December 18 1944
Orders Issued. The Division Artillery was still tied up in the traffic jam north of Vielsalm. At 0300 a field order in fragmentary form was issued assigning troops and missions to each of the major subordinate commands of the Division as follows : CCR : Your comd will have responsibility for defense north sector of the Division zone which include road block established at Grand Halleux. Attched your comd 1/38, 1/33, 1/814 (minus 1 plat), 1 plat/203, 1/87 all effective December 18, 0800. Establish and maintain contact with CCB vic St Vith. CCB : Det your Comd 1/38 to CCR. Atchd 1 plat 203, 1/87, A/814; all effective Dec 18, 0800. Establish contact CCR. Your comd is responsible for defense of east sector of the Division zone to include road block established at Nieder-Emmels. CCA : Your Comd reverts in Division Reserve with normal local security on south. Atch 1 Rcn Tr effective December 18, 0800.

Corresponding orders concerning the changes of attachments were sent to :

– 203rd AAA AW Battalion (SP)
– 87th Cavalry Rcn Squadron
– 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion

At this time information of the enemy was extremely sketchy, the only source being divisional units which had just arrived in the area. The Division Artillery observation planes had not yet arrived. As the enemy was strong on the east and was approaching Poteau from the northeast, and in view of the presence of CCB 9-AD and 424-IR (106-ID) on the south giving protection to that flank, the Division Commander decided to have CCA attack the enemy in Poteau.

CCA’s mission
Take Poteau, secure the St Vith – Poteau road. The plan included having CCB push to the east of St Vith sufficiently to allow CCA to move from Beho via Maldingen, St Vith and Rodt against the enemy at Poteau. At the same time CCR, less the 17-TB still in position southeast of Recht was to establish patrols on the Division’s north flank from the Salm River along the high ground north of Petit Thier to Poteau and make contact with CCA on its right.

December 18
At 0800, the enemy attacked CCB from the northeast and east. Two medium tank companies from the 14-TB, and Able Co 811-TDB, all from CCB 9-AD, were sent north to reinforce the 87-CRS line. By 1100 this attack had been stopped and the line was restored to its original position. At 1200 the tank destroyer company of the 814-TDB which had been ordered forward the night before finally arrived in CCB sector and was sent into position. D Troop 87-CRS, was detached from CCB and attached to CCA in accordance with the orders of 0300 that morning, but it was never possible to send a reconnaissance troop to CCR. At 1530, a second attack, estimated to be a battalion of infantry, was launched against the positions east of St Vith. This attack was repulsed. A readjustment of troops was made at approximately 1600, and the elements of CCB 9-AD, were withdrawn and returned to their parent headquarters at 2130. At 2230 attacks by enemy tanks were repulsed, but continuous noises and troop movements were audible throughout the night.

Combat Command A – Attacks : CCA 7-AD moved out at 1010 from its assembly area at Beho to proceed to Poteau. D Troop 87-CRS, was to remain on the south to occupy outpost positions vacated by the 48-AIB vicinity Thommen, Espeler and Deifelt. Likewise, Dog Co 40-TB and Able Co 33-AECB, remained in positions near Beho and Rogery respectively. As the advance guard approached Poteau, contact was made with a hostile tank. The infantry company of the advance guard dismounted and entered Poteau at 1320. Hostile resistance was strong and at 1530 CCA was still held up at Poteau. At 1600 the Division Commander sent a message to the Commanding Officer, CCA : Imperative you seize Poteau this PM and hold it.

By 1700 the road junction was in our control and by 1800 our infantry and tanks were in Poteau. At the end of the day Poteau was in our hands, outposts had been established, and strong defensive measures on avenues of approach to the town were organized. Nevertheless, there was no contact between CCA and CCR on the west, nor was the road between Petit-Thier and Poteau safe to travel, as it was covered by enemy fire.

Combat Command R – is Attacked
At midnight, December 17, CCR was almost completely ignorant of the enemy situation. Having received increasing numbers of reports of enemy in the vicinity of Recht and information indicating that the 14-CG had been withdrawn from their north, northeast and east, CCR increased local security with all available personnel and equipment. After continued reports of enemy activity, including an ambush 800 meters east of Recht, one tank company of the 17-TB moved into town to outpost to the west, north and east, supported by existing outposts. After an enemy attack and infiltration commencing at 0200, CCR determined that in the absence of infantry attachments it would be impossible to hold the town without great loss of vehicles. Consequently, at 0245, troops in the town were ordered to evacuate to the southwest covered by the tank company which withdrew in a southeasterly direction towards the 17-TB assembly area. The CC’s CP moved initially to Poteau but was forced by enemy action from there to Ville du Bois before daylight. However, the 17-TB remained in its original position southeast of Recht. At 0600, Charlie Co 38-AIB was attached to CCR for outpost duty with the tanks and was further attached to the 17-TB. During the day the 17-TB held its position. Furthermore, CCR established a strong outpost composed of its attached engineers and tank destroyers along with a platoon of Baker Co 23-AIB, and a number of straggler vehicles and personnel which it collected. These troops held their positions throughout the day. The railroad overpass at (724901) was prepared for demolition by Charlie Co 33-AECB, to be blown on the order of CO CCR.

During the day of December 18, two M-16 AAA units, a pair of M-36 tank destroyers, and a reconnaissance platoon of the tank destroyer battalion were placed north of Vielsalm to block the road from Trois-Ponts. Initially under the command of the 814-TDB, this force was attached to CCR at 1500, December 20.

Division Trains – Move West
The Division Trains closed into their assigned assembly area in and near Vielsalm and Salmchateau at 0600, December 18. Due to the enemy threats on the Division’s east, Trains were ordered to move at 1030 to the west and select new positions near Samrée or La Roche, and by 1230 they had cleared their area en route to the vicinity of La Roche. HHQ Co of the engineer battalion followed the Division Trains to the west in order to clear the combat area for combat troops.

14-CG – Is Attached
On December 17, the Division had had telephone communication with the Corps HQs, but on December 18, when the Corps HQs was forced to move, all contact was lost. At 1600, December 18, the Division Liaison Officer to Corps arrived and reported that the 30-ID at that time had one regiment in Malmédy, and that by dawn of December 19, the 82-A/B was expected to be in the area centered about Lierneux. Corps was out of contact with the 112-IR (28-ID), still thought to be south of the 424-IR (106-ID). The only other contact with Corps headquarters was a visit at the Division CP by the Corps Deputy Chief of Staff during the afternoon of December 18. At the time of his visit the picture from Corps’ viewpoint was hazy. At 1345 he informed the Division CO that the 14-CG was attached to the Division effective 1300. This order was confirmed by letter of instructions, HQs VIII Corps, dated December 18 1944. It was immediately ordered to concentrate near Vielsalm, collect its stragglers and reorganize as quickly as possible. It was in an extremely disorganized state and badly in need of rest and a chance to regain its feet.

December 19 1944
Attack Continues Against CCB. At 0930, an attack developed against CCB 7-AD north of Hunningen. The attack moved west and then turned south. Difficulty was experienced in firing due to haze, but by 1300 the situation had quieted. At 1355 the 17-TB with Charlie Co 38-AIB, which still remained southeast of Recht, were attached to CCB 7-AD. At the same time CCB 7-AD was ordered to defend a sector between CCB 9-AD on the right and the Recht – Rodt road inclusive on the left. At 1510 the 434-AFAB and two batteries 965-FAB were attached to CCB 7-AD and placed in position. The only artillery support on December 18 and 19, prior to the arrival of the 434-AFAB, was the 275-AFAB. The Corps artillery observers had left during the night of December 17 to 18. In the afternoon, a conference was held between the CG of CCB 9-AD and the CG of CCB 7-AD. At this conference it was pointed out that CCB 9-AD was ahead of the stream and a railroad south of St Vith and its only exit was through St Vith. In case St Vith should be lost, CCB 9-AD would be cut off. Therefore, it was agreed that CCB 9-AD should withdraw through St Vith the night of December 19-20 and occupy its original zone in rear of the railroad and stream running south from St Vith. This withdrawal was accomplished without difficulty. Close liaison was maintained between the two Combat Commands during the whole period in the vicinity of St Vith.

CCA – Organizes Positions Poteau. In Poteau, the enemy resistance against CCA 7-AD continued to be strong. The CG instructed CCA 7-AD to prepare plans for an attack on Recht and also plans for a withdrawal via Petit-Thier and Vielsalm. Assault gun, tank, and artillery fire commenced falling on Poteau at 0850 and at 1100 a heavy artillery concentration fell on Poteau. However, the situation remained the same, and CCA 7-AD continued to improve its positions. During the afternoon it cleared the woods east of Poteau and established road blocks at Rodt at 1615. At 1730 CCA 7-AD was warned to expect friendly units of CCR 7-AD from the west, and at 1850 physical contact between the two combat commands was actually made.

tank-snow-armored-dec-1944-bulge-belgium

All Around Security Established. In the meantime the Division was receiving all manner of reports indicating the enemy to be on every side. The enemy was reported to be in strength at Houffalize, La Roche, Samrée and Trois-Ponts as well as on the southeast, east, and northeast of St Vith. Hence, Able 33-ECB and Dog 40-TB – elements of CCA 7-AD which had been left on the south flank – were ordered shortly after daylight to outpost Cherain and Gouvy. At Gouvy they found an army ration dump containing 50000 rations which had just been set on fire by army quartermaster personnel to prevent its capture by the enemy, already threatening with small arms fire. Dog 40-TB drove off the enemy and extinguished the fire, which had done little damage, and began the issuance of rations to all units of the Division. Also found at Gouvy was an abandoned army prisoner of war camp containing over seven hundred German prisoners of war guarded by one officer and eight military police. These prisoners were successfully evacuated by the Division. Also D Troop 87-CRS, was relieved of all CCA 7-AD missions at 0800 and directed to proceed at once to Salmchateau, then west, dividing into two columns to the northwest at points 655867 and 576852 with the mission of screening the north flank of the Division rear as far out as the general line Basse-Bodeux – Vaux Chavanne until relieved on order or until pushed back by enemy action. To replace D Troop 87-CRS, on the southeast Task Force Lindsey was created from the 14-CG’s 11 armored cars, 11 light tanks, 6 assault guns, 236 enlisted men, and was placed in positions at Grüfflingen, Thommen and Espeler with the mission of protecting the southeast flank of the Division. In assigning this position to Task Force Lindsey the Division Commander had in mind the lack of depth in the defensive position of the 424-IR to the east. Two other security groups, known as Task Force Hawks and Task Force Wanke, were formed from the 14-CG. The former, with 5 light tanks, 1 recon team and 30 enlisted men established a road block at Bovigny, and the latter, whith 8 vehicles and 80 enlisted men was attached to CCR 7-AD for additional security on the north flank between Poteau and Vielsalm. In addition to all of the above, a tank destroyer section with a reconnaissance section was dispatched at 1030 to eliminate an enemy tank reported to be harassing friendly traffic in Houffalize. This force, however, met with ill fate; it did not find the enemy tank at Houffalize. On the return trip it was ambushed at Sommerain and lost 1 tank destroyer, 3 jeeps, 2 officers, and 5 enlisted men.

112-IR (28-ID) is discovered. Along with the numerous reports continuously arriving of enemy activity in the sector, some vary heartening information of friendly troops was received at about 1030 on December 19. Officers from the 112-IR visited the Division CP and stated that their unit had lost all contact with the balance of the 28-ID, and that the regiment upon the initiative of the Commanding Officer was adopting a defensive position on the southern edge of the woods about one and one-half kilometers south of Holdingen. They knew nothing of our own or any other friendly dispositions at that time. Fortunately, this placed the 112-IR on the 7-AD’s south flank, although there was a gap between the 112 and the right flank of the 424-IR. Effective December 19, 1600, the 112-IR was attached to the 106-ID, and on the following day it was moved to its left so that the gap was closed.

December 20 1944
Task Force Jones is Created. The most significant change in the composition and disposition of troops that occurred on December 20 was the formation of Task Force Jones, commanded by the commanding officer of the 814-TDB, and its disposition on the southern and southwestern flank of the Division. Centered at Bovigny with outposts at Cherain, Gouvy, Ourthe, and Deifeld, the force consisted of the :

– 17-TB (- Able Co)
– 440-AFAB
– 814-TDB (- Able & Baker Cos)
– 2 Plats of the 38-AIB
– 1 Plat of the 31-TB
– 3 M-4 Tanks of the 40-TB
– Dog Co 40-TB
– George Co 112/28-ID
– Able Co 33-AEB (-1 platoon)
– detachment of the 14-CG with 15 M-8 Armored Cars, 5 assault guns, 13 light tanks

A restriction was placed on the employment of the 17-TB by Task Force Jones. It was not to be employed without authority from the Division CG. This task force absorbed the elements of CCA 7-AD remaining on the south (Dog Co 40-TB and Able Co 33-AECB) and Task Force Hawks of the 14-CG. The strength of the enemy and the seriousness of the situation on the south leading to the formation of Task Force Jones was obtained in part from a Lt Col Stone with whom the Division had been in touch for about two days. This officer was located at Gouvy with an assortment of about 250 stragglers, including Ordnance, Quartermaster, Engineer and Signal personnel whom he had collected. He had established a defensive position and said : By God… ! the others may run, but I’m staying here and will hold at all costs ! Stone’s force was incorporated into Task Force Jones. The force, in position by about 1600, immediately became engaged at Cherain and Gouvy and by 1800 was receiving a strong German attack which it successfully repulsed.

CCB – Has Relatively Quiet Day. In the meantime CCB 7AD was having a relatively quiet day. During the night, on December 19-20, some infiltration was reported by the 17-TB at Recht. At 0800, December 20, the 17-TB was instructed to withdraw to Rodt, leaving one company plus a platoon of infantry in position north and east of Rodt to maintain contact with CCA 7-AD on the left. Enemy concentrations of tanks and infantry collected in Walleröde and Nieder-Emmels. Heavy artillery concentrations quieted the threat. At 1145 the 17-TB (- Able Co) with Charlie Co 38-AIB attached, was ordered to Bovigny to join Task Force Jones. During the afternoon enemy columns were reported moving from Medell to Born, and at 1630 enemy tanks moved into Ober-Emmels and forced out a light tank platoon on outpost there, but the forces on the ground to the south held firmly. During the night, December 20/21, approximately 68 men and two officers from the two (2) surrounded regiments of the 106-ID (422-IR & 423-IR) infiltrated back through our lines. These men were assembled in the schoolhouse in St Vith and given rations and such other supplies as they needed. They constituted a reserve for CCB 7-AD, to be called upon when needed. During the night, December 21/22, these men were put into the line to aid in the final defense of St Vith.

CCA – Consolidates Positions. All through December 20 units of CCA 7-AD held and continued to consolidate positions gained despite stiff resistance. The artillery gave support upon request. At 0825 the CG sent CCA a message : Hold your positions at all costs. At 0925 another message : Imperative that you command road leading into Poteau from Recht. In answer to a question put to the commanding officer, CCA 7-AD at 1130 : Can you release one medium tank Co ? If so alert it at once and await orders for its movement, the reply was received : cannot comply with request for one med tk co and hold present position. At noon the elements of CCA 7-AD on the south (Dog Co 40-TB and Able Co 33-AECB) were detached and placed under control of Task Force Jones.

D Troop, 87-CRS. At 0900, December 20, D Troop 87-CRS, which was still patrolling the Division’s left rear, was instructed to contact the 82-A/B, reported to be coming from the northwest, and to notify the CG to send a liaison officer to the 7-AD at once as an urgent situation existed. The enemy route of march was from the southeast in the direction of the 82-A/B. Then, at 1100, D Troop 87-CRS was notified that enemy infiltration was reported moving east towards Samrée and was instructed to contact and intercept the enemy. However, the troop was unable to reach Samrée that afternoon. At 2342 the troops of D 87-CRS, was instructed to contact the 3-AD north of Samrée and arrange a coordinated attack on the town with the mission of recapturing it and the 50000 gallons of gasoline that the enemy had taken from the Div QM there. D Troop, 87-CRS, was unable to contact the 3-AD north of Samrée because the enemy had reached Dochamps.

st-vith-01

December 21
CCB, Retires from St Vith. At 0400, outposts of CCB 7-AD reported indication that a German tank and infantry attack was massing in the vicinity of Nieder-Emmels. Continued noise of movement was heard in Nieder-Emmels and Ober-Emmels during the remainder of the early morning. An attack at 1100 was repulsed at 1115. There was continuous artillery fire during the day. An attack at 1610 east of St Vith was repulsed at 1710. Continued pressure was exerted by the enemy on all section of the line, with the main effort being southeast of St Vith. A coordinated tank-infantry drive finally penetrated in at least three points. The battle continued until approximately 2200 at which time the order was issued to withdraw the center of the line to the high ground west of St Vith. Those elements which were cut off east of the town were ordered to attack through the town or north of it to join the forces which were establishing a new defense line. It was planned to anchor a defense west of St Vith on the still substantial north flank. The center of the defensive line – from Hünningen to the St Vith – Walleröde road – was to swing back to the west of St Vith and establish a line for the elements south of St Vith to fall back through. This was accomplished. All through the night of December 21/22, stragglers were coming back from the troops which had been overrun east of St Vith. Officer control posts were set up on all roads to intercept these men and to send them to the Hinderhausen area. This was done and by early forenoon of December 22, about 150 had been gathered up. At dark, December 21, an enemy infiltrating force coming from the north had worked into Hinderhausen. A light tank attack drove them out into the woods in the early evening. The Division CO advised the CG CCB 7-AD, that he would be reinforced with the 17-TB in the morning if needed.

CCB 9-AD – Requests Assistance. At 0730, morning of December 21, the CG CCB 9-AD, requested that Task Force Lindsey be attached to him to be used in strengthening his right flank. As the Task Force was not employed and had not been in contact with the enemy at all on the previous day the request was granted. The commanding officer of the 14-CG was ordered at 0840 to have Task Force Lindsey proceed at once to Galhausen to assist CCB 9-AD, and to go himself to Galhausen to take charge of the force. CCB successfully repulsed an enemy attack west from Neidegen, and assistance by elements of CCB 7-AD which had been arranged by mutual consent of the two commanders was never given. It had also been planned to send the 17-TB from Task Force Jones to CCB 9-AD, but at 0955 Lt Col Jones was notified that it would not be needed. As the situation seemed to be well in hand Task Force Lindsey was returned to its former mission (1000 – Dec 21).

engr-cbt-bnCCA – Holds Against Heavy Attacks. CCA 7-AD maintained its position in and about Poteau throughout December 21. A strong attack from the northwest of Poteau was engaged with tanks and artillery and was successfully under control by 1330. The units of the combat command were shifted a bit during the day for better defense of the sector. Strong combat patrols by the enemy and by the Combat Command were active during the day, probing each other’s positions. The enemy established a very effective ambush on the Sankt-Vith – Poteau road in the thick woods southeast of Poteau. Before it was discovered, he had succeeded in capturing the occupants of eight peeps and one light tank which he knocked out, including such key officers as the :

Executive Officer (CCA 7-AD)
Liaison Officer (CCA 7-AD)
Executive Officer and Adjutant (48-AIB)
2nd in command of A Co 33-AECB
and numerous others

Upon discovery, the enemy abandoned his ambush and the key road was reopened for friendly traffic. At the close of the day another strong hostile supported by heavy mortar, machine gun, and artillery fire was repulsed at 2000.

CCR – Has Relatively Quiet Day
On December 21, CCR 7-AD had a relatively quiet day. During the morning units of CCR cleared the Vielsalm – Poteau road completely of enemy fire, making the road safe for traffic for the first time since the night of December 17 1944. Active patrolling continued throughout the day, but the enemy was not contacted except in the CCA 7-AD sector northeast of Poteau. Commanding officer, Task Area Jones, was instructed at 0935 to alert the 17-TB for movement to the east to assist CCB 7-AD, but the situation cleared and at 1000 the battalion was released from the alert status. During the morning of December 21, patrols of Task Force Jones entered the towns of Vaux-Chavanne, Montleban and Baclain and met no enemy resistance. Likewise the outpost at Deifeld had no contact with the enemy, but the enemy was still strong in Gouvy. During the forenoon the outpost in Deifeld pushed out reconnaissance along the road south of Deifeld to the intersection at 798746 where it ran into an enemy road block covered by small arms fire. It then withdrew to the crossroads at 777776 and reconnoitered the road net towards Espeler and Durler, meeting enemy road blocks towards those towns. Gouvy was cleared of enemy forces by 1630 and Task Force Jones consolidated on high ground south, east and west of town. The enemy attacked these positions south of Gouvy at 1800 with armored vehicles, but he was driven back by mortar, machine gun and artillery fire.

D Troop 87th CRS – Defense of Parker’s Crossroads
In accordance with orders received the previous night, D Troop 87-CRS, proceeded on morning of December 21 towards Samrée from the east but was repulsed. It was then sent to join the defense of the critical Parker’s Crossroads between Samrée and Vielsalm. The defense of this crossroads had been established several days earlier by a Maj Parker, Executive Officer of a Corps Field Artillery Bn, who dug in the only 3 105-MM howitzers left from his battalion at the crossroads for direct fire purposes. He had continuously augmented his defenses by collecting stragglers, and at 0300 on December 20, the 7-AD sent him two sections of AAA from Dog Co 203-AAA AW Bn (SP), all that it could spare. Later, on December 21, the lieutenant who was in charge of the AAA units there contacted the CG 3-AD at a point north of the crossroads and arranged for the immediate dispatch of two companies of medium tanks to add to the defense. The force held but was sorely in need of infantry. It was apparent that the right flank of the 82-A/B which by this time had formed a line Trois-Ponts – Vielsalm – Regné, would be turned if the enemy were not held south of the crossroads. The 82-A/B therefore sent a battalion of infantry upon request of the 7-AD to add to Maj Parker’s force, which during the 21 and 22 of December beat off repeated attacks. The defenders were finally overwhelmed at noon on December 23.

parker-crossroad

Defensive Circle Must Be Tightened. At 2200 when the CG, CCB 7-AD, reported the situation such that it was impossible to restore the line east of St Vith and hence necessary to withdraw, it was obvious that the Division as a whole might at any moment find itself in a very serious position. It was necessary to pull all elements into a tighter circle. Consequently Task Force Jones, already warned that the 17-TB might be pulled away morning December 22, was instructed at 2230 : hold on east and pivot around on Deifeld. Delay enemy, drop back to Gouvy and hold like grim death towns of Beho, Bovigny. We must have the road. Make liberal use of mines and know where they are. The Corps Commander was informed of the urgency of the situation.

December 22
Corps Orders Smaller Defensive Circle. At 0153 the following order from the CG XVIII Corps (Airborne), was delivered orally by his Deputy Chief of Staff to the Division Commander : Gen Ridgway feels that the enemy forces, identified in the vicinity of Limmerlé is the 2.SS-Panzer-Division. In view of the loss of St Vith he does not consider it safe to hold the 424-IR (106) and the 112-IR (28) in their present positions. He directs withdrawal under cover of darkness in the order 106-ID, 7-AD to positions along the general line Bovigny – Beho – Maldingen railroad. The exact positions on the terrain as agreed upon between CG 106-ID and CG 7-AD. The following towns are to be cleared of friendly troops by 0700 this morning for an air mission : Sterpigny; Cherain; Rettigny; Gouvy; Limmerlé and St Vith. Covering force along this line (generally to the east of Gouvy) is to be left in place to cover the withdrawal.

Enemy Penetrates CCB. On December 22 the enemy infantry which had infiltrated the night before into Hinderhausen, reinforced by tanks, attacked Rodt from the west and got behind the left flank of CCB 7-AD. This required that the left flank of CCB fall back to clean out this force and protect Hinderhausen which was the emergency exit route to Commanster and Vielsalm. This was done and the whole CCB line was adjusted to conform. Charlie Co 814-TDB, was attached to CCB 7-AD and emplaced to support the left of the line where contact with CCA 7-AD had been lost. By dark the CCB 7-AD position was reestablished and strengthened by the addition of the 17-TB (-), which was used to tie in with CCB 9-AD, on the south. During the day all unessential vehicles were sent to the rear. At 1845 enemy tanks and infantry attacked along the railroad towards Crombach. Infantry broke through and occupied the town, necessitating the withdrawal of HQs 31-TB and HQs 87-CRS to Braunlauf. The 17-TB was able to fight its way out the next morning without heavy losses. During the night an effort to obtain a company of infantry from the 424-IR (106) then attached to CCB 9-AD, to counter-attack Crombach was unsuccessful. It was used later to defend Braunlauf during the withdrawal.

CCA – Holds Poteau against Fierce Attack. In view of the urgency of the situation and the paucity of roads available for a withdrawal the Commanding General again instructed the Commanding Officer, CCA 7-AD, on the morning of December 22 to hold his present position and control of the road at Poteau at all costs. The two platoons of Charlie Co 38-AIB, which had been with Task Force Jones were attached to CCA at 0830. They were sent at once to patrol towards the north and east the heavy woods southeast of Poteau, for at this very time it was known that approximately one company of German infantry was encircling our troops southeast of the town. At 0945 a platoon of Baker Co 40-TB, was sent to the vicinity of Rodt to repel an enemy company south of that town. By 1100 that platoon plus one from Able Co 40-TB, were engaging 16 enemy tanks. At about the same time enemy infantry infiltrated through our positions in the heavy woods southeast of Poteau into the vehicle park of the 48-AIB where they managed to destroy several of our vehicles. The remainder were withdrawn to Petit-Thier. Hostile tanks gained control of Rodt, but two platoons of the 40-TB still held on. Beginning at about 1645 the CCA 7-AD units were reestablished on a shorter line extending generally north and south, anchored on the left at Poteau. All contact with CCB 7-AD on the right had been lost. Morale was not good and the combat efficiency was down to about 80%. The enemy did not rest. At 2210 another attack by tanks and infantry with panzerschreck was launched from the east on Poteau, resulting in the loss of two of our tanks.

CCR – Maintains Screen in Assigned Zone. CCR 7-AD had a relatively quiet day on December 22, receiving only scattered artillery fire and very slight contact with light enemy patrols on the high ground north of Petit-Thier. At 1115 the Division Commander ordered the CO, CCR, to send all his tank destroyers to CCA 7-AD and for him to go to CCA, get the situation, and return. Throughout this period telephone communication remained in with CCR and CCB, but not with CCA, with the consequence of an obscured understanding at Division Headquarters of CCA’s situation.

Task Force Jones – is Reduced in Size, Shortens Line. In the meanwhile task force Jones was not too busy either. At 0320 December 22, the 17-TB was ordered to move at once to CCB 7-AD and at 1045 Col Jones was directed to send his only remaining tank destroyer company and every rifleman he could find to CCB at Crombach. These changes rendered Task Force Jones considerably weaker. It still contained the Recon Co of the 814-TDB and a healthy detachment from the 14-CG, as well as some miscellaneous groups of stragglers which had been collected. In addition the 440-AFAB was still in position near Bovigny supporting the force. By daylight the defensive positions had been withdrawn in accordance with orders from the Division Commander to a ling generally from Bovigny to Vielsalm, with outposts 1000 yards behind the two towns Cherain and Gouvy. About noon the enemy began a build-up at Gouvy which was pounded throughout the day with artillery fire. He did not debouch in a heavy attack.

106th Infantry Division – Shortens Lines. To conform with the plan of tightening the defensive circle the 112/28-ID and the 424/106-ID closed into their new defensive positions southwest and southeast of Beho respectively, at 1300, and CCB 9-AD drew back slightly to tie in with the right flank of CCB 7-AD and the left flank of the 424/106-ID. At 1120 the CG 106-ID, sent two battalions of infantry to Crombach to reinforce CCB 7-AD and assist in stabilizing the position. Also to conform to the general plan of shortening our lines, elements of Task Force Lindsey began withdrawing positions at Thommen to the vicinity of Beho at 1120. Throughout the latter part of the day there was strong pressure by the enemy on Task Force Lindsey between Thommen and Beho.

Withdrawal West of Salm River Commences. During the late afternoon and night of December 22, the enemy was pressing strongly on all positions. It was also definitely confirmed that the enemy was in strength along the Salm River from Trois Ponts to Grand Halleux and along the high ground from south of the highway running west from Salm-Château. This meant that the 106-ID, CCB 9-AD, the 112/28-ID, what remained of the 14-CG, some corps troops including some corps artillery which had been attached to the 7-AD, and the entire 7-AD with attachments less Trains, were left east of the Salm River, low on supplies, and completely fatigued by five or more days and nights of continuous fighting, with only one sure exit route, a secondary road running west from Vielsalm, and one probable route, the road Salmchâteau – Joubiéval – Lierneux. The outnumbered troops were not holding well. As the position was obviously untenable a withdrawal was planned. All unessential vehicles were withdrawn at once, followed by part of the artillery (medium), which began displacing rearward at about midnight.

Enemy Attacks – Withdrawal Postponed. As CCB 9-AD was the first unit scheduled to withdraw, the order was rushed to it by a staff officer before it was published to the other units. At 0125 CCB 9-AD was so ferociously engaged with the enemy that the CG advised the Division CO that a withdrawal at the scheduled time would be unfeasible. Consequently the initial time was postponed and the plan was published on the basis of an H-Hour. In the sectors of both CCs : CCB 7-AD and CCB 9-AD the fighting continued without abatement. At the same time the enemy was building up strong forces in front of the 82-A/B west of Salmchâteau. In view of the enemy’s relentless pressure the Division CG radioed Gen Clarke and Gen Hoge of the two CCBs that : the situation is such on the west of river south of the 82-A/B that if we don’t join them soon, the opportunity will be gone. It will be necessary to disengage whether circumstances are favorable or not if we are to carry out any kind of withdrawal with equipment. Inform me of your situation at once, particularly with regard to the possibility of disengagement and execution of withdrawal. Shortly afterwards the enemy’s pressure from the east eased slightly, and H-Hour was announced as 0600. CCB 9-AD, having received the announcement late, actually initiated the movement at about 0700.

CCB Withdraws. The plan of CCB 7-AD was to bring out all the vehicles and troops at Crombach and southwest thereof through Beho to Vielsalm. The infantry company of the 424/106-ID at Braunlauf accompanied them. North of Crombach all troops and vehicles were to come out through Hinderhausen to Commanster then to Vielsalm. A covering force consisting of a medium Tank Co, a Tank Destroyer Co, and an Infantry Co, or its equivalent, was to hold Hinderhausen until all other troops had left and then fall back with maximum delay. All this was done. The 965-FAB and 275-FAB had withdrawn the night before. The 434-AFAB left just ahead of the covering force, giving it fire support as it withdrew under heavy pressure. Due to a frozen road between Hinderhausen and Commanster the withdrawal was facilitated and practically all the vehicles were evacuated. So far as is known no men were left behind. The troops of the Combat Command were originally given instructions to assemble at Lierneux, but later were directed that the assembly area had been changed to Xhoris. The Combat Command was closed in the vicinity of Xhoris at 2300 December 23.

CCA Withdraws. The plan of CCA 7-AD was to withdraw by the northern route beginning at 1530 and to clear their area by 1830 moving through CCR 7-AD at Petit-Thier. An Advance Guard composed of a company of tanks and one of infantry was to leave first. Than the infantry was to withdraw, support by fire and limited attacks by the 40-TB minus. Finally the tanks would pull back, acting as a rear guard. All this was done. The 489-AFAB supported the entire section with prepared fires and smoke. Prior to the commencement of CCA’s withdrawal a hostile attack was launched by enemy infantry at 1035. Artillery and tanks effectively broke it up by 1115. CCA received good air support from 1230 throughout the remaining daylight hours which materially assisted the operation. Support was also received from the 275-FAB beginning about 1400. CCA successfully passed all elements through CCR, which then assumed responsibility for coverage of the rear, and proceeded to its new assembly area in the vicinity of Harzé.

CCR Withdraws. After CCA 7-AD had withdrawn through CCR 7-AD, the latter commenced its own withdrawal almost without incident. The artillery between CCA and CCR cleared the bridge at 1650, followed by CCR, which came out fast. All vehicles having cleared the railroad underpass at P725900, it was blown at 1715, and the final covering force of infantry was withdrawn at 1745. CCR was able to disengage both its defensive positions without committing any forces. One outpost was ambushed by an enemy force of 12 to 15 men who, after setting one M-8 armored car afire by panzerfaust and / or panzerschreck fire and wounding one enlisted man, were ultimately driven off. No other casualties, vehicular or personnel, were sustained, and the combat command closed in its new assembly area at 2000.

Covering Force Withdraws. Meanwhile on the south CCB 9-AD and portions of CCB 7-AD, as well as the reserve battalion of the 424/106-ID cleared successfully, leaving a portion of the 14-CG and Task Force Jones on the east side of the Salm River. Their plan of withdrawal consisted of leap-frogging from defensive positions at : the Beho crossroads (P7581); at Bovigny (P7082) and at Cierreux (P7184). One battalion of the 112/28-ID was to cover the east flank. The withdrawal of Task Force Jones started at 1430 after all miscellaneous elements had been previously withdrawn. An enemy column including tanks was reported moving from Limerlé towards Gouvy and then west. The 440-AFAB fired on the column without results. Successfully disengaging by leap-frogging the several blocks, Task Force Jones proceeded north towards Salmchâteau along the exit route. A few hundred yards south of that town (695860) an enemy ambush destroyed one light tank of the 14-CG with one panzerschreck, and in Salmchâteau two light tanks of Dog 40-TB were destroyed by 88-MM shells either from German Field Artillery or King Tiger Tanks fire. The enemy had come from the east. The enemy was also contacted at Cierreux where Baker 814-TDB, destroyed two Mark VI Tiger tanks.

The column withdrew to 1½ miles south of Salmchâteau at 1700, and the 112/28-ID attempted to clean cut the town with an attack at 1930. Meanwhile a reconnaissance for an alternate route in the vicinity of St Marie – Provedroux was completed. Simultaneously the rear of the column was attacked by tanks from the south and east which destroyed four M-36 tank destroyers, a medium tank, two towed guns and two other vehicles. Six of the tanks were destroyed. The majority of the personnel escaped on foot. As the enemy was pressing strongly, the alternate route was taken. In the creeks west of St Marie an enemy ambush destroyed two armored cars and three ¼-tons. At (865692) two Mark IV tanks attacked the column, destroying two more armored cars and three ¼-tons. Part of the column attempted to move towards Provedroux and met an enemy column of unknown strength, losing one armored car. The balance of the vehicles negotiated the creeks (two ¼-tons and one armored car mired and abandoned) and moved on road north from St Marie until they reached the road Salmchâteau – Sart where contact was made with the outpost line of the 82-A/B. From there the force proceeded safely to its assembly area.

Action at Manhay. The successful withdrawal from the region to the east of the Salm River was hardly completed when, on the evening of December 23, the Division Commander was called to the XVIII Corps (Airborne) HQs. Here he was informed of the threat of the 2.SS-Panzerdivision coming up the road towards Manhay, between the positions of the 82-A/B and the 3-AD. On December 24, at 0330, Task Force Corbin, consisting of :

– Baker Co 40th Tank Battalion
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion
– 1/Able Co 33rd Armored Engineer Combat Battalion
– 1/Baker Co 814 Tank Destroyer Battalion

was formed. This force moved out at 0700 to defend Manhay and to block the roads leading north-south highway through Manhay at Sur les Monts and Drî l’Cheslain. This force, however, was disolved that same morning when all of CCA 7-AD was committed to defend Manhay. CCA took up positions in the Manhay – Malampré area, south of the road junction in Manhay. At about 1800, instructions were issued to withdraw to a defensive position along the line Grandmenil – Manhay – Drî l’Cheslain. The move was ordered by XVIII Corps (Airborne) at the request of the 82-A/B which felt it was necessary to move back to shorten the defensive lines. The withdrawal was to begin at 2230. The enemy attacked in force almost simultaneously with the withdrawal. The attacking force was composed of tanks and infantry with panzerfausts and panzerschrecks. Charlie Co 40-TB, was lost entirely and the enemy inflicted other heavy losses. The enemy continued on into Manhay. CCA, fell back from Manhay and established defensive positions to the north.

CCB 7-AD was alerted at 2400 December 24, to reinforce CCA, and on December 25 it was decided to commit CCB to retake Manhay. The tanks were unable to reach the town, but the infantry did reach the outskirts. The division line was moved forward to better positions overlooking the town. CCA relieved elements of the 82-A/B in Dri l’Cheslain and Vaux Chavanne on December 26 while CCB assumed the responsibility for the western half of the division sector, and at 1500 the 424/106-ID (-3rd Bn) was attached to CCB. The 3rd Bn, (-l Co), 517-PIR assembled in the CCA area, and at 0225 December 27, attacked Manhay. Two platoons of medium tanks from the 17-TB supported that attack. The town was retaken and defended against several counterattacks during the day.

On December 28, the 3rd Bn (-1 Co), 517-PIR, was attached to CCA and the division continued the defense of Manhay. Patrols were maintained south to the east-west road, Grandmenil and Drî l’Cheslain. Contact with the 82-A/B on the left flank and the 3-AD on the right flank was maintained and the defense of Manhay continued on December 29. Plans for the relief of the division by the 75-ID were prepared, and the relief was carried out during the night of December 29-30. At 0410 December 30, the relief of the 7-AD was completed and the division moved to an assembly area north of the line Hamoir – Ferrières – Werbomont, closing at 1230. The Division Artillery remained to reinforce the fires of the 75-ID’s artillery.

December 31 saw the division reorganizing and performing maintenance of equipment and rehabilitation of personnel. December, 1944, was an epoch-making month for the 7-AD. The division’s stand at St Vith brought commendations from Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery.

airborne-in-manhay-1944

manhay-1944-after-the-battle

manhay-1944

For the Commanding General :
John L. Ryan Jr
Colonel, G. S. C.
Chief of Staff

Appendix I
Administrative and Statistical Summary
During the month, the 7th Armored Division had several changes in command. On December 17 1944, it was attached to the VIII Corps and the 1-A from the XIII Corps of the 9-A. On December 20, it came under the command of the XVIII Corps (A/B). On December 26, word was received that the division was released from attachment to the 1-A and assignment to the 9-A and assigned to the 1-A, effective December 22. Within the division there were also changes in the important positions. Col Church M. Matthews, Chief of Staff, became MIA on December 17 and was succeeded by Col John L Ryan Jr, who had commanded CCR. Col Fred W. Warren became Acting Commanding Officer of CCR until December 28, when Col Francis P. Tompkins assumed the command. The 7-AD’s losses, both in personnel and equipment, were the highest in December of all of the months in combat. During the period December 17-30 alone, the losses were 231 combat vehicles and 165 general purpose vehicles. A partial breakdown of the month’s losses includes the following :

Medium tanks 72
Light tanks 31
Armored Cars, M-8 25
Halftracks 75
Howitzers, M-7/105-MM 2
Howitzers, M-8/75-MM 7

Personnel losses of the division and attached units for the month are as follows : Killed and Died of Wounds 61; Wounded 518; Missing 747; Non-battle casualties 654.

During the period December 1 to December 31 1944, the Division used the following amount of supplies :

206913 gal. fuel
4102 gal. oil
5360 lbs. grease
980 tons rations
310085 gal. water
Cal .30, all types 596074
Cal .45, Ball 52200
Cal .50, MG 79840
37-MM Gun, all types 2160
57-MM Gun, all types 340
60-MM Mortar, all types 2798
75-MM Gun, all types 1674
75-MM How, all types 159
76-MM Gun, all types 1821
81-MM Mortar, all types 3191
90-MM Gun, all types 1244
105-MM, How, all types 53198
3″ Gun, all types 161
Mines, HE, AT, M1A1 3680
Grenades, all types 2925
Rockets, HE, AT 1060
2″ Mortar, Smoke 90
Flares, Trip 200
TNT 2500 lbs

Troop Assignments & Code Names
December 17 0300 – March South

CCA
– 40th Tank Battalion (Wordy)
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion (Worse)
– A Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
CCB
– 31st Tank Battalion (Wyoming)*
– 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (Wolf)
– B Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
CCR
– 17th Tank Battalion (Wrapper)
– 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (Woody)
Div Arty
– 489th Armored Artillery Battalion (Wow)
– 440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Woven)
– A & C Companies, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
Div Trs
– Division Headquarters (Workshop)*
– 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(Wonder)*
Div Hq
– 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(Wonder)*
– 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion(-)(Worker)
– 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(-)(Highdeed)
– 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
Div Tns
– 129th Armored Ordnance Battalion (Wopper)
– 77th Armored Medical Battalion (Wounded)
– 446th QM Truck Company (?)
– 3967th QM Truck Company (2)
– B Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)

December 17 2400

CCA
– 40th Tank Battalion (Wordy)
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion (Worse)
– A Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
CCB
– 31st Tank Battalion (Wyoming)*
– 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (Wolf)
– 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (Woody)
– B Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
– 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
CCR
– 17th Tank Battalion (Wrapper)
Div Arty
– 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Wooten/Wotten)
– 440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Woven)
– 489th Armored Artillery Battalion (Wow)
– A & C Companies, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
Div Trs
– Division Headquarters (Workshop)*
– 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (-) (Worker)
– 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(Wonder)*
– 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(-)(Highdeed)
– 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
Div Tns
– 129th Armored Ordnance Battalion (Wopper)
– 77th Armored Medical Battalion (Wounded)
– 446th QM Truck Company (?)
– 3967th QM Truck Company (2)
– B Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)

December 18 2400

CCA
– 40th Tank Battalion (Wordy)
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion (Worse)
– A Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
– D Troop 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(Wonder)*
CCB
– 31st Tank Battalion (-)(Wyoming)*
– 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (-)(Wolf)
– 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (-)(Woody)
– B Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
– 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(-)(Wonder)*
– 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
– A Company, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 1 Plat Rcn, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
CCR
– 17th Tank Battalion (Wrapper)
– C Company, – 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (Woody)
– C Company, – 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (-) (Worker)
– B Company (-) 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 1 Plat Rcn, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 1 Bn, 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (Wolf)
– 1/1, 31st Tank Battalion (Wyoming)*

Div Arty
– 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Wooten/Wotten)
– 440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Woven)
– A & C Companies, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
– 489th Armored Artillery Battalion (Wow)
Div Trs
– Division Headquarters (Workshop)*
– 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (-) (Worker)
– 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(-)(Highdeed)
– 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 14th Cavalry Group (-)
Div Tns
– 129th Armored Ordnance Battalion (Wopper)
– 77th Armored Medical Battalion (Wounded)
– 446th QM Truck Company (?)
– 3967th QM Truck Company (2)
– B Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)

December 21 2400

CCA
– 40th Tank Battalion (Wordy)
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion (Worse)
– A Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
– D Troop 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(Wonder)*
CCB
– 31st Tank Battalion (-)(Wyoming)*
– 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (-)(Wolf)
– 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (-)(Woody)
– B Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
– 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(-)(Wonder)*
– 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
– A Company, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 1 Plat Rcn, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
CCR
– 17th Tank Battalion (Wrapper)
– C Company, – 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (Woody)
– C Company, – 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (-) (Worker)
– B Company (-) 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 1 Plat Rcn, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 1 Bn, 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (Wolf)
– 1/1, 31st Tank Battalion (Wyoming)*

Div Arty
– 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Wooten/Wotten)
– 440th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Woven)
– A & C Companies, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
– 489th Armored Artillery Battalion (Wow)
Div Trs
– Division Headquarters (Workshop)*
– 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (-) (Worker)
– 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(-)(Highdeed)
– 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– 14th Cavalry Group (-)
Div Tns
– 129th Armored Ordnance Battalion (Wopper)
– 77th Armored Medical Battalion (Wounded)
– 446th QM Truck Company (?)
– 3967th QM Truck Company (2)
– B Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)

December 22 2400

CCA
– 40th Tank Battalion (- 3 Tanks)(Wordy)
– 48th Armored Infantry Battalion (Worse)
– A Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
– C Company, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (Woody)
– B Company, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
CCB
– 31st Tank Battalion (-)(Wyoming)*
– 17th Tank Battalion (-)(Wrapper)
– 23rd Armored Infantry Battalion (-)(Wolf)
– 38th Armored Infantry Battalion (-)(Woody)
– B Company, 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (Worker)
– 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(-)(Wonder)*
– 434th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (Wooten/Wotten)
– 1 Sec/C Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
– 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
– 965th Field Artillery Battalion (-)
– A Company, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
– C Company, 814th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Herald/Harold)
CCR
– Task Force Wanke
– 17th Tank Battalion (-)(Wrapper)
– 14th Cavalry Group (-)
– 1 Sec/D Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
Div Arty
– A Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
– C Company (-), 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
– 489th Armored Artillery Battalion (Wow)
Div Trs
– Division Headquarters (Workshop)*
– 33rd Armored Engineer Battalion (-) (Worker)
– 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(-)(Highdeed)
– D Troop, 87th Cav Rcn Squadron (Mechanized)(Wonder)*
– 14th Cavalry Group (-)
Div Tns
– 129th Armored Ordnance Battalion (Wopper)
– 77th Armored Medical Battalion (Wounded)
– 446th QM Truck Company (?)
– 3967th QM Truck Company (2)
– B Company, 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)
– D Company (-), 203rd AAAAW Bn (Self-Propelled)(Highdeed)



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