423rd Reconnaissance Group (USAAF)
History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To
The 423rd Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) was a short lived home-based training unit that was disbanded within five months of being activated.
The group was activated on 1 April 1943 as the 423rd Observation Group and assigned to the Third Air Force. Its original role was as a replacement training unit, training aircrews to fill gaps in existing units.
In June 1943 the group was given a new task, to train pilot instructors for III Fighter Command. This was a short-lived assignment and the group was disbanded on 15 August 1943. Of its four squadrons, the 29th and 33rd were disbanded on the same day, while the 32nd and 34th came under the direct control of III Fighter Command but were disbanded on 1 September
|30 March 1943||Constituted as 423rd Reconnaissance Group|
|1 April 1943||Activated, assigned to Third AF|
|20 April 1943||Redesignated 423rd Reconnaissance Group|
|15 August 1943||Disbanded|
Commanders (with date of appointment)
DeRidder AAB, La: 1 April-15 August 1943
29th Reconnaissance Squadron: 1943
32nd Reconnaissance Squadron: 1943
33rd Reconnaissance Squadron: 1943
34th Reconnaissance Squadron: 1943
1943: Third Air Force
423rd Reconnaissance Group - History
Immediately after Thanksgiving, the units of the 423d Infantry started moving from their billets in the Cotswolds to embarkation points. Members of Regimental Headquarters and Special Units, on the Empire Javelin, went down the rope nets onto the LSTs and debarkation in the vicinity of Le Havre was completed on 1 December 1944.
Closing into the staging area at Red Horse the Regiment was reassembled by 3 December except for one LST containing the vehicles of two battalion headquarters companies and one heavy weapons company. Here, information was received that the division was to be attached to 1st Army and finally, on 8 December, Regimental Combat Team 423, with various attachments, commenced the motor move that will be the topic of conversation by GI's at many a Division reunion for years to come. Following the road markers of the "RED BALL" express, the convoy reached St. Vith, Belgium, a distance of 270 miles, in two days. Rumor had it that the one truck containing part of a platoon of C Company, which was corralled by one of Capt. Spence's men on 11 December, was detoured through Paris by a British M.P. It was bitter cold and snowing the second day, roads were slippery and treacherous, and radio silence made control of the lengthy column extremely difficult.
December 10th was spent in reconnaissance of positions down to and including Platoon Sergeants. On the morning of 11 December the regiment moved out of St. Vith through Auw and Schonberg, names which were to be stamped indelibly in the minds of all in only a few days. Just prior to departure from Red Horse our 1st Army "Expediter" Lt. Col. Throckmorton, talked by phone to 1st Army G-3 and was assured that the missing LST would unload our men in sufficient time to join their units before departure. The landing was finally completed and the convoy, under Major Carl H. Cosby from Atlanta, Georgia, Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion, made the entire trip from Le Havre to St. Vith without stopping except for refueling. The vehicles arrived in time to join their units which were moving into the lines.
Favored by snow and a low ceiling, the daytime relief of the famed 38th Infantry of the Second Infantry Division was completed at 1700 hours and Colonel Boos and his "Rock of the Marne" boys were on their way to "position" from which they were to launch their attack against the Roer River Dams. "It has been very quiet up here and your men will learn the easy way," Colonel Boos said upon departure.
During the move into position the Regimental Motor Sergeant, Master Sergeant William C. Deviney of Niagara Falls, New York, was critically injured and had to be evacuated. Joining the regiment from the 80th Division, "Surge" Deviney was a capable and efficient soldier, who was the idol of all the jeep drivers in the regiment.
The Regiment, less 2nd Battalion in Division Reserve at Born and Medell, Belgium, with Troop B, 18th Cavalry Squadron attached, occupied and took over the defense of a Sector of the 106th Division Area. The Sector included a portion of the former German fortified area approximately twenty miles east of St. Vith, Belgium. Due to the extreme width of the Sector, approximately seven and one half miles frontage, the position could not be occupied in depth, and reserves, except for Service Company and Clerks were not available. Orders were to take over, man for man, and job for job. The period 12 to 15 December was spent in familiarization and readjustment.
Preceded by intense artillery and mortar concentrations, the German Infantry supported by armor, attacked the right of the Regimental Sector prior to daylight, 16 December, using search lights. This Sector extending from Winterscheid to Bleialf, both towns inclusive, was defended by a composite Battalion commanded by Captain Charles B. Reid of Richburg, South Carolina, consisting of Troop B, 18th Cavalry, AT Company, 2nd Platoon Cannon Company, fighting as riflemen and one composite rifle platoon from 3rd Battalion. A wedge was immediately driven between Troop B, on the extreme right, and AT Company, in the vicinity of the Railroad Tunnel and contact with Troop B was lost by the Battalion Commander and never regained. Normal barrages were laid down in front of our positions in Bleialf and accurate cannon company fire along with the stubborn resistance of our GI's succeeded in breaking up repeated attacks of the German Infantry.
The 106th Division Reconnaissance Troop, which occupied the town of Groslangenfeld between the right of our Sector and the left of Colonel Reid's 424th Infantrymen, was overrun and Captain Fossland's Troop B was forced back giving ground slowly. A counter-attack at noon of the 16th by Company B, 81st Engineers, 3rd Platoon and Headquarters Group of Cannon Company and all available cooks and clerks from Headquarters Company and Service Company restored Bleialf and partially closed the gap between AT Company and Troop B. In order that Captain Reid could devote all of his time to his company, the Regimental Executive Officer. Lt. Col. Frederick W. Nagle of North Dakota took command in Bleialf. Throughout the night pressure against our men, who had taken up a position in front of Bleialf increased. By noon 17 December the Germans had overrun our thinly held lines and units of the composite Battalion isolated into small groups.
Although Colonel Nagle's C.P. was taken and he was critically wounded he re-formed the remnants of AT and Cannon Companies on the right of the 1st Battalion. A small group of Troop B under Capt. Robert G. Fossland regained allied lines on 21 December. Company B, 81st Engineers, under Capt. William J. Hynes of Great Neck, Long Island, N.Y. fought their way back to Schonberg where they were surrounded and captured by German Armor on 18 December. Capt. James L. Manning of South Carolina, Commanding Officer of Cannon Company was killed in Bleialf.
On 17 December, about 1600 hours, the 2nd Battalion under Lt. Colonel Joseph F. Puett of Eastman, Georgia, joined the Regiment on Schnee-Eifel Ridge. Upon completion of a Division Mission to extricate the 589th Battalion, Colonel Puett found his return to St. Vith blocked by German armor which now fully controlled the Auw-Schonberg-St. Vith road. Lt. Col. Vaden Lackey of Nashville, Tennessee, also moved our combat team artillery, the 590th FA Bn, onto Schnee-Eifel and a perimeter defense was formed by darkness, 17 December.
Belated orders to withdraw to the line of the Our River were received about midnight 17-18 December. A subsequent message directed the Regiment to take up positions south of the St. Vith-Schonberg road with information that one of our Armored Divisions was to attack down this road. Moving out of positions in Schnee-Eifel under cover of heavy fog, the 2nd Battalion, which was in the lead, encountered enemy groups which were pushed back to Radscheid. Previous orders were revoked and we were now ordered to move against the main German strength at Schonberg, thence west towards St. Vith. The 3rd Bn, under Lt. Col. Earl F. Klinck, moved to the east of the 2nd Battalion with orders to cut the Bleialf-Schonberg road. At 1600 hours the 1st Battalion under Lt. Col. William H. Craig attacked on the left of the 2nd Bn and by nightfall had pushed the Germans back, relieving the pressure on the 2nd Battalion.
The last message received from Division at 2000 hours stated it was imperative that Schonberg be taken. The 1st and 2nd Battalions were moved into positions in rear of the 3rd Battalion by daylight, 19 December. All efforts to establish contact with the 422 Infantry on the right failed. At 0830 Battalion Commanders were assembled and orders issued for attack on Schonberg at 1000 hours. At 0930 heavy artillery concentrations started falling on the entire regimental area. Lt. Col. Craig was mortally wounded. Captain Jam. L. Clarkson, Co D, and Captain James H. Hardy, Co M, were killed.
Company L, on the Bleialf-Schonberg road, ran into heavy opposition and by 1300 hours had been knocked out. In the 1st Battalion, Co A had been unable to withdraw the preceding evening and the following morning Major Sanda B. Helms, Regimental S-4, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, took over command of A Company and other small detachments and fought his way north of the Schonberg-St. Vith road, before being surrounded and captured. Company B pushed forward to the same road where they forced a German armored column to deploy before they were knocked out. By 1300 the 1st Battalion had been eliminated. The 2nd Battalion moved to the right and attached themselves to the 422nd Infantry. The 3rd Battalion, less Company L, pushed forward to within 200 yards of their objective but were hopelessly pinned down by fire from 88mm cannon emplaced on the high ground just north of Schonberg. By 1600 hours it was apparent that further resistance was a useless sacrifice of life and the remnants of the Regiment were surrendered. Small groups of men were selected to endeavor to infiltrate through to St. Vith.
Although isolated and cut off from all re-supply of ammunition and food and evacuation of wounded for four days, all elements of the Regiment fought stubbornly and heroically against overwhelming odds.
All contact with Division was lost early on 16 December except for the Division Command radio set, which worked in spite of enemy interference and unfavorable climatic conditions, until it was knocked out by enemy-action early 19 December. Adverse weather conditions prevented our aircraft from dropping desperately needed ammunition, food and medical supplies.
The Regimental Supply Sergeant, Master Sergeant John L. Hall of Port Allegany, Pennsylvania, was enroute from Division D.P. with rations on the morning of 16 December. Encountering enemy small arms fire at Schonberg he set up a machine gun in a German farm house. He was finally captured when tanks appeared on the scene. Breaking away with Pvt. Edgar M. Decker of Lee, Massachusetts, he returned to St. Vith, secured trucks and an armored escort and again started back with the rations which he knew would be desperately needed. His trucks were knocked out by German armor but he and Pvt. Decker again returned to Division D.P. loaded trucks and waited in vain for armor to clear the road to Schnee-Eifel.
The stubborn resistance of the 423rd Infantry delayed the Germans in their seizure of the necessary road point at St. Vith by four days thereby materially slowing the flow of German armor into the communication routes of Division, Corps and Army. Many heroic acts of individuals have been acknowledged by awards, many of them posthumous awards. Many acts can never be recognized and the individuals concerned given a suitable decoration, because the necessary facts to substantiate the award cannot be pieced together. Each and every member of the 423rd Infantry joins in extending heartfelt sympathy to the families of those of us who did not come back. To the 106th Division Association and the splendid start which they have made, we extend our very best wishes.
Every soldier of the Regiment can be justly proud of the fact that because of his actions The Regimental Colors and Company Guidons of every unit of the reconstituted 423rd Regiment were decorated with Combat Infantry streamers at a fitting ceremony in France, shortly after publication of General Orders No. 52, 106th Division, dated 1 August 1945, announcing such awards. Quoting Major General Gilbert R. Cook at the Critique of the First Division Exercise near Camden, South Carolina, after the Regiment had made a line of departure on time during a blinding snow storm—"I like the 423rd—in spite of all obstacles they get there on time."
155th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron
Military | First Lieutenant | photographer
He was a photo reconnaissance pilot with the Army Air Corps, flew missions from France and Belgium, including the Battle of the Bulge, in the winter of 1944/1945. Born February 20, 1924 and raised in San Leandro California, Bob enlisted at the age of.
Military | Lieutenant | 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Missing in action on combat mission, his aircraft was 43-9449
Military | Staff Sergeant | 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Gunner | 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Military | Flight Officer | Navigator | 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Military | Flight Officer | Navigator
Military | Photographer
Richard K Shirk was born in Syracuse, New York, on 24 July 1924. A professional photographer, he began his career in 1939 at the Grosse Point News in Michigan. In 1942, he worked for B F Goodrich in Ohio before joining the United States Army Air Force.
Military | Second Lieutenant | 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group
Lost during photo reconnaissance mission on July 17, 1944. Left Chalgrove, England at 2251 to target communication centers in France between Torigny and Vire.
423rd Reconnaissance Group - History
By Michael Collins & Martin King
BACKSTORY: Unternehmen Wacht-am-Rhein (Operation Watch on the Rhine), better known in the West as the Battle of the Bulge, had its beginnings following the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life by Colonel Count Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg and a group of other high-level plotters who felt that their Führer was not only leading Germany to defeat but also its doom, and thus had to be eliminated.
After the assassination plot failed, Hitler became even more paranoid and unpredictable. The problem was complex so were Hitler’s mental processes. Hitler was a leader who never found himself distracted or restrained by the facts and who, by nature, clung to an almost mystic confidence in his own strategic ability. He thought that defeat could be postponed and perhaps even avoided by some decisive stroke. To these circumstances must be added Hitler’s implicit faith that the course of conflict might be reversed by his military genius.
Hitler made the first announcement of the projected counteroffensive in the Ardennes—a hilly, wooded area on the German-Belgian border—during a meeting with his senior commanders on September 16, 1944. Why did Hitler choose the Ardennes as the location for the proposed counteroffensive?
To answer this question simply, the Ardennes would be the scene of a great winter battle because the Führer had placed his finger on a map and made a pronouncement. There was also a historical precedent to this decision, since the German army had used this route before, in 1870 at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War, in 1914 as part of the von Schlieffen plan, and again in 1940.
Hitler believed that the alliance between Great Britain and the United States was shaky and that by inflicting heavy casualties on his enemies in the West he would force them to sue for peace he could then marshal all his resources against the Soviets approaching from the east. Perhaps, so went Hitler’s reasoning, the British and Americans might even finally see the light and regard the Soviet Union as an enemy that they and Germany should be fighting together.
Strategically, Hitler decided to strike a blow along the dividing line between the British and American armies that would penetrate all the way from Germany’s western border near Aachen to the Belgian port of Antwerp, which the Allies were using to bring new supplies and reinforcements into the continent.
By the middle of December 1944, Hitler had assembled the forces he would need for his surprise assault in the West—forces that Allied intelligence had failed to detect. The stage was set for Nazi Germany’s last-gasp counteroffensive.
This article is adapted from Michael Collins and Martin King’s book, Voices from the Bulge (Zenith Press, 2011).
The American Shortage of Infantry
One of the critical problems facing General Dwight D. Eisenhower on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge was a severe shortage of infantrymen. By December 15, 1944, Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley, head of 12th U.S. Army Group, reported that his command lacked 17,000 riflemen because of casualties caused by prolonged combat and almost constant exposure to one of the severest winters Europe had ever known. Although Eisenhower ordered the reclassification as infantrymen of as many support personnel as possible, the shortfall continued to grow.
But neither Ike nor Bradley nor 21st Army Group head Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery was aware of the tremendous buildup of German forces (290,000 men, 2,617 artillery pieces and rocket launchers, 1,038 tanks and self-propelled guns) taking place in the towns and villages and forests along the German-Belgian-Luxembourg border. To the west, four U.S. divisions and one cavalry group stood nervously on guard.
The Defenders of St. Vith
One of the American divisions on the front line at that time, the 106th “Golden Lion” Infantry Division, under Maj. Gen. Alan W. Jones, had only arrived in Europe on December 6 and had yet to see combat. After a three-day road march from Limesy, France, to St. Vith, Belgium, in rain, cold, and snow, the division was assigned to Maj. Gen. Troy Middleton’s VIII Corps and took up positions in a slightly bulging arc along a forest-crowned ridge of the Schnee Eifel approximately 12 miles east of St. Vith.
The 14th Cavalry Group, attached to the 106th, held the northern flank. Next, in the easternmost part of the curve, the 106th’s 422nd Infantry Regiment held the line. To the 422nd’s right, swinging slightly to the southwest, was the 423rd, and almost directly south was the 424th. Beyond the 424th, on the division’s southern flank, was Maj. Gen. Norman D. Cota’s 28th Infantry Division.
The 106th had been assigned to a “quiet,” 27-mile sector of the front where it would not be expected to see much action. The 28th Division, on the other hand, had seen its numbers seriously depleted weeks earlier by the badly organized and orchestrated Battle of the Hürtgen Forest in the Aachen-Düren-Monschau triangle a few miles north of St. Vith.
Lieutenant Ivan Long, center, talks to bedraggled members of his Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, 423rd Infantry Regiment, 106th Infantry Division. Trapped by the sudden German assault on December 16, 1944, the platoon traveled over 18 miles back to American lines.
St. Vith was headquarters for the 106th, and the rear echelon was in Vielsalm, about 12 miles due west. St. Vith had been a quiet, German-speaking market town at a crossroads in the “High Fens” area of Belgium adjacent to the German border. Until 1919, it had been geographically in Germany, but the Treaty of Versailles put an end to that.
The little road center of St. Vith had seen war before. It was through St. Vith that the Nazi Panzers had rolled to Sedan in 1940 German infantry had marched through it 26 years earlier, in 1914. But it had never been a battleground before that fateful day of December 16, 1944, when it became the epicenter of the German attacks. Its only claim to fame before that was that it was the birthplace of Saint Vitus, later to become associated with a nervous condition called “Saint Vitus dance,” and many frayed and shattered nerves would shake on that freezing December day.
A Failure in Communication
During the night of December 15, frontline units of the 106th noticed increased activity across the border. The 28th Division farther south in Luxembourg also reported frenzied activity by the German Army along the east bank of the River Saar.
The main problem was that despite the many warnings about a build-up of German forces leaders at Allied headquarters remained dismissive. The intelligence was delivered but frequently dissipated and dismissed as it filtered up through the ranks. The men at the top just were not listening.
Why was there such a colossal failure to communicate this highly important intelligence to headquarters? During the Allies’ reconquest of France, the extensive network of the French resistance had provided valuable intelligence about German dispositions. Now that Allied forces had reached the German border, this source had evaporated.
In France, orders had been relayed within the German Army using radio messages ciphered by the Enigma machine, and these could be picked up and decrypted by ULTRA. In Germany, such orders were typically transmitted using telephone and teleprinter. All commanders operated under a special radio silence order, which was vehemently imposed on all matters concerning the upcoming offensive.
The Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park in England forwarded information concerning this, but the intelligence had been either ignored or dismissed. Furthermore, German Army radio silence proved to be very effective by December 15, three units of the German Army had managed to surreptitiously maneuver themselves into position on the Schnee Eifel almost under the noses of the Allies.
Operation Wacht-Am-Rhein Begins
The failure of intelligence was about to prove costly. The eerie silence that pervaded those rolling hills out on the frozen Schnee Eifel (the portion of the Ardennes that extends into Germany) was broken at 5:30 am on the morning of December 16, 1944. Nazi Nebelwerfers (multibarreled mortars nicknamed “Screaming Meemies”), artillery pieces, and tanks unleashed their hellish fury on the unsuspecting U.S. troops of the 106th Division strung out there.
An American soldier examines a captured multi-barrel rocket launcher known as a Nebelwerfer. The weapon was used extensively against the 106th Division at the beginning of the battle. GIs referred to them as “Screaming Meemies,” saying that the psychological effect of this weapon was almost as devastating as the physical effect.
Within minutes, the pastoral calm of the Schnee Eifel had been transformed into a raging inferno of apocalyptic proportions as flying metal pierced the arctic air accompanied by the menacing, deep, throaty rumble of advancing Nazi Tiger and Panther tanks, some of the latter equipped with the latest that German military technology had to offer, including “night vision.”
Recalling the Artillery Barrage
The green troops of the 106th Division were about to discover what it was really like to be on the receiving end of a full-scale attack. As John Hillard Dunn, Company H, 423rd Regiment, 106th Division wrote: “The vortex of a tornado is a vacuum. And that is where we were—in the center of a storm of armor and artillery roaring into the Ardennes.”
Before dawn on the morning of December 16, the enemy began to lay down a thunderous artillery barrage. At first the fire was directed mainly against the northern flank. Slowly, the barrage crept southward, smashing strongpoints along the whole division front. The morning darkness was illuminated by bursts from medium and heavy field pieces, plus railway artillery, which had been shoved secretly into position.
John R. Schaffner, a member of Battery B, Survey Team, 106th Division, recalls, “Early in the morning … our position came under a barrage of German artillery fire. I was on guard at one of our outposts, and though I did not realize it at the time, I was probably better off there than with the rest of the battery. We had a .50-caliber machine gun in a dug-in position so, being somewhat protected, I got down in the lowest possible place and ‘crawled into my helmet.’
“During the shelling, many rounds exploded real close and showered dirt and tree limbs about, but also there were quite a few duds that only smacked into the ground. Those were the ‘good’ ones as far as I was concerned. After about 30 minutes, the shelling ceased, and before any of the enemy came into sight, I was summoned to return to the battery position. Aspinwall [a buddy] states that from an inspection of the fragments, somebody determined that the enemy was using 88, 105, and 155mm guns.”
No Big Guns
As the artillery onslaught hit, GIs caught unaware burrowed frantically into their foxholes and fortifications to escape. Then they waited tensely for the German Army to attack.
Nelson Charron, Company D, 422nd Regiment, 106th Division, recalls, “We were awake during the opening morning [of the assault], and there were buzz bombs [V-1 rockets] going over our heads. We fired quite a lot, but we were just in big trouble because we had no big guns. Our artillery was knocked out, and machine guns against tanks were not going to cut it. There was no way we could have escaped maybe right off the bat we could have, but we were too weak.”
James L. Cooley, Company D, 423rd Infantry Regiment, 106th Division, was in a freezing foxhole outside St. Vith when the battle erupted. He says, “Where we were was supposed to be a quiet place. It was very wooded, and it was very hilly, and you would think that it was impassable.
James L. Cooley was wounded and taken prisoner when the 423rd Infantry was encircled and cut off from the remainder of the 106th Division near Schönberg, Belgium.
“The battle started on December 16th at about 0530 in the morning. I mean all kinds of shells and everything else came down on us. It was earth shaking. On our battlefront we were holding 26 miles of front for one division … we had up to half-mile gaps in our line. What we did was send patrols back and forth just to patrol it. We were on the hills and sent the patrols back and forth between the hills just to make sure there were no Germans there.”
Cooley notes that Company D was the heavy-weapons company. “I was in 81mm mortars, which is a shell that you lob over that explodes when it hits the ground. First, I started firing toward our front, then to the left, then toward the right, then in the back of us. As young as we were, we finally figured out that we were surrounded, which we were.”
The Germans’ First Toehold
At 7 am the barrage lifted in the forward areas, although St. Vith remained under fire. Now came the inevitable ground attack. The Nazis were heading for St. Vith in force. Wave upon wave of Volksgrenadiers, spearheaded by panzer units, smashed against the U.S. Army’s lines in a desperate attempt to force a decisive, early breakthrough. They were halted in their tracks as the beleaguered 106th Division tenaciously returned fire. A second attack was thrown against the division. Again, the 106th held. The Nazis threw in fresh troops to replace their losses, but there were no replacements for the 106th.
Throughout the day, the attacks increased in fury. Hundreds of well-prepared Germans rushed straight toward the American lines only to be mowed down or driven back. The deadly, vigilant fire of the stubborn defenders exacted a dreadful toll on the German Army.
Troops of the 1st SS Panzer Division cross a road near Poteau, Belgium, strewn with the wreckage of American vehicles belonging to the 14th Armored Cavalry Group. The photo was staged for the photographer only hours after the Battle of the Bulge began. It was later found by American troops among captured equipment.
Finally, under pressure of overwhelming numbers, the 14th Cavalry was forced to withdraw on the north flank, giving the Germans their first toehold in the division front. Enemy tanks and infantry in increasing numbers then hacked at the slowly widening gap in an effort to surround the 422nd.
The Heroic Defense of St. Vith
At St. Vith, the first objective of the German thrust, the 106th held on grimly at a time when every hour of resistance was vital to the Allied cause. Although scared and confused, the 106th fought with incredible tenacity against superior forces, with pulverizing artillery battering them from all sides it was men against tanks, guts against steel. Their heroism gained precious time for other units to regroup and strike back.
A second tank-led assault, supported by infantry and other panzers, hammered relentlessly at the 106th. Early the next morning, a wedge was driven between the two regiments. This southern German column then swung north to join the one that had broken through in the 14th Cav’s sector. Two regiments from the 106th—the 422nd and 423rd, along with the 589th and 590th Field Artillery Battalions—were surrounded. The third regiment, the 424th, managed to pull back to St. Vith.
In the ranks of the defenders in the fields east of St. Vith there was frenzied activity as cooks and clerks, truck drivers and mechanics shouldered weapons and took to the foxholes. Hopelessly outnumbered and facing heavier firepower, they dug in for a last-ditch defense of this vital junction. Even though they were almost completely surrounded, the 422nd and 423rd fought on relentlessly. Ammunition and food ran low. Frantic appeals were radioed to headquarters to have supplies flown in, but the soupy fog that covered the frozen countryside made air transport impossible.
The 424th Regiment, the 106th Reconnaissance Troop, 331st Medical Battalion, and 81st Engineer Combat Battalion suffered heavy casualties at St. Vith. Despite the vulnerable 27-mile front that the division had to defend, and despite inadequate reserves, supplies, and air support, the valiant men of the Golden Lion Division inscribed their story in blood and courage. Their battle ranks with the Alamo, Château-Thierry, Pearl Harbor, and Bataan.
Men of the 106th Division take up positions in the snowy woods near St. Vith, December 1944. The “Golden Lion” Division suffered heavy casualties during the battle, losing over 6,600 men taken prisoner.
In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, the 106th showed the Germans and the world how American soldiers could fight—and die. When the terrific onslaught began, the 106th had only been on the continent for 10 days. In the five days they had been on the line, there had been little rest. The valiant stand of the two fighting regiments surrounded by the Germans proved to be a serious obstacle to Nazi plans. It forced the Germans to throw additional reserves into the drive to eliminate the cut-off Americans, enabled the remaining units and their reinforcements to prepare the heroic defense of St. Vith, delayed the attack schedule, and prevented the early stages of the Battle of the Bulge from exploding into a complete German victory.
Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery would later say of them, “The American soldiers of the … 106th Infantry Division stuck it out and put up a fine performance. By jove, they stuck it out, those chaps.” But on that first day of battle, it was impossible to know if any American unit would be able to “stick it out.”
Robert Kennedy at Aachen
The first artillery volleys by the German Army were audible to Allied soldiers miles from the front, demonstrating how large the offensive really was.
Robert Kennedy was a member of Maj. Gen. Charles H. Corlett’s XIX Corps, which was positioned in the northern area of the Bulge, just outside Aachen, Germany, the first major German city to be attacked by the American army. Kennedy was a German translator/interrogator.
He recalls, “I was there the first morning that we got the surprise attack. We got up and were near Aachen, just outside the town in a suburban area. The front was just down a little ways. We heard all this firing and wondered what it was…it was German firing. They were firing over our heads back at the replacement depots, and they had a lot of heavy artillery.
“Then we found out that the Germans had passed us over and made a turn and presented a front to the south. We were strung out east and west, and back behind us were the British, who were facing the German front…. It was a miserably cold morning, and the streets were terrible with ice. There was nothing much we could do because we did not know what was going on, and they did not advance toward us, just toward the frontlines.”
Even though the soldiers of XIX Corps were just outside Aachen, and even though they did not have to deal with the first wave of the German attack, they were still part of the Bulge. With the British positioned behind them, the responsibility of the XIX Corps was to make sure the German Army did not try to swing northward to get to the Meuse River via Aachen.
“We Were an Odds-and-Ends Division”
A veteran of the terrible encounter near St. Vith, John Hillard Dunn, Company H, 423rd Regiment, 106th Division, recalls those first terrifying days and nights in the direct path of a massive German offensive.
“As I remember it,” he says, “I was trying to sleep in the ruins of a German farmhouse. It was December, cold and snowing. Squirming about in my sleeping bag, I felt reassured by the three-foot thickness of the wall against which I rested my shivering spine. Sometime in the night, buzz bombs began their cement-mixer noise overhead. I thought that there were more than there had been the night before, and I felt sorry for the quartermaster corps back in Antwerp, which I imagined to be on the receiving end.
“Later I learned the bombs were dropping on our division headquarters in St. Vith, a matter of 18 miles to our rear. Those buzz bombs were the heralds of a German offensive––the last great Nazi push.
A GI trains his Thompson sub-machine gun on a burning German half-track near St. Vith early in the battle.
“Our division—the 106th—was newly arrived in the line. We had relieved the 2nd Division on December 12, moving into what a 2nd Division veteran told me with a perfectly straight face was a ‘rest area.’ Actually, it was a salient a dagger plunged into the West Wall along the Belgium-Germany frontier near the Luxembourg corner.
“We were an odds-and-ends division as green as the pine forests that surrounded us somebody in our 81mm mortar platoon wanted to know, ‘Why the hell is it thundering in December?’ Our laughter was hollow when somebody informed him that those were big guns, and German guns at that.”
“Welcome to Our Purple Heart Corner”
Dunn was assigned to be a military policeman shortly before the battle began. “I never did any fighting with my mortar squad perhaps it was just as well, as I had never even seen a mortar fired before I went into combat. Not that I was unusual. Half of our platoon hadn’t, including at least two corporals whose Form 20s said they were gunners.
“My first duty as a combat MP convinced me that this was no goldbrick job. I had a chance to scan the detailed maps and for the first time got an idea of our salient. Lafe, a Southern lad, took a long look and said, ‘Damned if we ain’t got Germans on both sides of us.’
“That remark was underlined for me when I was assigned to traffic duty at a road intersection. This was December 13. The 2nd Division man who had been there greeted me: ‘Welcome to our Purple Heart Corner.’ He then explained briefly, ‘The Heinie artillery has this intersection zeroed in. It ain’t under direct observation, but they drop ’em in here every once in a while.’”
“He wasn’t kidding. For two days I ducked artillery shells at the intersection. Then came the night of December 15 and the farmhouse with the thick walls. The increase in buzz bombs was not the only significant omen if we had been veterans, we might have realized that the Germans were getting very bold, that they had too many patrols running around. Already by that afternoon the enemy was playing all kinds of hell with our communications. By nightfall, even our regiment could sense his presence.
“I was shaken out of my sack and the shelter of thick walls around midnight to relieve Outpost No. 8. The man remarked, ‘Somebody’s getting trigger-happy around here.’
“Someone was. A bullet whistled through the dark night over the lonely shed in which I took my post. I could have sworn it came from Outpost No. 7, so I asked into our open-circuit phone, ‘No. 7, what the hell are you shooting at?’
“‘I ain’t shooting at nuttin. It must be No. 6 on my left.’
‘Blow it out your ass,’ No. 6 barked.
‘It’s probably Headquarters Company huntin’ pigs,’ No. 9 butted in.”
The real explanation came later from a captured German: “We were told that we had a green American division,” he said. “We were sent in to disrupt communications and to confuse. So we fired at buildings or anything we could spot in the dark.”
One Last American Meal
Dunn continues, “The cold and weird night, punctuated by small-arms fire, wore on. The dawn of Saturday the 16th came, and from my post I could hear a deep thunder. But the rain that followed was steel.
“Yet nobody realized on the morning of the 16th that the Germans had begun a monster offensive. Not that we didn’t try to guess at what they were doing. In spite of the initial terror, the men around me argued as strongly about German tactics as they had recently debated the American League pennant race. We thought that Fritz was merely taking advantage of our inexperience to run a sortie and in a few hours would return to his comfortable pillboxes and dugouts that overlooked ours from the main ridge of the Schnee Eiffel.
“But then they told us we couldn’t move our 50 prisoners back to division, and we wondered why. Already we were bypassed by the onrushing German tanks, and I for one certainly didn’t know it, nor would I have believed it had anyone told me.
As a Tiger tank heads west, American prisoners captured early in the battle march toward POW camps in Germany.
“Toward evening, wounded were reaching our area. I had a chance to talk to a man from Cannon Company. His was the story of a forlorn, desperate little action in the German town of Bleialf, southwest of regiment headquarters and to the rear of our right flank.
“‘So you wanta know what the hell Cannon Company is doing–fighting in Bleialf,” he said as he rubbed the bandage on his right leg. ‘The goddamned Heinie infantry takes Bleialf in a surprise move. Our rifle companies are too damned busy to do anything about it. Besides, Cannon’s run out of ammunition for the guns by now anyway.’”
He stopped to light a cigarette.
“‘Understand, I ain’t beefin’, but hell, village fighting with carbines and damned few grenades ain’t no picnic. What the hell, though, somebody’s got to try to take the damned town back. Ain’t no other way of getting to division at St. Vith.’
“That explained, I realized, why division headquarters couldn’t take our prisoners. We were cut off.
“‘We take her back,’ the Cannon Company GI went on. ‘Don’t ask me how. They don’t let us keep it long. They come back with artillery fire, and then mortars and then infantry. There’s Cannon guys left back there, but they ain’t movin’.’
“He lit another cigarette from his butt. ‘That’s how it is, Mac. But where the hell do we go from here?’
“I wondered too. As the white of the snowy hillsides turned to a dirty gray in the evening twilight and then into formless darkness, I ate my last American meal for four months.” He would soon be taken prisoner.
The 28th Division Surrounded But Still Fighting
Dunn says, “That night the crucial situation was reflected in the [50 German] prisoners. Cowed and obedient for two days, they were getting cocky and talkative. Huddled together in a cold barn, they would erupt into conversation against orders. And it wasn’t until [my buddy] Angie fired a burst from his grease gun between the legs of a particularly obnoxious Nordic blond that they shut up.”
The numbers of Norman “Dutch” Cota’s 28th Division had been terribly depleted in November during the bloody Battle of the Hürtgen Forest, but they still fought on, pushed to the absolute limits of endurance. In the forlorn hope of getting some well-earned R&R, they were moved south to Luxembourg. The rest they so richly deserved would still be a long way off because, when the Battle of the Bulge began, they unfortunately found themselves in the path of the overwhelming numbers of the German Fifth Army, commanded by Baron Hasso von Manteuffel. His left two panzer corps broke through the 28th and reached the outskirts of Houffalize and Bastogne, Belgium. The Pennsylvania “keystone” arm patch would once again earn its title of the “Bloody Bucket.”
After delaying the Fifth Panzer Army’s attack along the Our River, frost-bitten and exhausted men of the 28th (“Keystone”) Infantry Division retire to Bastogne.
In total, nine enemy divisions were identified in the striking force that kept hammering the 28th troopers. Keystone men were outnumbered, overrun, cut off. Despite all the adversity with which they had to contend, they refused to panic. Under cool-headed Cota, the 28th fought, delayed, and fought.
Five German divisions—panzer, infantry, and Volksgrenadier—hurtled across the Our River the first day of the assault. The 28th Division was severely mauled yet again, but despite repeated Germans attacks it still managed to hold the line and fight back. As December 16 wore on, division lines eventually snapped under excessive pressure.
Germans in Disguise at the Bulge
The 28th’s 112th Infantry Regiment, isolated from its parent division by the German thrust toward Bastogne, plugged the line for two days before pulling north to join the one regiment left of the 106th Division (the 424th) as a combat team.
Allan P. Atwell, assigned to the 28th Division, recalls, “I was headed toward Bastogne as a rifleman replacement when asked if I would be interested in becoming a military policeman. I made a quick decision and became one on the spot. Our biggest concern as MPs was to look for Germans dressed up as American soldiers.
“If a jeep had black canvas covering the lights, that would give us cause for further investigation. Passwords at roadblocks were a big thing. As I remember, there would not be a particular password but they would ask for a word only an American would normally know. Like players on baseball teams, or what states certain cities were in, or possibly where a river might flow and in what direction. It was a little scary.
“I, myself, never confronted a German soldier under these conditions—that I was aware of, anyway. I saluted General Patton one day as he rode by in his sheepskin jacket and pearl-handled pistols.”
Dorothy Barre: Army Nurse
Men weren’t the only ones in the thick of the action. Dorothy Barre worked as an Army nurse in the surgical orthopedic wards. She recalls, “We were set up in Liège before the Bulge broke, and we were in tents that would hold 30 patients at a time. In the center of each tent was a potbelly stove that kept us warm, and we had surgical carts we could use for dressings.
“When the Bulge broke, Liège was an ammunition dump, so [the Germans] were sending buzz bombs toward the city. We were in that alley of buzz bombs, and when we heard them, a patient would run out and see what route they were on. There were three routes that they fired over us. Over that period, we were hit three times with the buzz bombs, not where the patients were. We did not have any casualties. We were 10 or 12 miles from the fighting.
“But one time one of the buzz bombs hit nearby, one of the houses, and we admitted Belgian patients. I had a mother and a daughter, and the daughter died. The doctor and I worked together to help them until they could get the mother to the Belgian hospital in Liège.
“Before the Bulge, we treated soldiers sometimes, but when the Bulge started, we got them from army trucks or stretchers. They might just be wrapped in blankets, the young fellas, and we got them washed up. Sometimes we would have four nurses to one guy, getting them washed up, pajamas on, their dressings checked. We would ask them if they had pain, and we carried codeine and aspirin in our pockets.
An American engineer unit digs up a roadway to plant antitank mines near St. Vith, Belgium. Both St. Vith and Bastogne were key German objectives.
“I remember sitting on the cots and talking with the guys. They would always ask me where I came from, since I have a Boston accent. Sometimes they would stay with us for just eight or 10 hours. The patients would get a good meal and cleaned up and given penicillin, too. After they were well enough, they were flown to Paris or London. We had a few from the 101st paratroopers and engineers as well.
“I think we knew that the Germans had broken through and the Bulge was getting close to us. We didn’t go into the city, about four miles away. We stayed in a chateau, a stone building. I was on the third floor, and there were seven to eight nurses to a room with a potbelly stove in the center. We had showers down in the cellar. Some nights, some of us would go down in the cellar because of those buzz bombs. They would start them about 11 o’clock at night and go until about two or three in the morning, and then they would start again at four in the morning.”
The Freedom Fighters of Bocholz
Joseph “Joe” Ozimek, a member of Battery C, 109th Field Artillery Battalion, 28th Infantry Division, says, “At the end of November, they pulled us out of the Hürtgen Forest, and we were sent to Bocholz [about 40 kilometers south of St. Vith], Luxembourg. We went over there to get some rest and get new replacements. December 16 at 0530 we could hear guns going off over in Germany. Then we had one on the road about 100 yards from us. It tore up the road and cut our telephone wires.
“It was my turn to take care of the .50-caliber machine gun on a tripod. I had just checked the gun to make sure it was loaded when one of the regular .50-caliber guards came up to me and said, ‘Joe, we’re out of touch with headquarters. All lines are cut.’ So off we went to our truck for some wire, and there were also three other wiremen we had to walk with to the road.
“The night was pitch black, and it was difficult to work under these circumstances. Suddenly, a shell exploded, and shortly thereafter we heard singing. The .50-caliber gun went off, and after some light flares were shot in the air, I was just standing in the middle of the road. Now, if a flare goes off and you don’t move, they can’t see you unless you move. It took me five minutes to get to the side of the road.
“Thank God the sun started to come out, and it seems our machine gun team took apart a German machine-gun group. We found about 12 bodies, all bloodied, and plenty of wounded to carry back. One German was killed trying to hide in the small church door. By 0930 we went back to patching the wires. This is when three Luxembourg freedom fighters showed up who wore ‘FFI’ armbands and carried Belgian .38-caliber guns they looked like our .45-calibers. They pulled about four or five Germans off the road and shot each one in the head. Our captain stopped them and told them to stop with the shooting. It was still dark, and our troops might mistake the noise as coming from the Germans, so we might be hit.
“That day our captain was [later] shot in the leg…. He maintained his command and used a rifle as a support. He would only be evacuated to the medic station at 1700. He would be out for four months, and the gunner was also hit in the cheek. Five others were shot that day. I can’t tell you how many Germans were shot, but they must have had plenty of wounded, judging by all the blood on the road.
“We held on to Bocholz until December 18th, when we heard over the radio in Wiltz: ‘We are closing station now. Hope to see you in Bastogne.’ ”
Deploying the 10th Armored Division
John Kline, a soldier in M Company, 423rd Regiment, 106th Division, says, “Because we were high atop the Schnee Eifel and out of the mainstream of the German offensive, we were probably the last to know that it had been launched. I cannot remember any evidence or any sounds that would have indicated to us the size of the battle that was to take place.
“Our company commander set up his headquarters in one of the enormous Siegfried Line bunkers. The bunker was not completely demolished, as they usually were. The underground rooms were intact and accessible. He had taken a room several flights down. The command bunker was on the crest of a hill. The firing apertures faced west toward Belgium, the backside toward the present German lines. There were steep slopes on either side, with signs and white caution tape warning of mine fields. There was a pistol belt and canteen hanging in one of the trees on the slope. Apparently, some GI had wandered into the minefield.”
Coated with ice and snow, a Panzer IV, belonging to one of seven German armored division committed to the battle along an 75-mile front, rolls through a wintry Ardennes landscape.
News of the German offensive started to spread throughout Allied rest areas in France, but it was not at first clear if the rumors were true. It didn’t take long for the rumors to turn into fact.
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., commander of Third US Army, was given orders to suspend his attacks in the Metz area and send reinforcements to Belgium. It soon became obvious that the Germans had as one of their objectives the key road-junction town of Bastogne, Belgium. One of the units that was pulled out of the line and sent north was Maj. Gen. William Henry Harrison Morris, Jr.’s 10th Armored Division.
The sudden deployment of the 10th Armored was a surprise to many of the division’s men.
“I was in a chateau in Sierck, France,” says Clair Bennett, Company F, 90th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized), 10th Armored Division. “I was told by a runner to return to HQ. I did not pay attention to him, but the second time he told me I did. I had heard that tale before, but this time it was real. Then, as we were moving out, we found out that the Germans were attacking Belgium.”
W.D. Crittenberger, 420th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 10th Armored Division, says, “We were north of Metz when the Bulge began, in the small town of Launstraff, France, right on the German border, when we were ordered up to Bastogne. We heard about the Bulge because we always tuned our halftrack radios to the BBC. They overlapped, and around 0200 we got a warning order from Division Headquarters saying they were getting ready to go north. Then around 0800 we got our orders to be part of CCB [Combat Command B] and go to Bastogne. On the 17th we drove about 60 miles up to Luxembourg and stayed overnight.”
Don Olson of Troop C, 90th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 10th Armored Division, recalls, “We were pulled back to Metz to resupply and re-arm, and we expected to spend Christmas there, and then we got the call to move. We had people in Paris on leave, and they had to round them up. We did not know where we were going we were traveling at night. They did not allow headlights we drove in the dark, and it was getting colder.”
Low on Blood at the 58th Evacuation Hospital
Helen Rusz was an Army nurse at the 59th Evacuation Hospital. She says her unit was “south of Metz, France, in the town of Épinal, when the Battle of the Bulge broke out. We moved towards Metz and stayed near there during the Bulge.
“We used to tend the wounded, and when they came into the emergency room, we made sure they had a tetanus shot. The only way we would know if they had had a tetanus shot or not—because half of them were wounded and didn’t know what they were saying or doing—was if they had “TAT” on their forehead. They didn’t have the nice markers like we have today they would put it on with ink or lipstick. If they did not have “TAT” on their forehead, we would give them a tetanus shot right away, that was the first thing we did.
“We would then enter them into the ward, and there was a medical ward, a surgical ward, an intensive care ward, and a cardiac ward, just like a regular hospital. Our unit had about 40 doctors and about 80 nurses. The doctors in the emergency room would decide where they would go, and we would take care of them.
“We would be on duty for eight hours, and then someone else would take our place. Seven to three and three to 11 and 11 to seven were our hours. We would follow the troops, and we would send the boys away when they were as well as they could be. We mostly treated Americans, but we also treated Englishmen and prisoners of war, too. The younger Germans were very nice, but the staunch old German guys did not like it when the German prisoners would communicate with the American wounded.
German infantrymen advance through a wooded area during the Ardennes offensive. Hitler threw a force of over 290,000 men at the Americans.
“During the Bulge, there was one fellow who had a very bad eye wound. I really took care of him. I was practically his private nurse I changed his dressing every day, and I put a solution in his eyes. I think his eye was saved after the doctor told him that it would be all right.
“Another fellow who was in intensive care when I was there, this kid, I do not think he was even 17, he was crying for his momma. It was so sad he was absolutely out of his head. He was very confused, he didn’t know where he was, he wanted to go home, and he kept crying for his mother. He had a very severe abdominal wound, and we didn’t know if he was going to make it or not. We sent him to England, and I do not know what happened to him. I wish I did.
“The main thing was in the emergency room: they would come in so awful some of them, but you rarely would see them crying, they were so brave. They would say, ‘Oh my God, this hurts,’ and we would give them a shot for their pain, but we did not have any blood for a transfusion. They all needed blood, since they did lose a lot of it. We did have plasma. It wasn’t as good as blood, but there was volume.
“As soon as they were better, we would have the GIs get up and walk, and I loved walking with the GIs. And once they were walking better, they were sent out to a general hospital.”
Reinforcements at the Bulge
Other units were alerted to respond to the crisis. Frank Towers of Company M, 120th Regiment, 30th “Old Hickory” Infantry Division (Maj. Gen. Leland S. Hobbs), says, “When the Bulge broke out, I was at Herzogenrath, Germany [north of Aachen], and we were preparing to cross the Roer River. We did not know what had happened. We were alerted midday on the 16th, I believe, and told to be ready to move out at a moment’s notice. We did not know where we were going until late that night, en route to the Bulge area, in the strictest of secrecy that I was ever aware of, when Axis Sally came on the air and said, ‘The Old Hickory Division is on the way to Malmedy to save the ass of the First Army, most of which has already been captured!’
“That was the first we knew about where we were going. At the moment, we were a little bit skeptical of this, knowing the source, but by starlight calculations, we determined that we were moving due south. Next morning at Hauset, Belgium, it was revealed to us that the Germans had broken through, but we were not told how badly. We soon determined this as we met convoy after convoy heading north! It was the headquarters of the First Army, which had been in the vicinity of Spa, getting the hell out of there.
“They had left behind all kinds of maps, orders, etc., integral to the battle that was going on. All they wanted was to get out of there and save their asses! We continued on to Malmedy on the 17th and found out from the engineer troops, which were the only ones there, what the situation was. We started deploying from that point onward.”
Albert Tarbell of Company H, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, remembers, “I was on chute patrol duty with the MPs in the city of Reims, France. The 82nd was staying in Camp Sissone near Sissone, France. Our job was to intervene on behalf of the troopers should they get too rowdy or drunk and get arrested by regular Army MPs. We were usually able to reason with them and bring them back to the truck pickup point and avoid more serious charges.
“We were to go to the shooting range on [December] 18th, but when I arrived back at camp late that evening or early morning, there was a lot of activity going on. There were replacements all over the place. I remember hearing one of the replacements telling Sergeant Kogul that he had never fired an M1 before, and the sergeant replied to him, ‘That’s okay, son, you will learn soon enough.’
Men of the 106th Infantry Division on patrol in Belgian woods near the German border before the onslaught. The troops had not yet seen battle and much of the main thrust of the German counteroffensive fell squarely on their lines.
“I still thought we were headed for the firing range. When I arrived back to my quarters, Sergeant Fuller was waiting up for me. I asked him if we were ready and packed for the firing range. He said we surely were ready for the range, and it was then that I first found out about a German counterattack somewhere in Belgium. We did not get much sleep the rest of that night.”
John Kline, M Company, 423rd Regiment, 106th Division, remembers, “My division, the 106th, suffered over 416 killed in action, 1,246 wounded, and 7,001 men missing in action in the first days of the Battle of the Bulge. Most of these casualties occurred within the first three days of battle when two of the three regiments were forced to surrender. In all, there were 641 killed in action from our division through to the end of the fighting. In losses, the German Ardennes Offensive … was the worst battle for the Americans in World War II.”
By the end of December 16, Maj. Gen. Alan W. Jones, the 106th’s commander, had committed all the reserves available to his division except a battalion of engineers at St. Vith. But reinforcements, hastily gathered by the VIII Corps, First Army, and 12th Army Group, were on the way.
In the next issue, the veterans continue their stories of heroism and heartbreak as their units try to recover from their shock and halt the German onslaught that threatens to overwhelm them.
Units served with
306th Bomb Group The Reich Wreckers
Constituted as 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942. Activated on 1 Mar 1942. Trained for combat with B-17's. Moved to England, Aug-Sep 1942, and assigned to Eighth AF Eighth Air Force in September 1942 Station 111 Thurleigh. During combat.
The area consists of the 423rd Air Base Group and the JIOCEUR Analytic Center (JAC) and is composed of RAF’s Alconbury, Molesworth, United Kingdom, and the 426th Air Base Squadron in Stavanger, Norway.
Located 3 miles northeast of Huntingdon and 60 miles north of London, England. The base operator number is DSN 314-268-1110 or Commercial from the US 011-44-1480-84-1110.
Located 14 miles west of RAF Alconbury and 11 miles northwest of Huntingdon. The base operator number is DSN 314-268-1110 or Commercial from the US 011-44-1480-84-1110.
Stavanger is situated on the Southwestern coast of Norway (in the county of Rogaland) 600km from Oslo, the capital of Norway and lies on a line of latitude level with the Southern tip of Alaska. The automated base operator number is DSN 314-224-0500 or Commercial from the US 011-47-5195-0500.
Land for an airfield at Alconbury was first acquired in 1938 as a satellite landing ground for RAF Upwood, and, when war broke out, it was used by Blenheims from RAF Wyton. In the beginning facilities were rudimentary comprising a briefing room and bomb stores in 1941 three runways were laid, and it was subsequently used by Stirlings and Wellingtons to mount raids against Germany. In August 1942 Alconbury became an American base for Liberators flying bombing missions. In December 1942 the Liberators were replaced by B-17s and Alconbury became known as Station 102. As part of the US 8th Air Force it fulfilled a variety of roles until being handed back to the RAF in November 1945.
On 1 June 1953 the airfield was reactivated as one of the bases for the US 3rd Air Force, and by 1954 major reconstruction work was underway to lay a new extended runway and construct other infrastructure, including hangars and bomb stores. The first aircraft arrived in September 1955 B-45s of the 85th Bomb Squadron, this squadron remaining until August 1959 by which time it had been re-equipped with B-66Bs. Following this departure Alconbury assumed what was to be its principal Cold War role as the home to various reconnaissance squadrons. The first to arrive were the 1st and 10th Squadrons of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, flying at first RB-66s until they were replaced by RF-4C Phantom IIs in 1965. In 1976, the airfield acquired an additional role as the home of a tactical fighter training squadron flying Northrop F-5E Tigers. Soon after the airfield was substantially remodelled with the construction of twenty-eight hardened aircraft shelters. ‘Hush Houses’ were also built in the early 1980s to minimise engine noise during static test runs.
RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth are the last World War II-era Eighth Air Force bases in England that are still actively in use and controlled by the United States Air Force.
Ready to fight and postured to respond anywhere while providing superior services to the world-class men and women serving in USAFE. 501st Motto “One Family – Mission Focused “ 501st Cheer is Git-R-Done”.
RAF Alconbury – The 423 ABG Commander and his Support Staff, as well as many of the support units and recreational facilities for the Tri-Base area, are located here. The Airman and Family Readiness Center, Lodging Office, Commissary, BX, concessionaires, theater, DoDDS schools and some base housing are also located here. Also located on RAF Alconbury is the 501st Combat Support Wing. This wing ensures four UK-based Air Base Groups (RAF Fairford – 420th, RAF Menwith Hill – 421st, RAF Croughton – 422nd, and RAF Alconbury – 423rd) are resourced, sustained, trained and equipped to exacting command standards in order to provide mission support that enables US and NATO war fighters to conduct full spectrum flying operations during expeditionary deployments, theater munitions movements, global command and control communications to forward deployed locations, support for theater intelligence operations and joint/combined training.
RAF Molesworth – Based here are the JIOCEUR Analytic Center (JAC), NATO’s Intelligence Fusion Center (IFC), Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO), National Imaging and Mapping Agency (NIMA), government contractors, National Imaging and mapping Agency (NIMA), Africa Command (AFRICOM) and other organizational units.
Stavanger, Norway – The mission of the 426 Air Base Squadron is to provide Top-Notch professional support to the Joint Warfare Center (NATO) and DoD personnel assigned to Norway. Stavanger is situated on the Southwestern coast of Norway (in the county of Rogaland) 600km from Oslo, the capital of Norway and lies on a line of latitude level with the Southern tip of Alaska.
We are a joint-services base with a military population of approximately 7,000 and 2,100 family members. Civilian contractors at the JIOCEUR Analytic Center (JAC) represent Anteon, Titan, General Dynamics, Computer Sciences Corporation, MITRE, and Northrop Grumman to mention a few.
A sponsor will be assigned to you by your gaining unit. If you have not heard from your sponsor within a reasonable time after being notified of your assignment, please contact your Orderly Room to ask if a sponsor has been assigned. Everyone arrives and leaves via London Heathrow or Gatwick. As a general rule, your sponsor will arrange a courier to meet you at the airport and transport you to the base. This is an important aspect of your arrival and must be discussed fully. If a courier is used, you will be responsible for that expense, which ranges from $160 + depending on the number of travelers and baggage.
Contact your sponsor to set up your PO Box. General Delivery mail will not be accepted without prior arrangement. Alternatively, you can contact the RAF Alconbury Post Office for RAF Alconbury personnel (011-44-1480-82-3539 or DSN Fax 314-268-3288) or the RAF Molesworth Post Office for RAF Molesworth (011-44-1480-84-2991 or DSN Fax 314-268-2332) assigned personnel to set up your post office box yourself. If you cannot reach the post office via phone (due to time difference) you may fax the post office. Please include a copy of your orders with the fax, along with your anticipated arrival date, and a reliable way to contact you (i.e. mailing address, DSN number, e-mail).
It is imperative that you make your Lodging reservations as soon as possible. Lodging does have three pet rooms. If you have a pet and these rooms are not available, please check with your sponsor for options for pet sitting or kennels in the local area or call Airman and Family Readiness Center, 011-44-1480-82-3557 or DSN 314-268-3601 for more information. Lodging reservations can be made by calling the Lodging Office, 011-44-1480-82-6000 or DSN 314-268-6000.
Newcomer‘s Orientation is held twice monthly. It is mandatory for incoming permanent party members, reservists, civilian employees, contractors, NIFC members. Military members should arrive in uniform, and bring copy of their orders and their medical records. Several of the mandatory in processing briefings will be provided during this orientation. Spouses are encouraged. If you have children who are not in school or day care the only portion they will be allowed to attend will be the Local Driving Condition Brief at the end of the day, which begins at 1320.
You will receive the Local Driving Conditions briefing which is a pre-requisite for receiving the UK Driving License. The UK Highway Code Book is online and will be helpful in learning the signs and terms. You can take the drivers examination on line at several locations across the base, A&FRC, Library, and Billeting, and bring a copy of your passing verification to the Newcomers Orientation. You will be able to secure your license that day: if you have not completed the test prior to Newcomers Orientation instructions will be provided on the process. Family members will also need to attend this Local Driving conditions briefing before they can obtain their Drivers License. The computer test can be completed at the locations mentioned above. Studying the UK Highway Code Book online can help tremendously in identifying signs and terms. REMEMBER Even if you pass the on-line driving test, you still must complete the Local Driving Condition Briefing before you can secure the license. At this time, the only place to obtain that briefing is at the Newcomers Orientation. Household items such as linens, dishes, pots and pans, small electrical appliances, etc. are all available to borrow for 30 days. Bring a valid ID and a copy of your orders.
For information on the Loan Locker, contact the Relocation Assistance Program Manager by calling 011-44-1480-82-3557 or DSN 314-268-3557.
Critical Installation Information
DSN prefix is 314-268-XXXX. The 314 indicates the DSN phone system in Europe. All commercial dialing in this file is listed with the international dialing numbers when dialing from the US to the UK (hence the 011-44- prefix which is the International code dialing from the US to the UK). When dialing within the UK, drop the 011-44 designators and add a 0. For example: 011-44-1480-82-3557 from the US becomes 01480-82-3557 within the UK.
Although the service member technically does not need to have a passport to arrive here, they will need one to go on leave and return. They should buy a tourist passport. There are cheap, cheap flights (roundtrip to Dublin for under $40) but the ONLY ID the airline will accept is a tourist passport.
Active Duty Members do not need a VISA to enter the U.K. The following individuals do need a VISA to enter and live in the U.K.: Dependents of Active Duty Members, DoD Civilian Employees, DoD Contractors, and family members of indicated personnel. An “Official No-Fee Passport”, along with information on how to obtain a “Residence Permit” Visa prior to entering the U.K can be obtained from your local Military Personnel Flight. The Visa will cost approximately $460.00 (prices subject to change) and is a reimbursable expense. For additional information, you can visit the U.K. VISA Website.
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In order for pets to come into the United Kingdom with little or no quarantine, a certain procedure must be followed. Details on this procedure can be obtained from the DEFRA website or local military veterinarian. It is advised to check the website on a regular basis as the procedure sometimes changes. Members are responsible for their pet’s travel. TMO will make reservations for pets on commercial flights however, they cannot guarantee that the pets will fly. Only the airlines can make that determination (based on space-availability and weather). All expenses incurred are the responsibility of the member and members are advised to confirm expenses for pets travel once reservations are made. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact TMO Passenger Travel at your current location or DSN 314-268-3175. or commercial at 011-44-1480-84-3175. Furthermore, Veterinary Services are available at RAF Feltwell DSN: 314-226-7097 or commercial 011-44-1638-52-7097. Services are provided at RAF Alconbury community monthly.Childcare
RAF Alconbury CDC provides services for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years of age. Children must be registered prior to admission and all immunizations will be verified. You may register in advance by sending a completed DD Form 2606 and a copy of yours orders one month prior to date of arrival via fax at DSN 314-268-3210 or commercial at 011-44-1480-84-3210. If you have any questions please call DSN: 314-268-3527 or commercial at 011-44-1480-84-3210
The 106th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company was constituted on paper on 5 May 1942 in the Army of the United States. It was actually activated on 15 March 1943 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina with a cadre from the 80th Infantry Division. Following Basic and Advanced Infantry Training, the Division moved on 28 March 1944 to Tennessee to participate in the Second Army #5 Maneuvers.
During World War II, the 106th Infantry Division relieved the 2nd Infantry Division in the Schnee Eifel on 11 December 1944, with its 424th Infantry Regiment was sent to Winterspelt. The Ardennes-Alsace Campaign attack was thrown in force at the 106th on 16 December 1944.
The division's 422nd and 423rd Infantry Regiments were encircled and cut off from the remainder of the Division by a junction of enemy forces in the vicinity of Schonberg. They regrouped for a counterattack but were blocked by the enemy and lost to the Division on 18 December 1944. The two Regiments surrendered to the Germans on 19 December 1944.
The rest of the Division, reinforced by the 112th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division, withdrew over the Our River, and joined other units at Saint Vith. Along with the city of Bastogne to the south, St. Vith was a road and rail junction city considered vital to the German goal of breaking through Allied lines to split American and British forces and reach the Belgian port city of Antwerp. A scratch force of 106th Division personnel, in particular the division's 81st Engineer Combat Battalion, was organized and led by the 81st's 28-year-old commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thomas Riggs, in a five-day holding action (17–21 December) on a thin ridge line a mile outside St. Vith, against German forces vastly superior in numbers and armament (only a few hundred combat-green Americans against many thousands of veteran Germans). For this action, the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion was later awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for gallantry.
The defense of St. Vith by the 106th has been credited with ruining the German timetable for reaching Antwerp, hampering the Bulge offensive for the Germans. [ citation needed ]
The 81st and its allied units, including 168th Engineer Combat Battalion, all pulled back from St. Vith on 21 December 1944, under constant enemy fire, and withdrew over the Saint River at Vielsalm on 23 December. The following day, the 424th Regiment, attached to the 7th Armored Division, fought a delaying action at Manhay until ordered to an assembly area. From 25 December 1944 to 9 January 1945, the Division received reinforcements and supplies at Anthisnes, Belgium, and returned to the struggle, securing objectives along the Ennal-Logbierme line on 15 January after heavy fighting. After being pinched out by advancing divisions, the 106th assembled at Stavelot on 18 January for rehabilitation and training. It moved to the vicinity of Hunningen, 7 February 1945, for defensive patrols and training.
In March, the 424th advanced along the high ground between Berk and the Simmer River and was again pinched out at Olds on 7 March 1945. A period of training and security patrolling along the Rhine River followed, until 15 March 1945 when the Division moved to St. Quentin for rehabilitation and the reconstruction of lost units.
The division was reconstituted on 16 March 1945 when the 3rd Infantry Regiment (the Old Guard) and the 159th Infantry Regiment were attached to replace the two lost regiments. The division then moved back to Germany on 25 April 1945, where, for the remainder of its stay in Europe, the 106th handled POW enclosures and engaged in occupational duties.
In the meantime, the 422nd Infantry Regiment and the 423rd Infantry Regiment were reconstituted from replacements in France on 15 April 1945, were attached to the 66th Infantry Division in training status, and were still in this status when the Germans surrendered on 8 May 1945.
At the end of the war the division had seen 63 days of combat. It had suffered 417 KIA, 1,278 WIA, and 53 died of wounds. It lost 6,697 personnel taken prisoner. Of that total, 6,500 POWs were eventually returned to American military control after being released at war's end. The remainder were listed MIA.
Lineage [ edit | edit source ]
- Moved to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, on 28 March 1944.
- Staged at Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts on 10 October 1944.
- Departed Boston Port of Embarkation on 10 November 1944.
- Arrived in England, 17 November 1944, and trained for 19 Days.
- Assigned 29 November 1944 to VIII Corps, First United States Army, 12th Army Group.
- Moved to France, 6 December 1944, where the Division entered the ongoing Rhineland Campaign
- 106th Infantry Division crossed into Belgium on 10 December 1944
- Relieved from assignment to Rhineland Campaign on 16 December 1944, and Assigned to Ardennes-Alsace Campaign.
- Relieved from assignment to VIII Corps, and Assigned 20 December 1944 to XVIII Airborne Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group, with attachment to the 21st Army Group.
- Relieved from attachment to 21st Army Group on 18 January 1945, and returned to XVIII Airborne Corps, First Army, 12th Army Group.
- Ardennes-Alsace Campaign terminated 25 January 1945. Division resumed assignment to Rhineland Campaign.
- On 6 February 1945, the 106th Infantry Division relieved from assignment to XVIII Airborne Corps, and assigned to V Corps.
- On 10 March 1945, 106th Division relieved from assignment to V Corps, and assigned to Fifteenth United States Army, 12th Army Group.
- 106th Infantry Division returned to France on 16 March 1945 terminated on 21 March 1945. started on 22 March 1945.
- On 15 April 1945, 106th Infantry Division was attached to the Advanced Section, Communications Zone. Fifteenth Army directed the establishment of the Frontier Command segment of the Occupation of Germany.
- On 23 April 1945, the Frontier Command segment of the German Occupation started.
- 106th Infantry Division entered Germany on 25 April 1945.
- On 8 May 1945, Germany signed its surrender.
- With the termination of the Central Europe Campaign, German hostilities ceased on 11 May 1945.
- 106th Infantry Division was located at Bad Ems, Germany on 14 August 1945.
- 106th Infantry Division returned to New York Port of Embarkation on 1 October 1945.
- Inactivated 2 October 1945 at Camp Shanks, New York.
- Headquarters Company allotted 25 March 1948 to the Organized Reserve Corps
- Activated 1 May 1948 at San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Inactivated 12 October 1950 at San Juan, Puerto Rico.
As daylight began to show through the dark woods south of Schonberg, the infantry of the 423rd began to reorganize. The 3rd Battalion was the furthest forward. Behind it the somewhat depleted 1st Battalion and the 2nd Battalion were in position on the reverse slope of Hill 536.
The 590th FAB found themselves in a narrow valley. Steep, densely wooded slopes rose up on either side. There was swampy ground to their right front, and flowing directly across their path was a stream some six or eight feet wide. The infantry, unable to get its vehicles across the stream during the night, had abandoned them completely blocking the way. The infantry which had been protecting them had forged ahead, there was little else they could do but get themselves into position where they sat. Guns were unhitched, A and C Batteries were forward near the stream, while B Battery was about 200 yards to the rear around a curve in the wood line. They would still be able to support the infantry&rsquos attack, although ammunition was now in short supply. An aid station had been set up in the scrub pine along the lower edge of the far slope.
To their right, but unknown to them, Descheneaux&rsquos 422nd Regiment also readied itself for the coming attack. He had learned of the new orders the previous night and had assembled his Battalion commanders for briefing. His plan was to attack the wooded height (Hill 504) above Schonberg with two Battalions forward and one held in reserve. He knew he had no artillery for support but there was still some mortar ammunition on hand. Descheneaux had no idea where the exact location of his sister regiment was but assumed it would be attacking on his left at the same time.
422/423 Positions prior to attack on Schonberg
At 0830 Cavender began briefing his Battalion commanders. Klinck&rsquos 3rd Battalion was to make the main effort and attack down the road to Schonberg. The 1st and 2nd Battalions would be to the right and attack over Hill 504 and down into the village. They started synchronizing their watches, Cavender announced &lsquoIt is now exactly 9:00 o&rsquoclock&rsquo. As if that had been the signal the Germans had been waiting for they let loose a tremendous artillery barrage which swept the hill. Everyone scattered, trying to find cover. Lieutenant-Colonel Craig, commander of the 1st Battalion, was killed.
The shelling lasted for about thirty minutes, as it lifted a commotion was heard from the rear. The Germans&rsquo shells had caught the artillerymen tightly packed in the valley. Totally defenceless and with machine-gun fire now coming at them from the heights, the 590 FAB could do little else but destroy its weapons and surrender.
The 18th Volksgrenadiers had moved in behind.
For the 423rd there was now only one way to go and that was forward. What vehicles remained were promptly ordered destroyed.
At 1000, what was left of the infantry Battalions jumped off, Klinck&rsquos 3rd Battalion took off quickly, Company L of that Battalion moved on up the Schonberg road supported by machine-gun fire from part of Company M&rsquos heavy weapons.
John Kline from Company M remembers being told to take his 30 calibre water-cooled machine gun and to place it in the edge of the woods in a direction that he took to be Schonberg. His position was a considerable distance up the hill.
Hastily dug machine-gun post with a .30 calibre water-cooled Browning mg in position.
&lsquoI was not in an area that was receiving small-arms fire, but all of our exposure was to heavy artillery. In fact, once during the day, there was a piece of shrapnel that hit beside my position, close enough that I reached out and touched it, it was at least ten centimetres across and 50&ndash60 centimetres long. It had spent most of its energy, but made a terrifying sound as it came through the trees and hit near me.&rsquo
From his position John Kline could see Company L way below him caught in the ditches on the side of the road. He could hear the screams for help and shouts for &lsquoMedics&rsquo as they were being torn apart. Unfortunately his machine gun was too far back to help the infantry. He could not move either because the same artillery was hitting him.
Another witness to the events taking place commented:
&lsquoCompany L was being slaughtered. A sniper was killing a lot of them. We had spotted the sniper, nearby, in a clump of bushes. The range was too short for the elevating mechanism. My squad leader (mortars) was trying to elevate the mortar, by holding it vertically. He was killed by a bullet in the temple. Another mortar man and I grabbed the mortar and dropped three shells in the area of the sniper, killing him.&rsquo
It was not long before they ran straight into heavy fire from German 88&rsquos and 40mm anti-aircraft guns being used in a ground role. An American Sherman tank came around the sharp hairpin bend, the GIs thinking this was part of the relieving armour began to stand up, to their horror the tank raked them with machine-gun fire, then withdrew, it had been captured by the Germans. At the same instant the rear of the company was attacked by an estimated German rifle company, which was moving up from the Bleialf area. Captain J. S Huyatt, commander of Company L, detached part of his force to turn around and counter-attack the Germans coming from his rear. This they did and actually drove the Germans back. Through this action, Huyatt&rsquos Company had become separated from the remainder of the Battalion. He managed to get what was left of it, some fortymen, up the side of the hill and dug in.
The Germans came back with a vengeance. By 1330 the remnants of Company L, surrounded and out of ammunition, could do nothing else but surrender. Companies I and K of the same Battalion moved on towards Schonberg, they actually reached the southern outskirts of the village before they too were stopped by intense direct anti-aircraft artillery fire.
By 1500 Lieutenant-Colonel Klinck could get no further, he pulled the two battered companies back up the slopes of Hill 504.
The 1st Battalion added little to the attack from the beginning. Its commander had been killed during the morning&rsquos briefing, so no word had reached the Battalion on what they were supposed to do. Luckily the executive officer, Major C. H. Cosby took command, collected the orders, and proceeded to cross the line of departure almost on time, but with what. Company A was lost in the Oberlascheid area from the previous day, Company D had been caught fully in the morning barrage, had taken many casualties, and also was as good as lost. As the Battalion headed for its jump off position Company C was earmarked for regimental rearguard. So Cosby led the 1st Battalion, in reality now Company B and part of Battalion Headquarters Company, along the eastern slope of Hill 504. Through the thick woods and under constant mortar and artillery fire they pushed forward, finally reaching the road running north out of Schonberg. Here Company B dug in, the headquarters company had become separated and was now lost. Under constant fire they were finally forced to surrender when enemy tanks overran their positions. By 1400 the 1st Battalion had been eliminated.
Surrounded and out of ammunition American soldiers began coming down from the hills.
Lieutenant Austin Sellery, M Company 423rd recalled, &lsquoMemories about the events that preceded our capture on 19 December, 1944, are rather vague. I recall receiving orders to pull off the line and proceed towards Schonberg on 18 December. When night came we were on a wooded knoll and were told to dig our mortars in. Tree roots and frozen ground made this impossible. Throughout the night we could hear Germans around us. I was amazed at how casual they were in making their presence known. We were told the plan was to jump off at 0900 hours. This was impossible against the Germans overwhelming fire power. Captain Hardy was killed and Lieutenant Weigers was seriously injured within yards of me. It looked certain that we would all be killed and all that was left was for us to fight until we ran out of ammunition. Our remaining senior officer surrendered us to the Germans about 4.00 pm that afternoon.&rsquo
The last remaining Battalion in the 423rd was the 2nd. Lieutenant-Colonel J. F Puett led his Battalion forward to the right of the 1st. He soon came up alongside the 1st at a distance of about five hundred yards but separated by a steep ravine, known as Linne Creek. At 1300, knowing that the other two Battalions were being held up by enemy fire, Puett sent a message to Cavender asking permission to be allowed to attack Schonberg from the north east and relieve the pressure. By 1400 he still had not heard anything and realized that communications were virtually impossible because of the thick woods and hilly terrain. He gave orders to attack at 1430. His men were getting ready, when suddenly they came under small-arms fire from their right rear. It was part of the 422nd Regiment who had mistaken Puett&rsquos Battalion for Germans. Although it was only a matter of minutes before aggresive company commanders rectified the situation, his plans had been severely disrupted. During this reorganization Puett sent patrols out to his front and right. At 1515 these patrols returned whilst Puett was in conference with Descheneaux. They both learnt that to their right there were 35 enemy tanks and several self-propelled guns, and to their front there were strong German armoured forces with artillery going into position. Out of touch with his own regiment Puett decided to join forces with the 422nd
After months of bad news the German people were to be treated to the sight of American prisoners in the propaganda newsreels.
The 422nd Regiment left their bivouac area at about 0730 that morning. The 1st Battalion on the right, now led by Major W. P Moon owing to the original commander Lieutenant-Colonel T Kent being killed on the Schnee Eifel, crossed Skyline Drive. They were immediately hit by fire from assault guns and infantry. Companies A and B didn&rsquot even make it out of the assembly area, they were stopped dead by the sheer force of the German presence. Many of these men were caught in a narrow ravine which led to Skyline Drive, with Germans at either end, and the men bottled up, there was sheer slaughter. However some men from Company C did manage to cross the road and went on to gain a small open height beyond it. These men also received attention from the same Germans from the direction of Auw. Only one platoon managed to get to the assigned area, the high ground beyond the Ihrenbach stream.
Anthony J Marino with the 1st Battalion headquarters:
&lsquoThe dawn broke with small-arms fire &ndash then the crack-crack of 88s from Panzer tanks. A Lieutenant came over the hill &ndash he had a rifle bullet go through his forearm. A cry rose up &ldquobazooka ammunition &ndash has anyone got bazooka ammo&rdquo? Our Battalion had no support heavy weapons aside from bazookas, and ammunition was sparse, only what men could carry. Also when our bullets were initially expended we were out. The firing lasted for a short time. Then I saw our line companies in rout &ndash running into the ravine upon my left, I could plainly see our infantrymen running for cover. However, with 88s falling in their midst it was a turkey shoot for the Panzers. Then a cry &ndash &ldquosurrender&rdquo. The 88&rsquos stopped. Men were surrendering. I asked &ldquowhat do I do&rdquo? Captain Mohne told me to destroy my weapon and map case. Then they went off. I buried my map case and destroyed my M1 and pistol, flinging the parts as far as I could. I then went down the hill to join with the surrendering troops&rsquo.
Anthony J Marino
Attacks by the 106th Division, 19 December 1944.
The 2nd Battalion to the left of the 1st did manage to get across Skyline Drive in some order, although they did receive fire upon leaving. Companies E, G and H pushed on to where the platoon from Company C was. Company F of this Battalion had got lost the night before and had somehow joined up with Klinck&rsquos 3rd Battalion.
The men pushed on and finally reached the high ground overlooking the Schonberg-Andler road. Descheneaux joined his men there. Looking down to the road they saw it packed &lsquobumper to bumper&rsquo with vehicles. This at long last must be the relief column they thought, or at least vehicles of the 423rd. The dream bubble was quick to burst when they were spotted by vigilant Germans. In a matter of seconds flak half-tracks raked the hill side where they stood.
Company H with its mortars and machine guns began to take on the Germans from the very top of the slope, and started scoring some hits. But before too long the accuracy of the German gunners proved too much. What was left of the three battered companies hauled themselves over the slope to comparative safety and took stock.
Lastly the 3rd Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel D. F. Thompson led his men across Skyline Drive to the left of the 2nd Battalion, and into the woods of the Linne Creek. His men spotted movement to their left front and immediately opened fire, this was of course Puett&rsquos 2nd Battalion they had seen.
Unable to move in any direction Descheneaux started to form a semblance of a perimeter defence. He now realized the situation was hopeless, wounded men were everywhere, there was no fresh water and no one had eaten anything substantial for some time, ammunition was just about spent. With head bowed he conferred with his battalion commanders and decided to surrender. It was 1600, Descheneaux sent out the white flag, he was not going to waste any more lives needlessly.
Puett, still very much active had been out patrolling, when he returned he learned that the surrender was about to take place, and asked Descheneaux if he could try and lead his battalion to safety, this was overruled on the grounds that it might draw unnecessary fire. Puett went back to his men and told them that if anybody wanted to go they could. A few did drift away. At 1700 when the Germans came up to the heights to take them prisoner, Puett had only 387 men and 14 officers left in his Battalion.
It was at about the same time the same conclusion was arrived at in the 423rd area.
Colonel Cavender had moved his command post up to the 3rd Battalion on Hill 504 and had made contact with the 422nd by patrol. With one of his battalions eliminated and one out of his control, overwhelming German forces and artillery building up all the time to his front and rear things looked bleak. The hill was continually being raked by artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire, casualties were getting heavier by the minute and there was just no way of caring for them properly. Ammunition had just about run out, no food or water. Cavender would not sacrifice any more lives, he told the men that they could try and get out in small groups if they so wished, few made it.
At 1630 on the 19th December Cavender surrendered his Regiment.
An excerpt from John Kline&rsquos wartime diary reads:
German six-barrelled mortar, the Nebelwerfer &ndash known to the Americans as the &lsquoScreaming Meemie&rsquo.
&lsquoThe woods and open areas on the slope leading to the road, was littered with dead and wounded. Some time between 1600 and 1630 a American officer, accompanied by a German officer told us we were surrounded. He told us that we were cut off from the other Regiment, the 422nd, and that our Regimental commander, Colonel C. C. Cavender, was ordering us to surrender. We disabled our weapons by breaking them on tree trunks or by taking them apart and throwing the parts in different directions. After that the Germans led us to a clearing in the forest and directed us to throw down our equipment, eg: ammo belts, packs, hand-grenades and trench-knives. I quickly disposed of the German binoculars that I had found earlier. We were led in a small column down to the Schonberg-Bleialf road in front of the rifle companies. There were Germans on one side of the road and Americans on the other. They had been facing each other, in a fierce fire fight, from ditch to ditch. There were many dead, both Americans and Germans. The wounded were still crying for help.
&lsquoAs we approached the Schonberg road, it seemed that hundreds of Germans rose up out of the field. There was a German truck burning in the middle of the road. Behind the truck was an American infantryman lying in the road. He was dressed like an officer, but with no insignia, as would be normal in combat. He was wearing his winter uniform, a heavy winter coat, ammo belt and canteen. He was lying on his back, as if he were resting. The body had no head or neck. It was as if somebody had sliced it off with a surgical instrument, leaving no sign of blood. We were then walked in columns to Bleialf where they herded us into a church courtyard.&rsquo
As the weary, hungry men of the 422nd/423rd came down from the heights overlooking Schonberg, almost all of them felt let down and bewildered. Let down because of all the false promises, and bewildered through having to take on such an impossible task. Some did escape, at least for a while. Remnants of both regiments drifted back generally in a south easterly direction.
Second Lieutenant L. R. Walker of Company H, 422nd led a column of men away from the inferno. More men joined him, some from the 423rd, 81st Engineers, artillery and even anti-aircraft units. When he felt safe to do so he took stock, there were men from 15 different companies and six basic units. Keeping on the move they came across the 422nd&rsquos motor pool and supply base just before dark. This was situated just south west of Laudesfeld near Hill 576. Here the men dug in and formed a perimeter defence. In came Major Ouellette, 2nd Battalion 422nd&rsquos Executive Officer, and Major Moon, commander of the 1st Battalion 422nd. In all, about 500 men gathered from all over the area. A little food and some ammunition was foraged and by nightfall the men were established. The Germans were quick to discover that there was still a pocket of resistance and proceeded to shower the area with artillery. There were a few casualties but the GIs had dug in well and had covered their fox holes with logs and dirt. Exchanges of rifle fire with the nearby Germans were frequent. Across the valley came the strains of popular American music being played by a German sound truck. In between songs there were demands for surrender and of how nice it would be to play baseball in the comfort of a prison camp. Soon after noon the following day, Staff Sergeant Richard Thomas could take no more of it. Rounding up a few volunteers he led out a patrol, and put paid to the mobile propaganda machine once and for all with a couple of well thrown hand-grenades.
A German reconnaisance car approached from the direction of Laudesfeld, with German medics on board and an American medic from the 423rd. They met with Majors Oullette and Moon and said they wanted a temporary truce to open up the road network within the area to allow evacuation of wounded from both sides. The two Majors decided to send Lieutenant Houghton of Company D along with them to make sure there was going to be no monkey business. The troops withheld their fire until Houghton returned at about 1830. With him he brought an ultimatum of surrender before 2100 from the Germans. Houghton told of artillery and massed German troops waiting to saturate the area. A conference between the American officers confirmed that it was useless and futile to hold out against such overwhelming odds. Word was got to the Germans that they would surrender at 0800 the next day. Although the Germans were not happy about this, obviously because it was tying up vital manpower needed elsewhere, reluctantly they consented. Major&rsquos Oullette and Moon needed the extra time to give the men a decent rest and to be able to scrounge what food and extra clothing might be about.
Lieutenant Long brought his Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon through the German lines and safely into St Vith where he told of the surrender of two regiments of the 106th Division.
At 0800, 21 December with weapons and vehicles destroyed, (against the German wishes), the last men from the 422nd/423rd Regiments went reluctantly into captivity.
Some men did make it out. Lieutenant Ivan H. Long and his Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon had been holding a road block outside Radscheid. They found themselves surrounded. With some other men from different units joining all the time, Lieutenant Long decided to head north, skirt around Schonberg and then make towards the west. They destroyed what vehicles they had with them and set off on foot, approximately forty men in all. Hiding by day in the thick forests and moving silently by night with the aid of a compass, the tired, dirty men entered the St Vith salient on the 21st December. There, they told the story of the two regiments surrendering. After being fed and allowed to rest they went straight back into the line again up on the Prumerberg.
A deadly silence now hung over the area. At last Field Marshal Model and Sepp Dietrich in their respective command posts in the tiny village of Meyerode could now get on with the task in hand.
General Hoffmann-Schonborn&rsquos 18th VGD were, on this day, more concerned with eliminating the Schnee Eifel threat, which had plagued them from the beginning. He could not concentrate on St Vith until the two US regiments were finally eradicated. However, artillery was being brought up in vast amounts to the St Vith area. The American defenders were constantly being shelled and mortared. Other formations came drifting in and were joining in with the defenders.
To the Germans, the fall of St Vith was crucial, already well behind in their timed schedule, things were going seriously wrong. In order to achieve success, the road network in the area must be secured otherwise the entire assault was in jeopardy, the breakthrough in the north had been stemmed by determined American forces on the Elsenborn Ridge, forcing the II SS Panzer Corps south. Unless this unit could break through and get behind the US lines all would be lost. St Vith must now fall in order to unleash the Panzers. German troops were probing all around the US perimeter, (now very much a salient), in order to try and find a soft spot to assault.
It is not my intention to delve to deeply into the actual assault on St Vith as this would take the tour beyond the scope of this book. It would be sufficient enough at this stage to say that all the outlying villages played a crucial part in the Battle for St Vith. Each one would have its own story to tell both by the particular US unit defending, or the German unit attacking, of which there were many. Like Bastogne, but unfortunately not so well publicized, but equally as important, St Vith was virtually surrounded. The valiant defenders gave their all, against superior numbers and probably the best the Germans had to offer at that time.
A King Tiger passes a column of American prisoners.
By 21 December, the major forces in the eleven by ten mile salient included, 7th A.D Combat Command A, B and R, Combat Command B of the 9th A.D, 424th Infantry Regiment of the 106th Division, 81st and 168th Engineers and the newly arrived 112th Infantry Regiment from the now split 28th Division, plus numerous other smaller units including artillery, anti-aircraft and tank destroyers.
Colossal German forces were now poised for the final onslaught, the 18th VGD with tanks from the Führer Escort Brigade directly in front of St Vith, the 62nd VGD with tanks to the south, and the 9th and 2nd SS Panzer Divisions from the II Panzer Corps skirmishing around the northern sector.
After a tremendous barrage German troops and tanks attacked from the three sides. The line held yet they tried again and again. Finally, the superior German forces broke the American resistance that evening. General Clarke, seeing that his forces could no longer hold, withdrew his men west of St Vith. A lot of men were trapped unable to withdraw, these were instructed to regroup and attack back through the town to rejoin the new forming line. For many it was just impossible. Lieutenant-Colonel Riggs found himself with about seventy men, too few by half to do any real damage. He told the men to split into small groups and make it back the best they could. Just about all of them, including Riggs, were captured.
After the Americans had pulled back from St Vith this important junction of roads was heavily bombed.
St Vith in January 1945.
Although St Vith itself was now in German hands, they were still being stalled by the fact that the Americans had formed another defensive position. This time it became known as &lsquoThe Fortified Goose Egg&rsquo, due to its shape.
It soon became clear that another encirclement of American forces would soon take place. At 0900 on 22 December orders were issued for the withdrawal of all forces within the &lsquoGoose Egg&rsquo across the River Salm and into the relative safety of the newly arrived 82nd Airborne Division. The way out was by means of forest roads, much of them muddy, slushy and impassable. Men not manning the front lines were employed in desperately trying to make good the roads.
General Montgomery, now in charge of the northern section and Allied troops, sent General Hasbrouck a message saying, &lsquoYou have accomplished your mission &ndash a mission well-done. It is time to withdraw&rsquo.
That night someone must have been smiling on the ravished Americans. It froze and froze hard. The once boggy ground became rock solid. The difficult withdrawal took place, it was now or never. The well disciplined men executed the manouevre, some 22,000 of them. It was not for the feint hearted.
The building in the foreground had been used as 106th Division HQ.
Gunners of the 7th Armored Division provide the first line of defence during the battle.
As the men were reaching the comparative safety of the west bank of the Salm river, General Jones of the 106th Division, so over-worked in his first time in combat finally collapsed. He had suffered a heart attack.
St Vith would stay in German hands until 23 January, 1945, when ironically the 7th Armored Division, supported by the 424th Infantry Regiment to its north, attacked back through the town. After many days of hard combat the ground was regained. They found the town flattened, the airforce had bombed it severely to try and stop the German advance.
The 106th Division in that first week of combat had lost some 416 men killed in action, 1,246 wounded and 7,001 missing in action. Over 60 percent of the division&rsquos personnel were dead, wounded or captured.
Unknown to the men of the division at the time, they had done exactly what was needed of them. They stalled the offensive. The Germans had been so held up by the stubborn resistance on the Schnee Eifel, and on the route to St Vith, that the offensive could not possibly have succeeded.
423rd Reconnaissance Group - HistoryAccording to our records Virginia was his home or enlistment state and Albemarle County included within the archival record. He had enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces. Served during World War II. Norris had the rank of Second Lieutenant. His military occupation or specialty was Navigator. Service number assignment was O-709437. Attached to 10th Photographic Reconnaissance Group, 423rd Night Fighter Squadron. During his service in World War II, Army Air Forces Second Lieutenant Norris experienced a critical situation which ultimately resulted in loss of life on June 24, 1944 . Recorded circumstances attributed to: DNB - Died Non-battle, air crash. Incident location: England. He was on the crew of the 423rd Night Fighter Squadron A-20J-15-DO Havoc reconnaissance aircraft #43-21460 when he died in the line of duty when they crashed at Grove, England. George Bernard Norris is buried or memorialized at Plot A Row 4 Grave 30, Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England. This is an American Battle Monuments Commission location.
423rd Reconnaissance Group - History
HISTORY: The 10th Armored Division ("Tiger Division") was activated 15 July 1942 at Ft. Benning, Ga. and assigned to the Armored Force. After participating in the Tennessee maneuvers June to September 1943 under the Second Army, the Division was transferred to Camp Gordon, Ga., where training was continued. It left for overseas from New York 13 September 44.
DATE OF: Activation -- 15 July 1942 Inactivation -- 13 October 1945, at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia.
BATTLE CREDITS WWII: (Division) Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe.
COMMANDING GENERALS: Maj. Gen. Paul W. Newgarden -- July 42 July 44 Maj. Gen. William H.H. Moris, Jr. July 44 May 45 Maj. Gen. Fay B. Prickett May 45 to inactivation
COMBAT CHRONICLE: The Tenth Armored Division entered France through the port of Cherbourg 23 Sep. 44 and put in a month of training at Teurtheville, France before entering combat. Leaving Teuertheville 25 Oct., the Division moved to Mars-la-Tour, where it entered combat (1 Nov.) in support of the XX Corps, containing enemy troops in the area. In mid-November it went on the offensive, crossed the Moselle at Malling, and drove to the Saar River, north of Metz. The Division was making preparations for the Third Army drive to the Rhine when it was ordered north to stop the German winter offensive, 17 December. The 10th held defensive positions against heavy opposition near Bastogne, Noville, and Bras. Resting briefly in early January the 10th moved out again to defensive positions east of the Sarr, south of the Maginot line. On 20 Feb 45 the Division returned to the attack, and took part in the clearing of the Sarr-Moselle triangle, 15 March. Driving through the Kaiserlautern, it advanced to the Rhine, crossed the river at Mannheim (28 March), turned south, captured Oehringen and Helibronn, crossed the Rems and Fils Rivers, and reached Kircheim, meeting waning resistance. The Division crossed the Danube 23-25 April and took Oberammergau. In May the 10th drove into the famed "Redoubt" and had reached Innsbruck when the war in Europe ended.
HONORS: Congressional Medals of Honor -- None Distinguished Unit Citations -- Five
FATE: occupation duty in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Austria) after the war inactivated on 15 Oct 1945 at Camp Patrick Henry (Virginia).