Radically upgraded for the Ardennes Offensive (Operation Wacht am Rhein) to provide Gen d. Panzertruppen Hasso von Manteuffel’s 5. Panzer Armee with additional firepower, the Führer Begleit Brigade was formed from elements of the Führer Begleit Abteilung, Panzer Korps Großdeutschland, Hitler’s personal army guard detail, and the mobile artillery from Hitler’s Wolfschanze Headquarters. This unit was placed under the command of Oberst (Colonel) Ernst Otto Fritz Remer as a reward for his successfully foiling a critical part of the July Stauffenberg assassination plot aimed at Hitler and the Nazi leadership. The new Combat Group was essentially a restructured tank brigade, with units created from whatever excess personnel were available. Its combat strength included long barrelled Panzer IVs and the turret less assault guns of the Sturmgeschütz Abteilung 200, two organic Panzer Grenadier battalions, the 928. Bicyclist Battalion, and a self-propelled artillery battalion with 105-MM Wespe and 150-MM Hummel artillery pieces.
Führer Begleit Brigade
Ardennes Offensive, Belgium
December 16 1944 – January 26 1945
Generalmajor Otto Ernst Remer
This document is transcribed from the copies in the collection of the US Military History Institute, Carlisle Barrack, Pennsylvania, #D739 F6713 #B-592 & #D739 F6713 #B-838. These two separate documents are really Part I and Part II of the Generalmajor (Maj Gen) Otto Ernst Remer’s account of the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade (Fuehrer Escort Brigade) during the Ardennes Offensive. They are manuscripts B-592 and B-838 of the Foreign Military Studies series that was compiled after World War II. The transcription was made and edited by Wesley Johnston, son of Walter Johnston of the Antitank Platoon, B Company, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion, 7th Armored Division. Translated from German to English by Charles E. Weber. (MS # B-592/Remer, Otto Ernst, Gen Maj, Allendorf, Germany – May 11 1947)
During the first part of September 1944, I received the order, from the Führer’s Headquarter in Rastenburg, to take over one Fusilier Regiment from the Großdeutschland Division. Following the same order, I had to organize a combat force, later known as the Fuehrer Begleit Brigade, a Brigade which was to take over the defense of headquarters which could be located as far as 100 KMs behind the front. At this time, it was supposed that an Allied air landing unit of 2 to 3 Airborne Divisions was planned to be dropped on the German General Headquarters. This Fuehrer Begleit Brigade, existing at that time, was too weak for such a task. Besides, my force, which was to be organized, was to be used as a mobile operational reserve within the so-called fortress of Loetzen (East Prussia) for engagements outside the limits of the fortress.
To accomplish this mission, I enlarged and formed my force – taking into consideration the units already available there and as follows :
Fuehrer Signal Battalion (internal operations headquarters)
Fuehrer Air Signal Battalion (aircraft warning service)
Fuehrer Antiaircraft Regiment Hermann Goering, with 14 batteries (for active air defense and ground artillery fighting)
Fuehrer Escort Regiment with three battalions :
– 1 Armored personnel carrier bn (5 companies with armored personnel carriers)
– 1 Mobile bn (4 light and 1 heavy company loaded on amphibian Volkswagens and Steyr command cars)
– 1 Heavy bn with :
— 1 Tank company
— 1 Assault gun company
— 1 Antiaircraft company
— 1 Combat engineer company
— 1 Armored reconnaissance company
828 Battalion, on special assignment
829 Battalion, on special assignment
N.B. Both battalions, 828 and 829 consisted of rather old men (Landeschuetzen) and had originally been intended for guarding headquarters premises which had not yet been used
This unusual array was the result of the special task on which this combined-arms unit was based. The various units were equipped with the most modern arms and ammunition and brought up to strength with experienced front-lines soldiers. When Hitler moved his headquarters to Berlin during the second half of November 1944, my mission was completed. I then stayed several more days with my Brigade in the area of Rastenburg. At the end of November, 1944, my brigade was transported by train for commitment on the western front on orders from Hitler. For this purpose, the brigade had to be reorganized in great haste, with the extraction of units it further needed in the headquarters and the addition of new units. At the beginning of December, the following elements of the Brigade arrived in the area of Daun (Eifel) :
Fuehrer Antiaircraft Regiment with eight batteries
Fuehrer Escort Regiment
828 battalion on special assignment
Signal Company (Fuehrer Signal Battalion)
Moreover, the following were added :
Staff of the Panzer Regiment
Panzer Battalion from the Grossdeutschland Panzer Regiment
Assault Gun Battalion (I believe the 120 Battalion, which had previously fought in France and had been reorganized)
Light Artillery Battalion from the 120 Regiment with two light batteries (five guns each) and one heavy battery
One OT (Organization Todt) column and one army column. Both of these already only ready for commitment up to 1/5 [strength]
One horse-drawn bakery and butchery company
One army post office and one workshop company
All recently added elements were insufficiently equipped, in respect to personnel and material, except for weapons and tanks. This was especially true in respect to equipment with vehicles and signal equipment. The staff of the Panzer Regiment did not arrive until two days before the offensive and was so defectively assembled that it could not be used for the time being. The 828 battalion on special assignment did not receive the bicycles designated for it until the day prior to the offensive. The brigade was organized as follows in great haste :
Brigade Staff with general staff officer
Signal Company (1/2 telephone, 1/2 radio)
Military Police Detachment
Armored Reconnaissance Company
Motorcycle Messenger Detachment
Three independent battalions with one armored personnel carrier battalion of five companies one mobile battalion of four companies the 828 Bicycle battalion on special assignment with four companies
Panzer Regiment with one battalion of tanks (four companies of Mark IV tanks) and one battalion of assault guns of four batteries
Antiaircraft Regiment with two battalions, one light [battalion] with three batteries (self-propelled) (one company of 20 millimeter, one barrel guns, one company of 20 millimeter four barrel guns, one company with 37 millimeter guns) and heavy [battalion] with four batteries of six guns [each] of 105 millimeter caliber
Two transportation columns
Army Post Office
Feldersatz Battalion [replacement training] with 1400 men, which had to be organized on orders from Army. It had about 20% strength with respect to personnel and materiel
The shortcomings of this organization are attributed to the fact that I received no regimental staff for the Panzer-Grenadier-Regiment and for that reason the brigade had to command three independent battalions which had been armed and organized in very different ways. The means of signal communication of the brigade were not sufficient for this increased command load. The military police detachment of about 12 men was too weak for an effectual regulation of traffic, especially in difficult terrain. The relation of the heavy weapons to the infantry was exaggerated. An engineer unit was completely lacking. However, the capacity of the columns, which was enhanced by taking usable vehicles from [the rest of] the force, was by no means sufficient for well-functioning supply service. The fact that the small amount of artillery available had no vehicles capable of cross-country travel was also a shortcoming. The few days left before the offensive were intensively used to organize and reorganize the brigade. In addition, the force was trained every day at company level [and] officers of all ranks were prepared for their coming tasks by discussions about the terrain and map exercises. Naturally, the time at our disposal for these purposes was quite limited, especially inasmuch as a part of the added units did not arrive until the day prior to the offensive. Instead, the Feldersatz battalion was excellently supplied with guns and equipment in order to guarantee a good, continuous training.
The Brigade subordinated to the LXVI Korps
The Fuehrer Begleit Brigade was assembled in the area around Daun during the 17 of December 1944. Since the beginning of the offensive, I was at the forward command post of the 5.-Armee in Dachscheid, northeast of Wachsweiler.
December 18 1944
At about 1600, December 18, I received the order to take the brigade to the front from the area of Daun by way of Gerolstein, Buedesheim, Pruem, Schneeifelforsthaus, Poth and Auw in the direction of St Vith. Our mission was to thrust forward in a generally westerly direction by way of St Vith within the framework of the 66.Korps, and subordinated to this corps. The brigade was set on the march by telephone, with the organization ordered. Organization of the brigade was as follow :
Advanced attachment :
One Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
One Light Company on Volkswagens
One Assault Gun Company
Balance of the II Battalion
One medium Infantry Gun Company
One Antiaircraft Company
Brigade Staff with Reconnaissance Company Armored Regiment
II Battalion (Armored Personnel Carriers)
One Artillery Battery
One Antiaircraft Regiment
4 III Battalion (828, on special assignment) on bicycles
While the Brigade set out under the command of the Ia, I travelled the command post of the LXVI Korps, which I encountered in Weinsheim (5 km northeast of Pruem). I found out about the situation there and was to set out with the Brigade by way of Roth, Auw, Wischeid, Andler, Schoenberg, and Heuem the direction of St Vith. For the time being, I was not ordered to attack St Vith, but I was given to understand that the intention existed, now as before, to thrust through further to the west with the Brigade toward the Meuse River after the fall of St Vith. At any rate, the brigade was not to tie itself up with a battle for St Vith. As for myself, I drove ahead on the designated road and did not reach the command post of the 18.Volks-Grenadier-Division in the Walleroder Muehle until about morning. The road of the advance ordered was completely jammed and in bad condition. Travelling off the road was impossible, even for track-laying vehicles. I therefore reckoned with considerable delay of the march movement and reported this to the Corps.
December 19 1944
At the command post of the 18.Volks-Grenadier-Division, I learned that resistance east of St Vith had become considerably stronger. Besides, I saw that this division was still not very extensively spread out along the front. During the afternoon, I commenced road reconnaissance for the purpose of [finding out if there were] possibilities of circumventing St Vith. Because I got unfavorable results from this reconnaissance, I resolved to support the attack of the 18.Volks-Grenadier-Division, set for about noon, with my advance detachment by a thrust on both sides of the road. The advance detachment began to arrive in the Walleroder Muehle about 1200. The attack of the 18.VGD, which was commenced with only weak artillery, did not lead to any success. The armored point of my advance detachment, which had, during this, advanced approximately to the bend in the road north of Pruemerberg, received rather strong AT fire. The Company attacking through the woods south of the road was repelled with heavy losses by very well-placed enemy artillery fire. My impression was that the enemy had already made himself so strong east of St Vith that this place could not be taken from the east by an attack emanating from the [march] movement without a sufficient assembly of heavy weapons. Moreover there was the fact that only the terrain north of the road appeared to be suited for tank attack, but with an unfavorable assembly area west of the Auf der Hoehe Forest, especially inasmuch as the road could be reached only under enemy observation from the bottleneck of the road. Besides the street was so badly jammed that an advance of the armored group would have been extremely difficult.
During the time following, I repeatedly received contradicting orders from the Heeresgruppe, the 5.Armee, and the LXVI Korps, which partly spoke of an attack [against] or a capture of St Vith, partly of a circumvention of the city and a further thrust to the west. I decided to circumvent St Vith to the north, although the road from Walleroder Muehle to Meyerode had been reported to me as being passable only under certain conditions. It was still the most favorable. At the outset of darkness, the advance detachment set out to Medell by way of Meyerode. The assault gun company, along with a grenadier company on foot, which were with the advance detachment, were sent out from Walleroder Muehle to Wallerode. The armored group had begun to reach Azerath at this time, but was very badly wedged in with vehicles of other divisions over to east of Auw. Inasmuch as this road was also used by elements of the 6.SS-Panzer-Armee and was furthermore molested by elements of the American units encircled in the Schnee Eifel (422-423/106-ID) that were breaking out, a traffic jam had come into being that could hardly be disentangled and which the little force of military police belonging to the brigade was not in a position to disentangle. The attack of the elements of the brigade ordered to Wallerode (all together one assault gun company and two grenadier companies) launched at midnight by way of the fork in the road west of Wallerode then, by way of Kninelsberg towards St Vith had no success. Therefore, I ordered a continued march by way of Medell and Born in the direction of Nieder-Emmels.
December 20 1944
The attack launched during the dawn of December 20 by the armored personnel carrier battalion together with an assault gun company, which had arrived in the meantime, lead, after a hasty assembly in the woods north of Nieder-Emmels, to the capture of Nieder-Emmels and Ober-Emmels and thereby to the effect of blocking of the road from Ligneuville (Engelsdorf) to St Vith. A further thrust in the southern direction aimed at taking Sart-lez-Saint-Vith bogged down in well-placed enemy artillery fire to the three battalions and anti-tank fire. I decided to wait for the deployment of the brigade. All attempts to accelerate this [deployment] were frustrated by the extremely difficult road conditions in the woods south of Neurode, where, in part, one vehicle after another had to be towed through one at the time. In addition there was the fact that the lack of motor fuel resulted from the road difficulties and [traffic] jams in the case of the armored group. (An amount was already consumed that was threefold as great as that which was estimated for normal conditions). During the entire day, Nieder-Emmels was under heavy artillery fire.
December 21 1944
I was ordered by LXVI Korps to attack along the road to St Vith from the Nieder-Emmels area on December 21. I had to decline to make this attack as long as the high terrain south of Nieder-Emmels was not in our possession. Otherwise I would have to lead an attack with enemy flanking interference. I therefore decided in favor of an attack in a southerly direction for the purpose of taking Sart-lez-Saint-Vith in order to block office last important supply route and in order to have a solid street under [our] feet again for a further thrust because up to this time the rode and terrain conditions had been my worst foe. The assembly of the II Battalion, which had been brought forward into the hollow just west of Nieder-Emmels during darkness, was harassed for such a long time shortly before daylight by suddenly launched, well placed enemy artillery fire that this battalion was not in the position to move up [and thereby] take advantage of the dawn. Because my heavy weapons, the bulk of the tanks and artillery battalion had still not [been brought] up because of the catastrophic road conditions and because the brigade, moreover, had no support whatsoever, by Corps. I called off the attack in view of the superiority of the enemy artillery.
I reckoned that the brigade could be deployed by about evening. In order not to let the day slip away unused, I put the II Battalion to blocking the main road from St Vith to Vielsalm by taking the advantage of the forests west of Sart-lez-Saint-Vith. Moreover, this battalion was to send other strong reconnaissance forward to the southwest in the general direction of Salmchâteau and to report the information found out about the forest roads leading in this direction. As for myself, I prepared the attack of the brigade against Sart-lez-Saint-Vith from the north and northwest for the night of December 21/22. My plan was the following :
The armored group was to attack Ober-Emmels using both sides of the road hence to Sart-lez-Saint-Vith; whilst the III Battalion was to penetrate into this locality from the area including Tommberg from the northwest, and if possible, to take the artillery positions presumed to be northwest of the locality by surprise. The attack was to be conducted by surprise and without any artillery preparation, however the artillery was to be ready to fire on demand. Distribution of a sufficient number of forward observers to both combat teams. The II Battalion, which had been assigned to block the road, was provided as a possible reserve. Shortly before darkness, we were able to bring the artillery battalion into position, after the guns had been towed with vehicles having cross-country mobility. The III Battalion likewise arrived with its bicycles (pulling them along; they are completely covered with mud). The bicycles remained in Born and, moreover, were not used thereafter during the entire offensive. The II Battalion had reported the blocking of the road from St Vith to Vielsalm during the afternoon in a very boldly conducted undertaking, moreover a further advance in a southerly and southwesterly direction, and an engagement with enemy artillery positions and isolated tanks in the area north of Commanster and Hinderhausen. The result of the road reconnaissance did not sound favorable. Furthermore, one captured unit commanders from the 7th Armored Division were reported who had apparently come from a discussion.
December 22 1944
The armored group (II Battalion, 2 Armored Companies and 2 Assault Gun Companies) was assembled at 2400 in the area of Nieder-Emmels in the In der Eid Forest. The III Battalion reported completed assembly in the vicinity of Tommberg at about 0100. I led the armored group myself. I set out a powerful reconnaissance along the road from Ober-Emmels to Sart-lez-Saint-Vith at once, which reported the northern edge of the patch of woods south of Ober-Emmels was rather heavily occupied and that enemy armored cars had been sighted. It was further reported that the terrain off of the road was not passable at night and that several tanks had already stuck fast. I therefore led the armored group through the bare places in the woods in the direction of Tommberg. Up until daylight, I moved it forward to the southern edge of the forest north of Sart-lez-Saint-Vith with a tedious effort. This was a very difficult undertaking because tanks were sticking fast at every moment in the softened terrain and because the woods were very thick in parts.
At times, one tank after another had to be guided in by scouts on foot. As a result of the continuous noise of the motors, the element of surprise was lost. During the night, the artillery battalion shelled the enemy artillery positions spotted west of Sart-lez-Saint-Vith with artillery fire observed by forward observers of the III Battalion. By taking advantage of the darkness and the snow storm, the III Battalion worked its way even closer to the locality. The moving forward of the armored group during the dawn was delayed by the fact that the four tanks ran onto mines along the edge of the woods which first had to be cleared. In the meantime, the III Battalion broke into the locality and fought ahead from house to house. The locality was stubbornly defended by enemy tanks. Individual combat teams were then stopped by enemy tanks and were temporarily taken into captivity, even the battalion commander. It was not until the attack lunging from the edge of the woods on a broad front was made that the locality was taken and the situation restored. The III Battalion had considerable losses, especially inasmuch as enemy tanks concentrated fire at close range on the many wounded men who were in several cellars.
At about noon, Sart-lez-Saint-Vith was fully cleared and in our firm possession. In total, about 20 American tanks were put out of action or captured, a number was abandoned and was still completely intact and about 50 prisoners were taken. During the day, and during the following night, the locality itself was under constant enemy artillery fire. In the direction of St Vith, contact was made with the 18.VGD and the 62.VGD. During the afternoon, the units were put in order and the many tanks that had struck fast were pulled out. During the night, the II Battalion, which was able to block the road leading to Vielsalm only temporarily, was brought up and the change of position of the artillery was carried out. The abandoned vehicles of the brigade had to be drawn along the way of St Vith during the night because the roads leading from Born and to Sart-lez-Saint-Vith were still not passable.
December 23 1944
At about 0800, the brigade set out with the armored group by way of Birkeler toward Hinterhausen. In this locality several enemy tanks were spotted, apparently rear guards. Hinderhausen was taken with the loss of two of our tanks. Four enemy tanks were shot out of action. The further advance on a broad front on both sides of the Kapellenbusch towards Kapelle led to the capture of more tanks which had got stuck in the marshy area east of Kapelle. During the advance still more tanks which had got stock fell into our hands. In order to take advantage of the success and in order to prevent the enemy from effecting a lodgment, the mobile II Battalion was brought up and it took over the advance guard point after having been given an assault gun company. It immediately went on to Rogery trough Commanster, whilst the armored group assembled and organized itself behind the artillery battalion, which was following the II Battalion. Beho was free of enemy forces. Road conditions on the Commanster – Rogery road were understandably bad. Despite that fact, the direct road was ordered because the bridge 1000 Meters northeast of Beho was destroyed.
East of Rogery, enemy entrenchments were reported. For this reason, the artillery battalion was ordered into a position west of Commanster for the purpose of guarding the advance. After some short struggle before darkness, Rogery was taken. One hour later, we took Cierreux. Weak enemy artillery harassing fire was directed against both localities. I ordered the prompt continuation of the march in a westerly direction off of the main road. Next march objective : the road crossing 3500 Meters west of Regné. During the entire day, I did not receive any report at all concerning the enemy situation and location of the adjacent units. The advance guard reported enemy column traffic in a northerly direction on the road from the Bovigny to Salm Château. I ordered the blocking of the road to the south, south the mill at Cierreux and details to follow just behind the enemy columns in order to gain as much ground as possible without fighting in this manner. However, this following was soon noticed and resulted in the fact that the tank at the end opened fire. I myself witnessed how the two advance assault guns, one after another, put five enemy tanks and two coupled guns out of action one after another by driving 50 Meters ahead each time and shooting off a ground signal in such a manner that the enemy tank was completely lighted up each time and could be destroyed with the first shot, in the majority of cases. Because the enemy column was apparently stopped by the demolition of a bridge, about 12 tanks and 20 vehicles could be captured in addition. The crew scattered into the terrain during the darkness.
December 24 1944
The advance continued by way of Provedroux, Ottré, Langlire, Petite-Langlire and Bihain. At the break of the day the brigade was located about in the area mentioned above. The reaching of this high terrain was difficult for the tanks and vehicles as a result of the icy roads because the winter equipment requested had not arrived yet. I was very much astonished to meet up already with SS units in this area. A further movement during the day was not possible because of enemy air activities, which were increasing because of weather conditions.
Temporary subordination to the 6.SS-Panzer-Armee
The brigade was temporarily subordinated to the 6. SS-Panzer-Armee. A thrust in a northerly direction by way of Lierneux was intended. I wanted to lead this attack astride the road from Regné to Lierneux (by-passing the latter locality to the right) and to reach the road in the direction of Habiémont by way of Lansival. To this end, I secured Regné for myself with a weak armored group. Reconnaissance in force thrust ahead toward Fraiture.
December 25 1944
Subordinated to the LVIII Korps
Shortly before the beginning of this thrust, I received the order from Heeresgruppe to reach Amonines by way of Samrée and Dochamps at the onset of darkness in order to put the brigade at the disposal of the LVIII Panzer Korps. This order was changed at the time of the departure and an advance of the brigade in the direction of Hampteau by way of Samrée and La-Roche-en-Ardenne was ordered. The Ia of the brigade, traveling ahead toward Warizy to the LVIII Korps, was guided in there. The Fuehrer-Begleit-Brigade was supposed to take Hotton and the bridge over the Outhe River on December 26 and to attack further in the direction of Monville, Fronville and Noiseux. To this end, the various units of the brigade received individual orders for the march into the assembly area and specifically approximately in the order of the attack planned for the following day. It was important in this connection to clear the road as soon as possible in order that units coming up could travel into their respective assembly areas, if at all possible, in order to save time. Above all, it was important to get the III Battalion, which had been divided up onto all kinds of vehicles and which had already left its bicycles behind in Born, up forward during the night.
The plan of attack was following :
The II Battalion was to attack to the right along road from Rendeux-Bas to Hamoûle hence Hampteau with the support of an assault gun company and to take the locality. The III Battalion was to thrust to the left through the Hampteau Forest (Bois de Hampteau) and to take possession of the heights west of Hampteau (Sol Hé). The armored group, at the disposal of the brigade in Rendeux-Bas, was, after the success of the initial phase of the attack, to thrust through, by way of Hampteau, either along the road or further on to Hotton between Hampteau and Menil, according to the situation and terrain, in order to take possession of Hotton and the crossing site. The artillery battalion was to go into position in such a manner that it could support the various phases of battle by means of observed fire in very close coordination with the individual combat teams. The bulk of the antiaircraft regiment was employed for air defense because there was no possibility of artillery effect for the heavy antiaircraft battalion on account of its flat trajectory. During the progress of the attack, elements of the antiaircraft regiment were to eliminate enemy flanking pressure from the northern bank of the Ourthe River, especially in the area of Werpin, and to keep themselves in readiness after the capture of Hotton in order to be used to block the road of approach.
December 26 1944
The first elements of the brigade arrived in the assembly area about midnight. About 0930 ending of the assembly and beginning of the attack. Despite the extremely difficult terrain, the attack was successful. Whilst the battalion on the right took the Hampteau Forest (Bois de Hampteau), the battalion to the left thrusted through. I had already given the order to move ahead to the armored group when the Corps gave me the order to suspend the attack at once and to disengage the brigade for the purpose of another assignment. My protest to the effect that this would be possible during the day only at the price of heavy losses at this stage of the battle was rejected twice. The cessation of the attack and the disengagement from the enemy was ordered. This engagement cost quite a few losses because the enemy went over to the attack at once. Weak elements of the 116. Panzergrenadierdivision took over the protection of the line of departure. At the onset of darkness, the first elements of the Brigade were on the march to Halleux, Gênes, Ronchamp and Ronchampay to the intersection of the roads west of the Champlon and Ortheuville. Motor fuel was so scarce that almost half of the vehicles had to be towed.
December 27 1944
Considering the enemy air activities, the brigade was supposed to take shelter for the day in the Herbaimont Forest (Bois de Herbaimont). The medical company, traveling during the day, was shot up in flames to the extent of 40% by a fighter-bomber attack lasting 35 minutes, although all vehicles are painted white and bore the Red Cross. A number of wounded men were thereby killed. During the course of the night, the brigade was to take over the sector of the 26. Volks Grenadier Division, which was located approximately along the line Morhet, Péry, Jodenville, Fontaine-de-Burton, Sibret. It was the intention of higher headquarters to use the brigade for the purpose of closing the broken ring of encirclement around Bastogne by means of attack in a southerly direction in order to close this gap again. I personally found out that the 26 Volksgrenadierdivision was very weak and was without armor-piercing weapons. It would therefore have to be taken into account that it would be pressed back even further to the north during the day.
Terrain reconnaissance showed, moreover that the sector from Pinsamont to Hoûmont and the high ground south of Chenogne would have to be held under all circumstances if the conditions for attack to the south were to remain favorable. I therefore decided to commit a 105-MM antiaircraft battery and a light antiaircraft battery at once in the area of Chenogne in such a manner that they could command the high terrain west and south of this locality in order to prevent an enemy tank penetration. I likewise ordered the armored personnel carrier battalion with several assault guns, which was traveling in great distances between units, because of the danger from the air to proceed into the Valet Forest (Bois de Valet). The bulk of the antiaircraft regiment was committed for an air defense around Tronle and west of Flamierge. This measure proved good because during the course of the afternoon ten cargo carrying gliders, committed for the purpose of bringing supplies to Bastogne, could be shot down. Sibret was lost during the course of the day, as was expected. Chenogne was likewise temporarily lost but it was taken right back again in a counter thrust by elements of the brigade located in the Bois de Valet. During the morning the artillery battalion took up firing positions in the area of Flamierge while the Brigade command post was moved to Tronle.
December 28 1944
During the night, the brigade was assembled, according to orders, in the area of Chenogne for the attack against Sibret and, together with the II Battalion, took over the guarding of the sector from the southern edge of the forest north of Magerotte – Magery – Lavaselle to the sector south and southeast of Brul. According to the expectations, the attack launched during the morning did not get very far beyond the patch of woods 1000 Meters south of Chenogne because the brigade was the only attacking unit, against which the entire enemy artillery and antiaircraft fire of the enemy forces located in and south of Sibret was concentrated. The flanking fire from Villeroux had especially unpleasant effect.
A little later, the enemy forces located in the area of Sibret went over to the attack. Hard fighting went on during the entire day, during which the patch of woods south of Chenogne changed hands a number of times. During this fighting a 105-MM antiaircraft gun distinguished itself especially. During the entire day, this gun and its crew put enemy tanks out of action, which were under heavy fire, and very close range along the southern edge of this patch of woods. The crew of the gun defended the gun in close infantry combat. It was not until Dec 30 that this gun was rammed by an enemy tank while fighting. At the evening the brigade reported that it was too weak to be able to carry out the attack order against Sibret alone and that a concentrated artillery support it on our part would be, at least, necessary to eliminate the enemy artillery. I was also especially bothered by the Haies de Magery Forest (Bois de Haies de Magery), which had only been blocked hastily by an engineer company of the 26. Volks Grenadier Division under my command with roadblocks and a few mines. I knew that only weak forces of the adjacent unit on my right, the 3. Panzer Grenadier Division, had arrived.
December 29 1944
Dec 29 was characterized by repeated enemy attacks on Chenogne from a southerly and southwesterly direction which were carried forward with a strong artillery support. Penetrations which often got as far as the locality were mopped up by counter thrust. At evening, the situation was about the same as that of the previous day. During the night, very bravely and skilfully carried out reconnaissance as far as into the patches of forest south and southwest of Sibret reported the assembly of tanks and vehicles. The brigade calculated that Dec 30 would bring rather strong enemy attacks supported by tanks. Nevertheless, a renewed attack by the 3. Panzer Grenadier Division and the brigade in a southerly direction was ordered for Dec 30. Specifically, the 3. Panzer Grenadier Division was supposed to take Villeroux and to thrust onto Assenois in order to effect a closing of the ring of encirclement around Bastogne with the 1. SS Panzer Division. The Fuehrer Begleit Brigade, subordinated to the 3. Panzer Grenadier Division, was to take Sibret and then to block off the road south of Sibret leading onto Bastogne from the west. For the brigade, this attack had the disadvantage that, firstly, it meant a repetition of the attack attempted on Dec 28 and would therefore have to meet up against a strengthened defense and, secondly, that no notable artillery support of any kind could be promised to me besides that of my own battalion. In addition, the III Battalion, which was still located in the old line of security, was not at my disposal for this attack. Only an elimination of the flanking pressure from Villeroux was to be counted on.
The plan of attack was as follows :
After the assembly had been completed during the night in the area of Chenogne, the II Battalion, together with an assault gun company, was to attack and take Sibret from the northwest, west of the woods south of Chenogne (circumventing this woods because of enemy artillery fire) with the right wing pressed along against the Brul sector and thereby open the crossings on the northern edge of Sibret for the armored group thrusting afterwards. The armored group (armored battalion and mounted armored personnel carrier battalion) was to divide itself near Flohamont and if necessary to support the attack of the II Battalion on both sides of Brul and then, however, to thrust through Sibret in order to block the road leading from Bastogne to the southwest in the region of Belle-Eau to the west and likewise the road leading to Clochîmont. The gap arising between Mande-Sainte-Marie and Sibret during the course of the attack was to be stopped up by an assault gun battery and a light antiaircraft battery.
The artillery battalion, which had previously been committed in the area of Flamierge, changed its position into the hollow south east of Rechrival and was to support the attack with its foreign observers accompanying both combat teams by observed fire on Sibret. No artillery preparation, but rather fire after the beginning of the attack on request. The battalion had already adjusted its fire on Sibret. The heavy antiaircraft battalion was likewise to support the attack on Sibret with air bursts and to combat targets which present themselves on the right flank. In addition, the heavy antiaircraft battalion actually had the assignment of putting tanks out of action which had broken through in a sort of antitank position. The III Battalion was to go on defending itself in the same sector as previously. A light antiaircraft antitank battery was subordinated. An assault gun battery was kept back from the brigade in order to be committed with the III Battalion in case of an enemy tank attack. The heavy infantry gun battery likewise had observation posts with the III Battalion.
December 30 1944
The attack was set for 0730 in order to steal the march on the enemy attack to be expected. According to experience, the enemy never attacked before 0900. The II Battalion, located in an advanced position, had, shortly before, captured the enemy security detachment just ahead of it, half way between Chenogne and Flohamont. Forward brigade command post south of Chenogne. Brigade command at Renuamont. At the break of daylight, the II Battalion started out, whilst the armored group expanded toward the south, gaining ground south of Chenogne. For the time being, the II Battalion made good progress, however it got stuck on the Brul ditch just before Sibret in infantry fire and well-placed artillery fire from Sibret. The brave commander, oak leaf cluster bearer, Maj Mikley, was so badly wounded that he died a short time later when he tried to pull his battalion forward again. The commander of the I battalion was likewise put out of action by a traffic during the previous night.
As the fog lifted, the armored group, which was advancing on to Flohamont, recognized two armored groups of about 30 tanks each advancing to the north. As far as I recall, the one was located in the area of Morhet, while the other was traveling in the direction of Jodenville. The armored group of the brigade opened fire at once and put a number tanks out of action at once. Because our group was located on a slope it was very soon under heavy concentrated tank fire as well as well registered artillery fire. We disengaged from the enemy. Taking the II Battalion with us,we continued to carry on the tank battle for the terrain between Mande-Sainte-Marie and the patch of woods to the east. The II Battalion disengaging itself from the field rather than to the side, had considerable losses. Four tanks were thereby put out of action. This tank battle, led inexorably on both sides, lasted about two to three hours. I learned from an estimation of situation that our attack had been started at the same time as a very strong enemy attack, which apparently was supposed to lead to a retirement of our divisions fighting toward the west. The reinforced, concentrated enemy artillery fire, as well as the continuous bombing attacks and fighter-bomber attacks also indicated this.
I myself had thus far been with the armored group. When I noticed that an enemy task force was advancing to the north by way of Lavaselle in the direction of Rechrival, in the direction of our poorly manned line of security, I immediately drove with my command armored personnel carrier at through the Bois de Valet to Renuamont, whether my brigade staff had moved during the morning. During a short discussion about commitment with my Ia, the first enemy tank already drove past my house, while the second covered at the church in Hubermont. The first was wiped out by an antitank grenade, while the second was forced to turn away to the south by fire. The assault gun company, which was still available, together with a few mounted grenadiers, was sent out from Milliomont toward the southwest in order to block the road south of Rechrival and likewise the sector between this road and the Bois de Valet.
The artillery battalion located southeast of Rechrival defended itself stubbornly with direct fire against attacking tanks. Three enemy tanks were thereby put out of action. The successful assault gun company and the antiaircraft guns located on the edge of the Bois de Valet enabled the formation of a strongpoint-like front by the III Battalion by way of the southern edge of Gérimont – Acul, the hills south east of Rechrival and the southern edge of the northwestern extension of the Bois de Valet. When I believed the danger point in this sector to have been cleared up, I drew back again to Chenogne. In the meantime, that locality had been turned into a pile of stones by continuous bombing attacks and concentrated artillery fire. I had just arrived in the first house when a strong enemy tank attack by way of Mande-Saint-Marie against Chenogne, with flanking pressure against the northern hollow, was carried out.
Because I encountered only a few of our damaged tanks and a few grenadiers in the locality itself, which had effected a lodgment in the cellars in ruins of the locality, I considered the situation extremely critical. I was paralyzed myself for quite some time, as far as commanding was concerned, because an enemy tanks stopped a few meters from my house. It was nevertheless possible to send off two radio messages from the command armored personnel carrier, which was located in the dead space of the house. These messages were sent to the armored group : locality to be held to last man and the request for support to be sent to the 3. Panzer Grenadier Division. I wondered why and the enemy tanks and armored personnel carriers, which were manned by crews, did not take the locality, although they were hardly fired upon at all from the locality.
As I later found out, our armored group had taken up the tank battle, standing around Chenogne in a semicircle and skilfully taking advantage of the terrain, because of the previous continuous bombing attacks on the locality, while at the same time the tanks located on the northern edge of the woods south of Chenogne, as well as the heavy antiaircraft battery located on the southern edge of the Bois de Valet, were very effective. This battle is one of the toughest that the brigade experienced during the Ardennes offensive. The attack was repelled during the afternoon and Chenogne remained in our possession. In my opinion, the locality could have been taken by a dismounted infantry company because the locality itself was hardly occupied. Our losses of men during the day were heavy, because the brigade had to organize itself for the defense from an attack position under strong enemy pressure. Nevertheless, this day led to the to a complete defensive success through the will to fight and the bravery of the German soldier.
This success resulted in the enemy’s losing about 30 tanks. In my opinion, the enemy attack was set too rigidly against Chenogne. It would have been no doubt that the enemy would have had more success if the point of main effort of the attack had been with the combat team advancing on Rechrival, because this combat team had practically thrust through the defense of the brigade near Rechrival with its advance guard point while the bulk of the brigade was tied up in the battle around Chenogne.
In addition, there was the fact that, as so often, the brigade was given time during the night to form a new defensive front without any disturbance. The oft-said sentence : “Lord let the evening come, then is the battle won”, proved true, even in this critical situation. The American force could have saved a lot of blood if had continued to exploit the successes of the day during the night. This and the proverbial dread of fighting in the woods were two certain factors which could be taken into account in formulating tactical measures. Both were things which astonished us Eastern-Front warriors vary greatly. The evening report of the brigade to 3. Panzer Grenadier Division expressed the fact that a repetition of attack on Sibret could not be made with the means at our disposal, and that, on the other hand, all the forces the brigade would have to be concentrated in order to be able to hold the front in case of further enemy attacks.
December 31 1944
Subordinated to the XLVII Panzerkorps
During the night, the brigade was regrouped. The 3.Panzer-Grenadier took over Chenogne. The boundary line ran about as follows : from the road crossing south of the Herbaimont Forest (Bois de Herbaimont) to the eastern edge of Renuamont and to the western edge of the Valet Forest (Bois de Valet) to Flohamont. The left boundary with the Panzer Lehr Division : the western edge of Lavacherie to the road fork east of Pirompré and to the outskirts of Remagne. Because all three battalions were equally exhausted from fighting and a relief of the badly hit III Battalion could no longer be achieved on time, I decided to leave the front from Gérimont to Pinsamont and to Rechrival to the western tip of the Bois de Valet which was occupied only as a series of strong points, in its present grouping, despite the attack expected on the next day. The III Battalion was reinforced with about 100 men. To this end, I created for myself two strong tactical reserves with the mission of clearing up possible enemy penetrations by immediate counter thrust. For this purpose, the I battalion and the tank battalion were considered for the eastern Rechrival sector, the sector including the point of main effort, the II Battalion and the assault gun battalion for the western sector. A heavy antiaircraft battery was committed in the patches of woods north of Renuamont for a defense against enemy tanks which might break through to the north onto the main road.
The heavy antiaircraft battery committed in the area north of Sprimont (Saint-Ode) was likewise ordered into such a position that it could fire on enemy tanks that had made penetrations, in addition to its air defense. The II Battalion was to send forth continuous reconnaissance in force in the direction of Remagne and into the Bois des Haies de Magery. The Brigade command post was moved to Lavacherie and the forward command post near the armored group in Fosset. The relief in Chenogne was not ended until daylight. Enemy forces affecting a temporary penetration were turned back by tanks that were already advancing. During the course of the day, a number of attacks, which did not have the force of attacks on Rechrival and Pinsamont on the previous day, were repelled by the brave III Battalion and by concentrated artillery fire.
January 1 1945
During the night, the II Battalion took over the sector from Gérimont to Pinsamont, together with the tactical reserve in Tillet, to which a battery of the assault gun battalion was brought up from Amberloup. Reconnaissance in force to the southeast was ordered [sent out] from Tillet. The III Battalion was reinforced by the company located in Pinsamont. The extremely critical motor fuel situation – during the following day, the tanks had only enough motor fuel for a distance of 15 to 20 km at times – compelled the armored vehicles to keep close together. After counter thrusts had taken place, the tanks often had to be left up front in order not to use up motor fuel unnecessarily. All vehicles which were not combat vehicles were parked north of Ourthe.
After 0900, the enemy attacked continuously with tank support. Several enemy tanks which had broken into Hubermont and Rechrival were put out of action in close combat by the men of the III Battalion. More tanks (about 8) were put out of action by the antiaircraft battery located in the patches of woods northeast of Renuâmont. In Hubermont, the commander of the III Battalion was killed in close combat. The toughly and inexorably lead battle of this battalion, which had been facing the enemy without interruption since December 19 1944, created favorable conditions for the participation of the armored group, which threw the enemy back into the jump-off positions. Pinsamont was lost. The company that was thrown out of that locality belonging to the II Battalion took up the fight anew on the ridge between Acul and Rechrival with its front to the southeast. A counter thrust did not take place because Pinsamont was located far out from the general course of the front. A weak attack on Gérimont was repelled. In the sector of the adjacent unit (left flank), Chenogne was lost at one o’clock. As a result, the left wing of the III Battalion was withdrawn in the evening hours to the hills south of Milliomont.
January 2 1945
The withdrawal of the badly battered III Battalion and its relief by the I battalion was ordered for the night. The III Battalion was supposed to rest up in Amberloup in order to occupy the right sector of the brigade, the southern part of the Chenaie Forest (Bois la Chenaie), on the following morning. By doing this, I wanted to have the left sector of the brigade defended by the II Battalion, which was the most powerful. I knowingly forewent a rather strong tactical reserve commanded by the brigade in doing so, but ordered all battalions to set aside at least 1/3 of their fighting strength as local reserves for immediate counterthrusts. A part of the armored group was also committed within the framework of the I Battalion in such a manner that enemy tanks could be put out of action even before reaching the main line of resistance. In order to save blood, the heavy weapons thus became the mainstays of the defensive battle. At this time, the battalion had a fighting strength of about 150 men. Generally speaking, the rifle companies were 25 to 30 men strong during the course of the day all attacks on the left were successfully repelled without the occurrence of any penetrations. Several enemy tanks were put out of action north of the Bois de Valet (Valet Forest). In the case of the II Battalion, Gérimont was lost after a second attack. A further advance to the north was averted by the participation of an assault gun company.
January 3 1945
On Jan 3, no attacks worthy of mention took place. After 1000, the III Battalion was in the position ordered. During the night, the exposed elements of the II Battalion in Acul were withdrawn to Chenogne. The rumble of motors reported south of Rechrival in the night was interpreted as the preparation of attack for the following day. (Relief of the 11th Armored Division by the 17th Airborne Division). At evening, the brigade had about 25 tanks and assault guns ready for action, 15 in repair, and about 15 to 20 tanks which were located on our road of advance, for the most part, with mechanical damages. The bulk of them could not be towed off as yet because no motor fuel was available for that purpose.
January 4 1945
On Jan 4, there was only enemy patrol activity in the right sector of the brigade. To the left, there was the successful defense against several attacks against Hubermont by means of antitank fire from the heavy antiaircraft battery located in the patches of woods northeast of Renuâmont. Taking into consideration the temporary enemy penetration in Flamierge in the case of the adjacent unit to the left, our own left flank was covered. Furthermore, an assault gun battery was temporarily given to the 3. Panzergrenadierdivision. The antiaircraft battery mentioned above, which is known to have been under continuous enemy artillery fire, changed position during the evening to the region of the southern edge of the Herbaimont Forest (Bois de Herbaimont). The Brigade command post was moved, according to orders, to Roûmont. The forward command post remained in Fosset.
January 5 1945
On Jan 5, an attack was made in the right sector on the III Battalion. After all attacks had been repelled during the day, the two companies located in the southern part of the Chenaie Forest were captured, with about 60 men, during the evening hours. Only a few machine guns bursts were heard and the position was later found empty. Apparently, these companies had been attacked from the rear. It remains enigmatic why the enemy did not march further to the north through the forest. He could have hardly met up against any resistance there. In this connection, it must be said that the enemy forces (in this case, the 87th Infantry Division) fought very skilfully, as far as infantry was concerned. It was the only force for which we had respect, even during the night. In the area of Tillet, patrols were encountered behind our lines which shouted to our post, relief detachments, in German and thereby cause so many a surprise.
January 6 1945
During the day, a number of attacks were made on Tillet in the sector of the II Battalion. The locality was held in hard fighting. East of Tillet, the enemy was able to gain several hundred meters. The brigade forewent counter thrusts south of the road from Tillet to Lavalle, taking into consideration the enemy artillery superiority and fighter bomber attacks, which shattered every movement during the day in the open terrain. On the other hand, enemy forces which had temporarily advanced in Tillet and across the road from Tillet to Lavalle were thrown back by counter thrusts. In order to save blood, the brigade ordered the II Battalion, which was located in the open terrain, to take up reverse-slope positions if possible, in order to break up enemy attacks in front of our main line resistance by the fire of heavy weapons from the low ground. This also had the advantage that the enemy artillery could not hit our forward lines with observed fire. The experience of the last several days had shown that the enemy did not begin his attacks, as a rule, until after a rather long artillery preparation. Then, if the attack following it ran up against resistance, it was broken off at once. Then an artillery preparation began again, followed by an infantry attack. That was repeated a number of times during the day. It was not until almost no resistance took place from the MLR that the enemy infantry went forward. A paralysis of our heavy weapons, especially of the artillery, was hardly brought about, however, except temporarily by fighter-bombers. In view of the shortage of ammunition of our artillery, the enemy infantry was supposed to be repelled with heavy losses by a battle from a reverse-slope position with infantry and machine gun fire commencing suddenly at the last moment. The prerequisite for such a conduct of battle is, naturally, that the heavy weapons, especially the artillery, have good possibilities for observation into the terrain ahead from commanding points in the rear terrain. Moreover, the brigade was struck by the fact, during the last several days, that the enemy attacks were led in quite disorganized manner in respect to time and place. For the most part, the sector of only one battalion was attacked. The explanation for this fact was to be found in the statements from prisoners of war, from which it was learned that the brigade had two enemy decisions before it which were apparently not under one command.
January 7 1945
Jan 7, was again a very difficult day for the brigade. Tillet and the sector Rechrival – Hubermont – Milliomont were alternately attacked. The attacks were again introduced by strong artillery and fighter-bombers attacks. All attacks on Tillet and to the east of that locality were readily repelled. Toward evening, the enemy succeeded in penetrating into Milliomont from a southeasterly direction. In Renuâmont, into which the enemy thrust immediately thereafter, a weak company – about 20 men – was assembled and sent to hold two farmhouses. Although surrounded and repeatedly attacked, it was still fighting stubbornly and bravely at 2300. The entire armored group was in combat and did have any more reserves at all. A company of about 25 men, which was quickly thrown together by the brigade, was set out during the night for the purpose of counter attacking. A detachment of the small unit, thrusting through the middle of the village, which was occupied by the enemy, succeeded in blocking off the village to the rear in an energetic night attack, while the rest of the company took one house after another, thereby relieving the company which was bravely holding out. Moreover, about 140 prisoners were brought in. Despite the fact that the unshaken young company commander lost his right hand in close combat at the beginning, he led this undertaking to a full success and did not take leave from the brigade until the following morning. Apparently, this nocturnal attack must have caused a very great panic, because we were able to occupy Hubermont and Milliomont again almost without a fight. Taking the contact with the adjacent unit to the left into consideration, the Army Corps permitted the MLR to be moved to a line from the southern edge of Renuâmont to Rechimont to the southern edge of the patch of woods west of Rechimont. Weak outposts were left in the line from Lavalle to Hubermont to Milliomont. This position meant a shortening of front and had better possibilities of effect into the terrain ahead.
January 8 1945
On Jan 8, unsuccessful attacks were made on Tillet and positions east of it. In the area from Milliomont to Hubermont, only weak enemy scatting raids. A heavy antiaircraft battery went into position north of Ourthe to support the artillery battalion, which was suffering from a lack of ammunition.
January 9 1945
On Jan 9, there was no attacks in the sector of the I and II Battalions. In the case of the III Battalion, the situation demanded a withdrawal of the front line to the road to Tillet. During the night, the fighting strength of the rifle companies were brought up to 30 men, those of the heavy weapons companies to 80 men. Brigade found out that a withdrawal of the front was planned. The following lines were reconnoitered and, according to orders, were improved by supply personnel that moved up :
1. Tonny to the southern edge of Amberloup to Fosset and toward Macravivier
2. The hill northeast of the Rau de Laval sector to the road fork located at the southern tip of the Herbaimont Forest (Bois de Herbaimont)
January 10 1945
Renewed attack on Tillet. During the evening, the locality was lost after a tough battle. In view of the withdrawal planned, no counter attack was ordered. No attacks at all in the other sectors.
January 11 1945
No special happenings. During the night, the brigade disengaged itself from the enemy without interference and reached the area around Wembay – Cens – Berguème. The I battalion occupied the line from east of Lavacherie to Aviscourt to the road fork south of the Bois de Herbaimont with a few tanks. During the night of January 11/12 1945, the brigade was released from the XLVII Panzer Korps and became an Army reserve.
General der Panzertruppe
This study on the Ardennes operations of the Fuehrer Escort Brigade by Generalmajor Remer is the continuation and conclusion of MS # B-592. The present work describes the last commitment of the Fuehrer Escort Brigade in the Western theater, on the left wing of the 5. Panzer Army, before its transfer to the East near the end of January 1945. This commitment occurred during the retreat of the 5. Panzer Army from the Bastogne area toward the West Wall, and was intended to facilitate a withdrawal of our hard-struggling units. Events at a higher level are described in MS # B-322 (LVIII Panzer Corps). The second section of the study furnishes the answers to a number of questions asked of Generalmajor Remer in Allendorf.
Otto Ernst Fritz Adolf REMER
Date of Birth : August 18 1912
Place of Birth : Neubrandenburg/Mecklenburg
REMER joined the Army as an officer candidate in 1933 and was assigned to the 4. Regiment at Kolberg as a 2d lieutenant of infantry in 1935; in 1938 he was promoted 1st lieutenant and placed in command of a company of the same regiment. In the 1939 campaign in Poland REMER commanded the infantry howitzer company of the 478. Regiment; in the 1940 campaign in France and in the Balkan campaign of 1941 he was in command of the motorized infantry howitzer company of the 701. Regiment. In 1941 he was promoted captain and in February 1942 was assigned as acting commander of a battalion in Russia. Later in 1942 he was given command of an armored infantry battalion of Panzergrenadier Regiment Grossdeutschland, an elite unit from which Panzer Division Grossdeutschland was formed in May of the same year.
Promoted major in January 1943, REMER was transferred as a battalion commander to Guard Regiment Grossdeutschland in Berlin in May 1944. It was while serving in this assignment that he played a major role in putting down the uprising which followed the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20 1944. In recognition of his action on this occasion, REMER was promoted colonel, with rank dated 1 July 1944, and assigned as Combat Commander Rastenburg on 1 September 1944. Three months later he was placed in command of the Hitler Escort Brigade, with which he took part in the Ardennes Offensive. In February 1945 he was promoted to Generalmajor and transferred to the eastern front together with his brigade, which at the same time was upgraded to the status of a panzer division.
On 22 May 1945 the general was taken into custody by US forces at Bamberg, Bavaria.
The Course of Battle
January 13 1945
During the night of January 12, the Fuehrer Escort Brigade marched through Ortho, Nisramont, Filly, Nadrin, Wibrin, Houffalize, Tavigny in Belgium then Troine, Wincrange, Boevange, Doennange, Deiffelt in Luxemburg. The bulk of the brigade arrived about noon of the next day. The brigade was subordinated to the XXXIX Corps as army reserve. Its command post was in Deiffelt. The flak regiment was immediately employed in the assembly area for air defense. During the late afternoon a combat team consisting of the 1. Battalion, assault gun battalion and artillery battalion was advanced to Moinet, Belgium, to take part in a counterattack southeastward from Michamps. The team was to assist the heavily decimated 167. Volks Grenadier Division under Col Theodor Tolsdorff.(*) The CP of the 167. Division was also in Moinet.
(*) Editor’s Note : Order of Battle of the Germany Army indicates Lt Gen Hans-Kurt Hoecker commanded the 167. Volks Grenadier Division at that time, and Col Tolsdorff the 340. Volks Grenadier Division.
Beginning at dawn, the attack was to lead from Michamps through Oubourcy (BE), clear the forest patches 1½ km southwest of Oubourcy and restore the old mainline of the division. At the same time the 9. Panzerdivision was to attack on the right of the combat team, north of the railroad line, from the Oubourcy area. During the night the battalion, along with the artillery of the 167. Division, was to support the attack. It was planned to carry the attack, on horseback if possible, at least as far as the patches of forest southwest of Oubourcy during the dawn hours. After reaching the old main line the 167. Division was to take over its sector again. After a conference with the division commander, it was learned that the contemplated infantry support by the 167. Division could hardly be expected, for the division at that time had a trench strength of only a few dozen men. Preparations were made for a surprise, lightning-like attack without preliminary artillery fire. If possible, the old line was to be reached before the ruinous enemy artillery fire could set in. Necessary reconnaissance had to be carried out during the night. Repeated requests for the 9. Panzerdivision to begin its advance simultaneously with the combat team were granted by the corps. The assembly was completed without casualties under harassing enemy fire. Our own harassing fire was intended to conceal the noise of our armored vehicles being driven into the assembly positions.
January 14 1945
The attack began at dawn according to plan. In one dash the combat team reached the patches of forest, dismounted and pushed gleefully southwestward through the woods. During the morning it was learned that, for reasons still unknown today, the 9. Panzer Division had not begun to attack. As a result the combat team met infantry fire and increasingly well-aimed artillery fire from the deep right flank and had to defend itself against flanking counter thrusts. Thus the attack had become futile and had to be determined. The combat team retreated from the forest after suffering considerable losses from shells detonated in the tree tops. Throughout the day and established defense positions southwest of Oubourcy against enemy counterattacks. During these operations the brigade came under the command of the LVIII Panzerkorps. This corps ordered another combat team consisting of the 2. Battalion and two panzer companies to Derenbach as reserves for the 1. SS Panzer Division. The panzer battalion of the brigade was drawn up to Hamiville as Corps reserve. Since this separation threatened to dissolve the brigade, I visited Field Marshal Mödel to point out my personal written order from the Fuehrer which stated that my brigade was to be employed only as a whole unit. I was assured this would be done.
January 15 1945
In the afternoon the brigade received orders from the LVIII Panzerkorps to prepare for defense in the sector bounded by the crossroads 1000 Meters southwest of Moinet, the height east of Longvilly, and the western edge of Oberwampach. The brigade was to establish an effective block on the road from Bastogne to Clervaux. During the night the 1. Battalion deployed north of the road, the 2. Battalion south of the road and the 3. Battalion had been disbanded after heavy losses in personnel. The artillery battalion moved into position in the Crendal area; the flak regiment was committed for both air and ground defense on both sides of the road east of Allerborn. The bulk of the panzer regiment was in Hamiville, with elements in Allerborn. An assault gun company had been attached to each of the battalions committed at the front. The advanced command post of the brigade was at Baraques de Troine (Troine-Route), 1000 Meters northeast of Allerborn. On the right was the 167. VGD, on the left the 5. Fallschirmjäger Division. Reconnaissance during the night reported contact with the enemy at Longvilly.
January 16-18 1945
These days were marked by numerous enemy attacks on both sides of the road. On the whole, these were successfully countered. The main burden was borne by the infantry and panzer troops, who often had to counterattack several times a day. Almost superhuman performances were demanded particularly of the infantryman who, in his foxhole day and night without relief, was wet to the skin from the almost continuous snowdrifts. Second and third degree frostbites increased alarmingly. With reconnaissance reports indicating US forces opposite us, the customary relief for the night was impossible because of lack of reserves. The trench strength of the companies fluctuated at that time between 10 and 15 men each. An assembly of enemy tanks just north of Longvilly was observed at dawn on January 16. It was crushed by two assault guns, which during the fueling had been moved up to firing range without being noticed. Eleven of the enemy tanks were put out of action. This blow, which caused panic in the enemy camp, could not be exploited because the battalion in the area was still occupied with establishing a defense position and no other forces were available at that time. An enemy attack which temporarily reached the crossroads south of Moinet collapsed under combined heavy flak and artillery fire. A particular source of concern to the brigade was the contact with its left neighbor, the weak 5. Fallschirmjägerdivision, which had relieved the 1. SS-Panzerdivision on January 15. Whenever the enemy penetrated at Oberwampach, part of the panzer regiment attacked either via Allerborn or Derenbach. Here, too, the situation could frequently be improved. The part of the flak regiment employed in air defense reported two to three downed enemy airplanes daily. Consequently the frequency of low-ranged air attacks over the brigade area began to drop substantially. This occurred repeatedly during the Ardennes offensive.
January 19-20 1945
The front was retracted approximately 2500 Meters as a result of enemy penetrations against the unit on the left. The new position roughly along the old tank intercepting position : international frontier west of Troine-western edge of Baraques de Troine-western edge of the woods east of Allerborn-alignment of the road to Derenbach. In addition, elements of the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade and about 10 Tiger tanks (Panzer VI) of the 9. Panzerdivision were given to the brigade. The brigade’s mission was to block the road effectively under all circumstances to ensure a smooth withdrawal by the units of the army committed farther north. In the new line all dispensable soldiers the brigade supply trains and all dispensable gunners of the flak regiment were given infantry assignments. The completely exhausted elements of the 1. and 2. Battalions were transferred to the Deiffelt – Doennange – Lullange area for 24 hours to sleep and dry their clothes. The artillery battalion moved into position in the Donnange area, the panzer group transferred to Wincrange. The units from the Fuehrer Grenadier Brigade and the 9. Panzerdivision were detached again. Enemy attacks on January 19 and 20 were readily repulsed; often observed assemblies in the Allerborn were fired upon by the artillery.
January 21 1945
A new (MLR) Main Line of Resistance was now occupied, running from the western edge of the woods east of Crendal (LU) via the western edge of Winncrange and the western edge of Boevange to the hill belt south of Boevange (LU). All enemy attacks here were also repulsed without the assistance of the armored group in the Doennange area. The Brigade command post was at Eselborn (LU).
January 22 1945
The Fuehrer Escort Brigade moved into a bridgehead position around the Eselborn and Weicherdange (LU) to cover the withdrawal of the divisions of the LVIII Panzerkorps east of the Clerve River (LU). The artillery battalion was ordered into the Reuler (LU) area east of Clervaux (LU) for guard duty. The heavy battalion of the flak regiment was committed in the Marnach (LU) area; the light battalion was stationed at the crossing points of the Clerve River for air defense. The bulk of the panzer regiment was transferred east of the Clerf sector. To each of the battalions committed in Eselborn and Weicherdange an assault gun battery was assigned. The roads leading to the Clerf sector were prepared for demolition.
January 23 1945
Orders from the army group transferred the brigade at as army group reserve. The brigade moved into the area south of Arzfeld (GER) via Clervaux – Marbourg (LU) – Dasburg (GER) – Daleiden (GER). On January 24 1945, I learned in a visit by the Fuehrer’s adjutant that the brigade was to be expanded rapidly into a panzer division. The additional units had already been assembled. I received orders to go to Berlin, first to report to the Fuehrer, and secondly to manage the rehabilitation and reassembly of the brigade as a division. Within a short time the brigade was to be shipped by train for commitment in the East. The newly attached units were to be conducted into the unloading area.
The Brigade’s Losses
The loss of personnel amounted to almost 2000 men, about 450 of which were killed. A large number of the wounded recuperated and returned to their units during and immediately after the offensive. About 60 to 70 percent of the casualties were the result of artillery shells splinters. The concentrated, flexible artillery fire of the enemy was most feared by the troops. About 15 to 20 percent of the losses were caused by bombs and low altitude air attacks. These losses were inflicted on supply trains and reserves rather than with the fighting troops. The brigade could successfully protect itself from air attacks by its own strong antiaircraft forces. Of the slight losses among the fighting troops 5 percent were missing in action, approximately 10 percent were caused by tank fire, and the rest by infantry fire. Of nine commanding officers three were killed and for injured. Of the approximately 100 tanks and assault guns originally available, the brigade had 25 to 30 in usable condition after the offensive. Ten to twelve underwent short-term repairs and about fifteen long-term repairs, making a total of 55 to 60 percent. Ten to twelve tanks were put out of action by enemy antitank guns or tanks, five to ten ran into mines, and the rest had to be destroyed during the fighting either because they lacked fuel or there were not sufficient wreckers. There was no notable help from the army or army group. The artillery lost two of its ten light guns : one was run over by a tank, the other was hit directly by artillery fire. Of the four heavy guns one dropped out as a result of a direct bomb hit during the march. The heavy flak battalion lost three of its twenty-four heavy guns, two through tank action, one through bombing. Of the 135 armored personnel carriers about 45 lost, mostly as a result of artillery action. A large number had to be demolished for lack of wreckers. In the rear area the brigade lost a relatively high number of supply trucks as a result of fighter-bomber attacks.
The Enemy’s Losses
A total of 140 to 150 enemy tanks were put out of action or captured. Before we had to destroy our own tanks when we abandoned the territory we had gained, the ratio of our losses to the enemy’s was one to eight. A striking feature was a relatively large number of vehicles we captured in unimpaired condition. In all the brigade captured 60 to 70 jeeps and about the same number of trucks. But the joy was short-lived because these vehicles consumed too much fuel. They were either destroyed by us or turned over to other units. Of sixteen downed planes thirteen were credited to the flak battalion, three to infantry units. About 400 to 500 prisoners were taken. Twenty to thirty guns were captured or destroyed. No notable enemy fuel stocks fell into our hands though fuel finding details always accompanied the fighting troops. On the other hand, considerable amounts of food, clothing and all kinds of equipment were secured. The Brigade lived almost exclusively on captured items.
The Brigade Fuel Situation
As far as I remember, 4.2 daily issues of fuel were planned. (1 daily issue corresponded to 1 Time Fuel/1 Vehicle/100 KMs Travel). When the brigade began its advance out of the Daun (GER) area on the third day of the offensive, it had only two daily issues. At that time the entire transportation section had been dispatched four days previously to receive the allocated fuel. I believe that at the time the fuel had to be picked up far in the rear in the vicinity of the Rhine River. All the allocated fuel was probably never received. Throughout the offensive individual vehicles arrived sporadically at the front, but never whole convoys. The brigade had continuous fuel difficulties after December 20 and most of the tactical decisions were dependent on the fuel situation. Furthermore, because of road congestions and bad road and terrain conditions the troops needed far more fuel than was usually allocated under normal circumstances. During transfers, for examples from La Roche en Ardenne to Bastogne, occasionally 50 percent of the vehicles had to be towed. Since the distance from the fuel issuing points to the field units were always very great, continual delays and losses of vehicles had to be anticipated as a result of fighter-bomber attacks and road congestion. On some days as many as half of all fuel vehicles were set aflame even though they could not be recognized as such vehicles. Another drawback was the seizure, carried out inconsiderably by some agencies, of approaching fuel for allegedly decisive purposes. Enemy fuel depots were captured, but they provided only a temporary supply. It was established procedure to pump fuel from the tanks of captured vehicles.
Reasons for the Failure of the Offensive
The beginning of the Ardennes offensive was chosen for a period when an overcast sky was expected. This was done to eliminate as far as possible enemy action from the air in view of our own aerial inferiority. This factor was even more important because the supreme command had selected the Eifel region, which, as an assembly and combat area, presented the difficulty of channeling heavy traffic through relatively few roads. Contrary to all weather forecasts, the sky cleared after the first week, at a time when the fighting divisions and those following closely behind were dependent on the poor road network. Road conditions, particularly in the already snow-covered areas, worsened as a result of new snowfall. A majority of the divisions, as well as the Fuehrer Escort Brigade, had no winter equipment for their vehicles, particularly for the tanks. As an example, at St Vith the chaotic traffic conditions in the snow-covered terrain made it impossible to commit a mobile panzer unit such as the Fuehrer Escort Brigade in time, even allowing for the deficient technical driving experience of a young unit. Aside from bad road conditions, it was impossible from the command you point to launch a panzer unit on a road which at places could be used only in single file. Moreover, the entire road was required by the horse-drawn 18. Volksgrenadierdivision, which was just moving up toward the front. Columns of the 6. SS-Panzer-Army were also using it. Yet I was ordered to advance along this road for from Roth via Auw and Schoenberg to St Vith. At least one of the higher headquarters should have ordered the roads to be cleared temporarily by military police forces. Or the delay necessary to allow the 18. Volksgrenadierdivision to move up should have been accepted and the Fuehrer Escort Brigade ordered to delay its advance until afterward. In either case considerable time would have been saved.
Regarding the St Vith episode, I believe that enemy resistance at a time when the brigade started advancing was considerably underestimated. The brigade began to move as ordered and in the formation ordered, that is with light units in front as the advance detachment. This formation was intended for the expansion of an operational breakthrough, for such a breakthrough was the main objective of the mission has issued by army and corps. I was told to avoid a battle for St Vith, and again shown on the map the various advance routes leading to the Meuse River. If after the arrival of the first units of my brigade at noon of the 19 of December, I had had my armored group instead of the advance detachment, I would have made a tank assault on St Vith in spite of the adverse terrain west of the Wallerode mill, 4000 Meters east of St Vith. This was impossible because the armored group was completely wedged-in on the road. Hence I decided to bypass St Vith on the north despite the unfavorable road conditions. It was soon made clear that the enemy knew how to exploit the events around St Vith during this delay. In addition to the adverse weather conditions and terrain difficulties the brigade was beset as early as the third day with a lack of fuel. This was even more detrimental because the only way to get fuel vehicles to the front was to have them towed by track vehicles. The fuel ran short so soon owing to the road conditions; twice as much as expected had been used. As I noted above, the brigade had to start its advance with half the allocated fuel. Another reason for the late arrival of fuel supplies lay in the distance which the supply columns had to cover. Still another factor was the activity of enemy aircraft, which prevented more and more movement by day. Not enough distance could be covered by night. The fuel depots were not moved forward as the field units advance. It was reported that for reasons of secrecy the agencies in charge of supplies had been notified too late to procure the supplies west of the Rhine river, but I cannot comment on this report.
After Christmas, except for a few days, the enemy air activity prevented almost every movement of whole units on the roads. Assemblies and major operations were also attacked with increasing severity. Units had been directed to do their marching transferring and part of their fighting by night. Experience also showed that little enemy action could be expected for one to two hours after daybreak and one hour before sunset. There were three other essential factors which caused the failure of the entire Ardennes offensive :
a. A smaller number of combat units were available than had been planned. Some of the units originally provided were probably needed at other endangered sectors of the front; other probably were not dispatched at all after the command realized that the Meuse River would not be reached and crossed in the period of four to five days planned
b. The personnel and material status of many and said that reached the anticipated standards. The panzer divisions were all short of tanks. Some of the Volksgrenadier divisions and the Volks artillery Corps were short of horses. Consequently there was no substantial support by corps or army artillery at the focal points of fighting, for example as St Vith and Bastogne. The brigade never received additional artillery support and always depended on its own single battalion. The extremely flexible enemy artillery, on the other hand, with its large expenditure of ammunition, was always superior to ours. This cost us much blood in difficult attacks. Furthermore it must be considered that a number of divisions and partial units and had been newly activated and had no combat experience and experience with team-work
c. There was no notable support by our Luftwaffe. The complete lack of their support on the one hand and the continuous enemy air activity on the other had considerable effect on the morale of our troops
Every officer in every soldier to part in this operation knew of its significance. Through a lightning-like advance across the Meuse River in four to five days, to Antwerp in about fourteen days, it was to lead to the destruction of about half of the invasion armies and the elimination of the import supply port of Antwerp. Hitler’s warning, that we would either take Antwerp or in 1945 be faced with a war of material, which we would not be equal to, clearly defined the stakes. The supreme Command’s goal, to induce the West through a clear offensive victory to step out of the war or agree to negotiations which would allow a free hand in the East, had failed. Another reason for a speedy success, and also a reason for the early beginning on December 19 1944 even though preparations had not yet been completed, was that the date of the beginning of the Russian offensive out of the Baranov bridgehead was known.
By the date the Eastern front, which according to Hitler had been weakened to the limit in favor of the Ardennes offensive, was to be furnished the bulk of the panzer divisions no longer needed in the West. Instead, the departure of the divisions earmarked for the East was delayed by weeks after the failure of the offensive for lack of fuel. It was further hoped that this offensive would diminish attacks on Germany and her paralyzed key industries. The industries could again attain their full capacity output of armaments in the construction of new types of airplanes, production of synthetic gasoline, etc. But these hopes were also frustrated. The optimism wakened by the first success of the Ardennes offensive both at home and with the men at the Eastern front turned into dejection. Among the units participating in the offensive the initially excellent psychological attitude of the soldiers was profoundly shocked.
When I reported to Hitler on January 30 1945 I frankly stated that the frustration of hope had had paralyzing effect on the troops, that with the decimated units I had seen everywhere after the offensive, the race could no longer be won. With the great hopes of the offensive abandoned, we all now hoped that the Government would find a political solution for ending the war. If the German officer, like any soldier, continued to do his duty true to his oath and resigned himself to fight on in compliance orders, he did so in the belief that any hour a political solution would come. On the Eastern front, however, he fought with the knowledge that every yard of German soil trodden and defiled by Bolshevism signified the annihilation and destruction of German and Occidental culture.
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