After Action Report
Defense of Meuse
River 23 Dec - 28
Defense of the Meuse River
23 December 1944
Troops Constituting CCA:
24 December 1944
Mission: Move early 24 Dec 44 to vicinity Vireux prepared for action against enemy on order.
Task Force White:
Mission: Move to Sedan-Charleville ares; secure bridges at Sedan and Charleville.
41st Cav Rcn Sq:
Mission: Move E of Meuse River at 0600; establish link with British forces to the N and gain and maintain contact with enemy E of river. 41st Cav started movement to Beauraing-Gedinne area at 0600. Remaining CCA elements commenced movement at 0630. All elements had closed by 1700. Division Advanced Command Group opened CP 1930 at Charleville.
25 December 1944 Letter of Instructions was received from VIII Corps designating the CG, 11th Armored Division as Commander of the VIII Corps Meuse River sector, (from Givet to Verdun) until relieved by CG 17th Airborne Division, at a time mutually agreeable to the Division Commanders concerned. Troops (In addition to the 11th Armored Division)
Sedan to Verdun
The letter further directed that all bridges over the Meuse be prepared for destruction. Bridge guards were directed to be especially alert for enemy personnel in American and/or British uniforms and vehicles.
At 1200, Corps directed the 41st Cav restrict operations to area W of line Beauraing-Bievre and establish contact with TF Worthan (9th Armored Division) at Gedinne. CCA reported at 1340 that lateral line with British forces on the N flank had been established in the vicinity of Givet. At 2300, 11th Armored Division FO #2 was issued directing closely coordinated continuation of Meuse River defense by troops in place and outlining bridge security and demolition measures. Directive was issued to Comt le Groupament des Ardennes outlining mission for the French Forces.
26 December 1944
41st Cav continued assigned mission, A Troop being left on the E side of the Meuse to maintain a recon screen, and the remainder of the Squadron withdrawn to the vicinity of Fumay. CCA closed in new assembly area at 1200. elements of the 17th AB Division started to arrive in the Sedan-Charleville area from Mourmelon. CG 17th AB and a small staff arrived at the Division CP to initiate arrangements for relief of the 11th Armored Division. Remaining combat units of the Division closed in the Guignicourt-Baalons-Montigny area.
27 December 1944
28 December 1944
Chenogne-Rechrival Valley Engagement
29 December 1944
Enemy forces west of Bastogne had made plans for an attack southeastward to sever again the vital Bastogne-Neufchateau road. The mission of 3 Panzer Grenadier Division was to attack to the southeast and close the Bastogne pocket. The mission CT Remer was to attack the perimeter of Bastogne from the southwest. The mission of 15th Panzer Grenadier Division was to hold the key Bois de Valets form which these operations were to be launched. The 3rd Pz Gr Div and CT Remer Brigade were all destined to encounter the 11th Armored Division. The two Pz Gr Divs could not avoid being surprised since their last official intelligence report listed the 11th Armored Division as relieving the 94th Infantry Division N of St Nazaire on or about 22 December.
By 2400 the following command posts had been reported: Division Artillery and CCR - Longlier; CCA - Respelle; CCB - Juseret; and 41st Cav - Wideumont Station; all in Belgium.
30 December 1944
Passing through elements of the 6th Cav Gp, CCA jumped off at 0730, making first contact with the enemy at 0822 S of Remagne. As the attack progressed the two Task Forces of CCA developed German strong points in Remagne and along the S edge of a small woods 1 km E thereof. Streams and large thickly wooded areas limited possibilities of maneuver. Small arms, mortar, artillery and heavy anti-tank fire halted further progress. The Infantry Task Force dug in along the ridge approximately one km S of Remagne and tank elements withdrew to full defilade positions.
CCB was organized for the attack by the constitution of three task forces. The infantry force made first contact N of Jodenville at 0930, running head-on into the 15th Pz Gr Div attack to sever the Bastogne-Neufchateau highway. At this point the enemy elected to stabilize, establishing well chosen positions from which he lashed out repeatedly with tank-infantry counterattacks. His efforts were supported by 75mm artillery, heavy mortar, and nebelwerfer fire. The tank task force successfully attacked Lavaselle, taking a number of prisoners, and continued north to higher ground near Brul and Houmont. During the afternoon the infantry task force first attacked Chenogne but was driven off. This village, in a defiladed pocket just S of the Bois de Balets, was a heavily infantry defended artillery and anti-tank gun position. A Reserve Task Force was not committed to action. Positions were held under considerable artillery fire at Houmont and Jodenville through the night. The Combat Command CP moved forward to Copon. About 1300 a Squadron of P-47's strafed observed enemy vehicles and troops on the W flank at Gerimont. To assist the CCB attack on Chenogne another Squadron bombed and strafed enemy installations in the town about two hours later.
CCR moved to Respelle following CCA. The 41st Cav was shifted to the vicinity of Bougnimont for protection of the Division's left flank until the 87th Inf Div came abreast. CCR was later assembled more centrally in the vicinity of Vaux Lez Rosieres.
Division Artillery supported the advance and reconnoitered for positions forward during the day.
Confirming verbal fragmentary orders FO #4 was issued at 1200. Coordination of plans and establishment of common boundaries was arranged with 101st AB Division and CCA of 9th Armored Division through a G-3 staff visit during the afternoon. Toward the close of the day it became apparent that the infantry fight confronting CCA and the wide dispersal of forces was seriously crippling the attack. A request to Corps was therefore made for a shift of the western boundary to exclude Remagne. This was approved at 1700 by CG, VIII Corps. Orders were subsequently issued for the concentration of troops at the head of the Rechrival Valley. Screened by the 41st Cav, CCA was ordered to withdraw from positions S of Remagne and move to the vicinity of Morhet. CCR was to move to Magerotte and Division Artillery to positions along the road S of Morhet.
The enemy was by now incorporating sniper action and infiltration tactics into his vigorous offensive defense. The hours of dusk found him back on terrain yielded during the day. PWs confirmed intelligence which placed 3rd Pz Gr Div, 15th Pz Gr Div, and the Remer Brigade on our front.
At 2300, a teletype message from VIII Corps was received, directing a renewal of the attack at 0830, 31 December 1944.
31 December 1944
Shortly after midnight the 41st Cav moved into its screening position S of Remagne and established liaison with the 345th CT of the 87th Infantry on the Division left (W) flank shortly after daybreak. Intense cold, icy roads, and involvement with elements of the 6th Armored Division moving in the same direction along the Bastogne-Neufchateau highway seriously hampered the regroupment of all forces, particularly those of CCA and the Division Artillery. CCA started their movement to Morhet at 0100.
CCR launched its attack at 0900 and by 1030 had advanced to the ridge 2 km NW of Magerotte. A roadblock was established on the main road through the woods (Bois des Haies de Magery) west of Magerotte. By 1650 CCR was on its objective and had fought in the towns of Acul and Pinsamont, capturing 38 prisoners. Due to heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire, a withdrawal was ordered to the high ground south of Pinsamont where CCR dug in. A counterattack at 1830 was repulsed. The Reserve Command CP was established at Magerotte.
Following an artillery preparation and assisted by fire from its tank task force, at 1200 CCB sent its infantry task force into Chenogne, against mortar, small arms, and anti-tank fire. The infantry task force succeeded in taking part of Chenogne, but by dark the town had not been completely mopped up. On order, our forces withdrew to the high ground S of Chenogne and outposted ground gained for the night. The enemy, under cover of darkness, patched up damage as best he could in the town of Chenogne and bolstered its defense with a resupply of two infantry companies. The relinquishment of this town did not fit in with his plans which were, of necessity, now assuming a defensive aspect.
CCA's tank force jumped off at 1510, followed by an infantry task force, and progressed to a point just S and E of Rechrival where they were halted by heavy anti-tank and artillery fire. Beating off a counterattack at 1830, positions were consolidated for the night.
Under the revised plan of attack all artillery was placed directly under the Div Arty Commander and moved to support positions along the road S of Morhet. The 490th AFA was placed in direct support of CCA; 491st AFA in direct support of CCB; and remaining organic as well as attached artillery, in general support. The Div Arty CP displaced forward to a position one mile S of Morhet. By 2000 a lateral wire tie-in was effected with the artillery of the 4th and 9th Armored Divisions and the 101st AB Div. Adverse weather precluded any air participation during the day.
Relief of the 41st Cav was completed by the 345 CT S of Remagne, and the 41st moved to an assembly area near Rondu. At 1700 they were ordered to establish roadblocks along the Division left (W) flank to insure exclusion of the enemy from the Bois Des Haies de Magery as far N as Beau Plateau.
The Division CP was visited at 1400 by the CG, VIII Corps, and at 1500 by the CG, 28th infantry Division. VIII Corps, at 2020, ordered the 11th Armored Division to resume its attack 1 January 1945 at 0900.
The 3rd Engineer Bn, 3rd Pz Gr Div, and the 600th Engr Bn of CT Remer were in contact during the day. Mines were employed along the shoulders of roads, fringes of woods, and numerous defiles existing in the frozen and snow covered terrain. The vigorous employment of artillery, mortars, tanks, and concentrated small arms, however, dispelled any conclusions as to the enemy's intention to withdraw.
Prompted by this dogged enemy resistance, a redefinition of successive objectives for the Major Units, a closer tie-in of massed artillery fires, concentration effort on the reduction of the Bois de Valets stronghold N of Chenogne, and closer coordination of action between all Division and adjacent unit major commands was directed. The plan evolved on these premises was contained in Operations Memo #2, issued at 2300. CCA was assigned Hubermont, Flamierge, Givroulle, and Bertogne as successive objectives, and was made available to support CCB as required. the Division's main effort was shifted to the E flank and charged to CCB. After the capture of Chenogne, in coordination with CCA of the 9th Armd Div, CCB was to assault and clear the key Bois de Valets; following through to Mande St Etienne, Flamizoulle, and Longchamps. CCR was to continue its west flank protection mission, being assigned Pinsamont, Macravivier, and Salle as successive objectives.
A thorough and extensive scheme of harassing and interdiction fires was planned by Div Arty, with particular attention to the enemy main supply route from Givroulle to Salle. Supporting CCB's main effort, all available fire was to be used in powerful massed preparations on Chenogne, the high open area S of the Bois des Valets, and on Bois des Valets itself.
The possibility of deep enemy flanking action through the Bois des Haies de Magery on the west was counteracted by the continued assignment of the 41st Cav to patrol and road blocking activities in this area.
1 January 1945 At 0830 CCB launched a coordinated attack on Chenogne. The Infantry Task Force attack from the S was supported by massed tank and artillery fire. By 1200 the town was securely in our hands. The tank task force followed up from the vicinity of Houmont, reducing all enemy opposition in the woods NW of Chenogne, and rejoining the Infantry task force. Reorganizing the combat command then launched its full power NE toward the Bois des Valets stronghold. The tank task force led the attack followed closely by the Inf task force. the reserve tanks remained in position near Chenogne. Following the massed artillery preparation of 13 arty bns, CCB forces entered the Bois des valets and reduced all remnants of enemy opposition. Overlooking Mande St Etienne from the N edge of the Bois des Valets, CCB dug in for the night. The enemy at this time held Mande St Etienne with about 200 infantrymen, 18 Mark IV tanks, arty, AT guns, and nebelwerfers.
The fall of Chenogne being assured, CCA jumped off at 1200 in an attack on the heavily defended Hubermont-Millomont-Rechimont areas. The leading tank force made some progress but was shortly slowed by heavy German infantry and armor counterattack from the NW tip of the Bois des Valets. Air support, artillery, and tank fire stopped the counterattack with heavy losses to the enemy but necessitated reorganization. Once more in a column formation, tanks leading, an attack was launched at 1500 directly N down the valley towards Hubermont. The edge of the town was reached just before dark but forces were withdrawn to consolidate on high ground E of Rechrival for the night. once more CCA troops dug in and held their positions under heavy fire during the night.
CCR continued the defense of the Division's left and maintained neutralizing fire on towns to the north and northwest. A counterattack at 2300 was dispersed. Elements of the 56th Engr Bn continued to defend a roadblock in the Bois des Hais de Magery and clear booby traps and mines from the area.
Reinforced by artillery of the 4th and 9th Armored Divisions and the 101st AB Div, div Arty massed fires on the Division E flank in powerful support of CCB's operations. Preparations were fired for both CCA and CCB attacks. Preceding the attack of CCB into the Bois des Valets, the massed fires of 13 battalions raised havoc with this strongly held key enemy position. Div Arty alone fired some 6,000 rounds during the day. The 491st AFA displaced forward to Flohamont.
Favorable weather and VIII Corps interest gave the Division five Squadron air missions during the day. In connection with the CCB attack on Chenogne, enemy troops and vehicles in the Bois des Valets and N thereof were bombed and strafed. Troops and vehicles in the vicinity of Bertogne were bombed and strafed at 0935. An enemy armor and infantry counterattack against CCA was disorganized and delayed by two Squadron attacks shortly after noon in the Renuamont and Flamierge areas. To assist the late afternoon attack of CCA, one Squadron bombed and strafed enemy tanks and troops in Hubermont.
The 41st Cav moved its command post to Magerotte, and elements of the 41st maintained outposts and roadblocks along the west flank. A Division advance CP was established at the Railroad Station along the road one mile S of Morhet late in the afternoon to facilitate contact with Major Units.
The seizure of the key terrain on which CCB ended its operations for the day definitely doomed to failure the strong German effort to seal off, for the second time, the vital Bastogne-Neufchateau highway. However, personnel and material casualties were mounting at a rapid rate; the continuous exposure of men to the bitter cold began to tell; and the desperate German defense of their one main supply road south of the :'Ourthe River continued.
At 2030 Commanding General, VIII Corps visited the advance CP SE of Morhet and on appraisal of the situation, directed a consolidation and defense of ground gained for the following day. Pursuant to this order Major Unit Commanders were assembled at 2200, assigned sectors of responsibility for clean up and defense, and directed to reorganize their commands for further offensive action.
2 January 1945 At 0001, confirming verbal orders previously issued, Operations Memorandum #3 went into effect.
CCA tank elements were withdrawn from forward positions E of Rechrival to mobile reserve. The infantry was employed to defend positions along the combat command front. CCA command post was moved to Morhet. CCR continued defense of the Division's left flank, maintaining contact with the 87th Infantry Division and CCA.
At the instigation of the Combat Commander, and in order to complete action which would pinch out the severely mauled CCA 9th Armored Division, an attack to capture Mande St Etienne and join forces with the 101st AB Division was worked out by CCB. Clearance on this operation was secured from VIII Corps. At 1500, and again supported by powerful massed artillery, CCB launched an attack on Mande St Etienne. The town was captured by a right flank enveloping movement by infantry while the tanks supported the attack by fire and later joined in the clearance of the town proper. A lusty counterattack, in which the enemy utilized practically all component ground arms, including nebelwerfers, was repulsed at 2245.
Division Artillery was again reinforced by eight additional battalions of artillery in supporting CCB's attack on Mande St Etienne. 3,800 rounds were fired on the 120 targets in this attack. Harassing and interdiction fires, as well as continual defensive missions, assisted other major elements in holding their positions.
At 1100, Operations Memorandum #4 was issued directing the accomplishment of certain essential details in connection with the assumption of a defensive attitude. Division Headquarters moved to Vaux les Rosieres and the advance CP was closed and rejoined Division Headquarters at 1430.
Information was received the 17th AB Division was enroute and would relieve the Division in place the following day. General location for assembly of Division units was ascertained from VIII Corps and plans for relief developed with the Commander and Staff of 17th AB Division.
Corps FO #2 received later in the evening prescribed a successive relief from right to left, upon which 11th Armored Division was to assemble in Corps Reserve. Division Artillery was directed to remain in place and support 17th AB Division. On occupation of concentration area, the Division was directed to prepare to assist the attack of the 87th Infantry and 17th AB Divisions or to block hostile counterattacks from the north or northwest.
At 2230, an enemy column about two hours long containing some armor was reported moving SW on Highway 26 toward Bertogne.
3 January 1945 The Corps Commander visited the CP at 1030 to check on progress of the relief and counterattack support plans.
During the early afternoon, CCB, being the right flank unit of the Division, was the first to be relieved. The command was assembled and moved to its concentration area southwest of Bercheux, closing during the night. The CP was established in Bercheux.
Patrols maintained contact with the enemy in the vicinity of Hubermont until the relief of CCA by the 17th AB Division was effected at 1500. CCA withdrew to a supporting position in rear of the 17th AB right flank, assembling its units in the vicinity of and establishing its CP at Rechrival.
CCR was relieved in place by elements of the 17th AB Division at 1600. The command was withdrawn to the vicinity of Magerotte where the CP was established. Roadblocks and patrols were maintained in the Bois des haies de Magery.
3,700 rounds were fired by Division Arty in harassing fires to cover the relief by the 17th AB Division. Div Arty remained in position and continued to support 17th AB Division.
56th Engr Bn, released from CCR, initiated reconnaissance of routes to the NW and NE in the general area Neufchateau-Libramont-St Hubert-Bastogne in preparation for possible employment of the Division.
The 22nd Tk Bn (- Companies A and D) was attached to 17th AB Division for operational control to stiffen key positions in anticipation of further enemy armored counterattacks.
4 January 1945 During the period 4-11 January, the Division, less Div Arty, was in Corps Reserve. Rehabilitation of personnel, reorganization, and maintenance of materiel were stressed. Reconnaissance was continuous and at various time during this period units of the Division were placed on an alert status to render support to the 87th Infantry, 17th AB, and 101st AB Divisions.
Operations Memorandum #2, HQ VIII Corps, was received at 1030, directing the renewal of the Corps attack; the 11th Armored Division to continue in Corps Reserve.
CCA moved to the vicinity of Sibret to render the closest possible support to either the 17th AB or the 101st AB in the event that the German armored counterattack which was renewed on 3 January assumed critical proportions. CCB remained at rest SW of Bercheux. At 1030 Company A 602nd TD Bn was attached to the 101st AB Division and proceeded at once to the vicinity of Bastogne. CCR occupied a position NW of Magerotte to support the left (W) flank of the 17th AB Division. All Units were placed in readiness for immediate commitment, on order. Div Arty remained in position and continued to support their effort of the 17th AB Division.
5 January 1945 Preparations for future combat took place. Troops were engaged in resupplying basic loads of ammunition, camouflaging tanks and other vehicles and welding studs onto tracks to reduce skidding hazards of track vehicles.
Operations Memorandum #3, HQ VIII Corps, was received at 1150 directing the Corps to continue the attack; the 11th Armored Division to remain in Corps Reserve.
CCA continued its reconnaissance to the N and NE for possible position areas to be occupied in the event that it became necessary to assist the 17th or 101st AB Divisions. CCB continued its maintenance and reorganization. VIII Corps ordered CCB to be prepared to move in a westerly direction to assist the 87th infantry Division in the event of an enemy counterattack from the direction of St Hubert. Direct liaison with the 87th Infantry Division was established incident to this possible operation. Continuing the regrouping of the Division, 56th Engr Bn moved to an assembly area vicinity Petite Rosiere and the 41st Cavalry closed at 1400 in the Wideumont Station area. Division Trains moved from St Vincent to Habay la Neuve.
6 January 1945 Operations Memorandum #4, VIII Corps, received at 1730, ordered attacking Corps elements to organize and defend their positions. Plans for possible employment of the Division, including routes and assembly areas to be used, were formulated along the following lines:
1) An attack N along the axis Bastogne-Longchamps to Bertogne, through positions held by the 101st AB Division, to cut the enemy MSR and disrupt his withdrawal.
2) An attack NW along the axis Sibret-Tillet, for the same purpose.
3) A counterattack to restore the Corps let (W) flank in the event of an enemy push from the direction of St Hubert.
4)An attack along the axis Bastogne-Noville to Houffalize to bottle up withdrawing enemy forces S of the L'Ourthe River.
56th Engineer Bn constructed bridges at Petite Rosiere and Sibret. A minefield was marked and cleared about 1 km SW of Sibret. Reconnaissance of roads to the N, NW, NE, and SE continued.
7 January 1945 VIII Corps Operations Memorandum #5, received at 1020, left the 11th Armored Division in Corps Reserve, while the remainder of the Corps resumed the attack, CCA was placed on an alert status, prepared to reinforce severely mauled 17th AB Division units in the event of aggressive enemy action.
Division Rear Echelon and HQ Company, Division Trains moved from Rethel, France to Etalle, Belgium, closing at 1400.
8 January 1945 The Division prepared to displace forward sufficient elements to give immediate and effective counterattack support to the 17th AB and 87th Inf Divisions. CCA moved Company B of the 602nd TD Bn to the north edge of Bois des Balets to give more effective support to the 17th AB Division.
Regrouping for possible assistance to the 87th Infantry Division, D Company 22nd Tank Bn, B Troop 41st Cavalry, and D Btry 575th AAA Bn were attached to CCB. Engineer and Recon elements were attached to CCR. During the afternoon, CCR reconnoitered for tank and infantry positions in the vicinity of Rechrival for support of the 17th AS Division.
9 January 1945 Support of the Corps effort continued. 602nd TD Bn was released to the 17th AB Division. At 1700, A Company 22nd Tank Bn was placed under operational control of the 87th Infantry Division, to anchor their right (E) flank. CCA displaced the 42nd Tank Bn forward to the vicinity of Villeroux to facilitate quick commitment in support of the 17th AB Division.
Route reconnaissance continued. 56th Engineers prepared an air strip and cleared and sanded roads in the Division area.
At 1300, FO #7 was issued, formalizing the reconstitution of Major Units as follows:
10 January 1945 CP 87th Inf Div was visited by Commanding General and CO, CCB during the day to formulate plans for possible counterattack commitment of CCB.
Commanding General, VIII Corps visited CP at 1700 and was acquainted with disposition of troops and the latest situation.
11 January 1945 At 1100 Operations Memorandum #8 Hq VIII Corps was received directing the Corps to organize and defend its positions. The Division's status was unchanged.
The First Five Days
1) The powerful German effort to sever the Bastogne-Neufchateau highway was soundly smashed and this vital ground traffic artery definitely secured for the use of attack troops destined to further reduce the Belgian Bulge.
2) An unbaptized American Armored Division, in its dramatic first appearance on the field of battle, had out-gutted and out-gunned three tough, veteran German units; the 3rd and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions, the latter once of the famed Afrika Korps, and the elite Remer Brigade; beating them back over six of rough, frostbitten terrain.
3) Some thirty square miles of Belgian territory had been liberated and over a dozen towns in the Rechrival Valley retaken; most notably Chenogne, Lavaselle, Rechrival, and Mande St Etienne.
A quick comparison of vital personnel and material losses is tabulated below:
Weapon and Vehicular Casualties
Operations Memo #9, HQ VIII Corps was received. Utilizing the full strength of the Corps, a combined attack was ordered for 0830, 13 January. The 11th Armored Division was directed to relieve elements of the 101st AB Div in the vicinity of Longchamps and launch an attack NW as far as Bertogne and thereafter E to seize and secure the high ground S of Houffalize. Initially, one Combat Command was to be held in reserve prepared to assist or pass through the 101st AB Div along the Bastogne-Noville highway, and rejoin other elements on the Division objective. 333rd FA Group and 1102nd Engr Group were placed in support of the Division effort. Company C 811th TD Bn was attacked to the Division and immediately assigned to CCA.
At 1100 major unit commanders were assembled, oriented as to the general outline of the impending action, and instructed as to their movement into attack positions.
The attack plan, developed on the basis of the Corps directive, contemplated the employment of CCA and CCR in column, supported by the full weight of Division Artillery. CCR was initially to assist the CCA attack by fire from positions W of Longchamps and then to follow CCA as it pushed through on a narrow front along the highway from Longchamps to Bertogne. The 41st Cavalry was to be geld in readiness for protection of either flank. CCB was to be held in the vicinity of Villeroux, prepared to pass through the 101st AB Division along the Bastogne-Noville-Wicourt axis the morning of 14 January. Division Artillery was to be so disposed as to put the 490th AFA Bn in direct support of CCA, 491st AFA Bn where it could be shifted to the direct support of CCB when required, and 492nd AFA Bn plus the 333rd FA Group in general support. Air liaison parties were provided for all major elements. On securing Bertogne and the CR SW thereof, it was contemplated that CCR would take over from CCA and hold the position, while CCA was then to turn E and, in coordination with CCB and elements of the 101st AB Division, launch a converging attack on the Division's final objective, the high ground S of Houffalize. At 1600, FO #8 was issued confirming this plan.
Meanwhile, the enemy's plans were so conceived that two of his Panzer and one Volksgrenadier Division were unconsciously slated to experience the efforts of this Division. the 130th Panzer "Lehr" Division had already started displacing eastward from the vicinity of St Hubert toward the Bertogne-Houffalize road. The 9th Panzer Division, recently enriched by replacements, along with the 26th VG Division, had completed their dispositions N of Bastogne, designed to hold the S flank of the bulge. The 26th Engineer Bn, 26th VG Division had completed their initial mission of constructing bands of obstacles S of the Bertogne-Compogne road and were in protecting positions operating as infantry.
Division Artillery, which had been continuously in action since 30 December 1944, was released from its 17th AB Division support mission, moved into positions SW of Longchamps and registered all Battalions prior to darkness 12 January. Plans for the close support of the Division attack on the 13th placed the 490th AFA Bn in direct support of CCA; the 491st and 492nd AFA Bns and the 333rd FA Gp in general support. Div Arty FDC was established in the Belgian Barracks at Bastogne, and again a close tie-in by wire was effected with FDCs of 101st AB Division Artillery and Corps Artillery.
41st Cavalry moved to an assembly area N of Savy. CCA followed to an attack position S and E of Longchamps, closing at 2100. CCA CP was established at Rolle. Relief of 101st AB Division elements in place was accomplished at 2200. CCB initiated its march to Villeroux at 1730, bucking heavy traffic and ice covered roads. Advance Division CP closed at Vaux les Rosieres and moved to Sibret, opening at 2000. Composition of the Division for combat crystallized as follows:
13 January 1945
To maintain close coordination, CCR and 41st Cav were attached to CCA at noon. CCR followed CCA echeloned to the left rear. 41st Cav was brought up to the vicinity of Monaville for protection of the E flank.
At 1400 leading tank elements of CCA had cut the crossroads SW of Bertogne and were disposed on high ground to the S and E of the town itself. Tank and A/W fire, supplemented by artillery and an air mission, was poured into the town of Bertogne were whittled down to about two companies of infantry with 11 tanks in support, 4 of which were destroyed and the remainder immobilized. At nightfall CCA consolidated its position astride the enemy MSR between Gives and Compogne and remained in a dominating position over Bertogne.
CG VIII Corps visited the Division CP at 1420 to check on progress and the readiness of CCB for commitment.
CCB, after an all night march, closed in the vicinity of Villeroux at 1000. In the meantime, the commander and a small party had made contact with the 101st AB Division and conducted a daylight reconnaissance for its attack the following morning. To facilitate contemplated action, CCB was moved forward through Bastogne to an assembly area astride the Bastogne-Noville highway one mile S of Foy. The CP was established at Bastogne.
Div Arty supported the attack of CCA by a twenty minute preparation, and, during the day fired numerous support missions. An enemy armored counterattack was broken up by artillery fire at 1100. 491st AFA Bn was placed in direct support of CCB at 1300 and moved to the vicinity of Foy, closing at 1730. Two Squadron bombing and strafing missions were flown in support of the CCA action. At 1530 troops in Bertogne were bombed and strafed and an hour later the heavily defended Pied du Mont woods, threatening the E flank, was bombed and strafed.
During the day the enemy displaced considerable armor southward. At 1230, 18 tanks were observed moving S from Houffalize to join others already reported in the general vicinity of Noville. A heavy concentration of tanks and AT weapons was known to be in the woods 1 km E of Noville. Nebelwerfers and other heavy caliber weapons were also placed astride the Noville-Houffalize road. The 56th Engr Bn cleared and sanded roads in the Division area and constructed a treadway bridge between Champs and Longchamps.
At 1730 the advance Division CP closed at Sibret and moved forward to Rolle. Plans for the following day were formulated to insure the shoring up of CCA's E flank prior to its continuance to the E, and to coordinate such action with the attack of CCB and interspersed 101st AB elements. CCA's plan contemplated an attack with fresh CCR elements NE through the Bois de Nom de Falize, to secure the command's E flank and establish a base of fire for the later drive eastward. To CCB was assigned the task of capturing Cobru and Noville in conjunction with the 101st AB Division's effort. Reorganization of Division Artillery for the support of both CCA and CCB efforts was also directed. This plan was formalized in Operations Memorandum #12 issued at 2230.
14 January 1945
At 0150 VIII Corps directed a continuation of the attack early that morning. Using an infantry task force, CCA resumed its attack at 1000 to clear the Bois de Nom de Falize. In coordination with this effort, 41st Cavalry attacked in the same direction, along the E flank, to clear the Les Assins woods. Concentrated enemy small arms, MG, and mortar fire, together with some artillery, slowed the attack. By 1500 the Infantry task force had fought its way to the N edge of the Bois de Nom de Falize and was joined about two hours later by the 41st Cavalry along the Longchamps-Compogne road. Heavy fire across open ground from the Pied du Mont woods and Compogne, although interfered with somewhat by tank fire from the vicinity of Bertogne, prohibited further advance.
Other elements of CCA reorganized during the day, retaining their position in the vicinity of Bertogne. At 1130 the 193rd Glider Infantry Regiment of the 17th AB Division was attacked to CCA and joined late in the afternoon.
CCB's plan of attack had to be altered to fit the loss of Recogne and Foy by elements of the 101st AB during the night. Under cover of darkness, however, the tank task force was moved into position S of Recogne and an infantry task force into position astride the main highway just S of Foy. Following an artillery preparation, the tank task force attacked Recogne and the infantry task force attacked Foy at 0930. Both towns were retaken against light enemy opposition. Maneuvering along the fringe of some woods on high ground to the west, the tank task force then attacked Cobru from the left rear with immediate success.
Simultaneously the infantry task force pushed NE along the main highway. A German 9 tank counterattack from Vaux about 1500 was broken up by an air mission on Vaux, and artillery fire, again adjusted by an air operation, which destroyed 4 of the 9 advancing enemy tanks. Negotiation a difficult stream crossing, the tank task force entered Noville, followed by the infantry task force. Heavy enemy AT, mortar, and A/W fire from Noville and the woods 1 km to the E thereof inflicted heavy casualties and delayed the final reduction of the town. At nightfall all elements withdrew to positions on high ground S and W of Cobru and astride the highway S of Noville.
Division Artillery's effort during the day was concentrated principal on the preparation for and support of CCB's attack. The 492nd AFA supported directly the attack of the CCA infantry task force. Location of targets and adjustment of fire from aerial observation posts was particularly effective. An artillery observation plane spotted the enemy counterattack against CCB from Vaux and adjusted mass fire in support of the action during the day. One Squadron air mission was obtained and turned over to CCB for bombardment and strafing of enemy tanks in Vaux.
At 1900, staff and command representatives of the 11th Armored Division and its major elements met with representatives of the 101st AB Division at Bastogne to coordinate plans for the attack on the 15th. Arrangements arrived at provided for assistance and close follow up of CCB's attack to capture the woods one mile E of Noville. Arrangements for holding the Fazone Woods between CCA and CCB and coordination of offensive effort in this area were also perfected.
602nd Tank Destroyer Bn (-C Co) was attacked to the Division by Corps order at 1250. A Company was in turn attached to CCB and instructed to report to Foy. B Company was attached to CCA and instructed to proceed to Monaville.
FO #4 was received from VIII Corps at 2025 prescribing action to be taken when the final objective had been seized. the 11th Armored Division was assigned the sector between Houffalize and Neufmoulin for occupation, organization, and defense. Contact with the VII Corps and protection of the N flank along the L'Ourthe River from Houffalize too the vicinity of Grinvet was also charged to the Division.
15 January 1945
The 77th Volksgrenadier Regiment of the 27th Volksgrenadier Division had attempted to hold at all cost the defensive terrain of the Compogne-Rastadt-Velleroux triangle, to protect its division's further withdrawal. A strong delaying position was maintained in the Pied du Mont woods. This force, supported by artillery fire, put up stiff small-arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire resistance until overrun by the CCA tank task force. Over 400 prisoners were taken in this action.
With the fall of Compogne, the infantry task force, under cover of available woods, moved to the NE to join forces with the tank task force astride the Compogne-Mabompre highway just W of the Rau de Vaux. Heavy fire from woods on their objective halted the attack at nightfall 500 yards short. At 1910, leading elements of the tank task force continuing eastward through the Rau de Vaux defile were heavily counterattacked in the flank by enemy tanks, and artillery and anti-tank fire. Losing 9 medium tanks, the task force withdrew to high ground W of Velleroux for the night.
Late in the afternoon an effort was made to contact elements of the VII Corps reported to be along the L'Ourthe River in the vicinity of Grinvet. At 1730 a task force from the 41st Cavalry was assigned the mission of proceeding N to Bonnerue and thence E through heavy woods to Houffalize in an effort to seize the Division objective and establish contact with VII Corps elements reported N of the L'Ourthe River at that point. Over mined and snow drifted roads this task force had proceeded about halfway to their objective by midnight.
With elements of the 101st AB assisting by fire from their E flank, and neutralizing the enemy strong point in Vaux on the W flank, CCB planned to bypass Noville and assault the key elevated and wooded terrain one mile E of Noville from which so much fire had been observed during the previous day's action. Organization for the accomplishment of this mission contemplated a broad front assault by tanks with infantry following closely for mop-up purposes. After carefully registering each battalion, by air OP, on its portion of the objective, massed artillery fires were brought down at 1100 to destroy or neutralize known enemy positions in the forward edges and on commanding terrain within the woods. That portion of the woods N of the Noville-Bourcy highway was also softened by an air strike.
At 1145, bypassing Noville to the E, CCB launched its combined tank and infantry attack, and with closely coordinated supporting fires took their objective by 1530. 101st AB Division elements followed up, occupying Noville and taking up positions along the Noville-Bourcy highway to the E at 1700. The CCB CP moved forward to a point along the highway just S of Foy.
Division Artillery fired preparations for both the CCA and CCB attacks and continued active support missions throughout the day. 492nd AFA Bn was again placed in direct support of CCA's infantry task force late in the afternoon. 802nd FA Bn, attached to the 333rd FA Group, supplemented direct fire support for CCA. Not only was fire registered and adjusted from observation planes aloft continuously during the day, but valuable pinpoint intelligence was gathered for future planning purposes. Harassing and interdiction fires were continued throughout the night.
The critical routes between Longchamps and Bertogne as well as Longchamps and Compogne were swept for mines by the 56th Engr Bn.
Progress made during the day made it apparent that the Division final objective probably would be taken within the next 24 hours. The marked intensification of the enemy's defensive attitude indicated that forces in contact had been ordered to make a last determined stand, selling space for time as expensively as possible.
In view of this situation orders for the major units of the Division for 16 January were formulated. CCA was directed to continue its attack on a broad front, leading initially with strong infantry elements to secure a bridgehead E of the Rau de Vaux. 56th Engr Bn was to assist with bridging operations to insure the expeditious crossing of following tank elements. Upon crossing the Rau de Vaux, CCA was directed to advance rapidly astride the Bertogne-Houffalize road to seize its assigned portion of the Division objective. 41st Cavalry was to continue on its N flank protection and VII Corps contact mission as far E as Houffalize.
CCB was directed to initially assist the attack of 101st AB Division elements on Vaux by fire, and to soften the woods N and NE thereof as well as the town of Rachamps by similar action. CCB was then to attack and seize the SE tip of the woods one mile north of Vaux, and probe for further resistance to the NE along the Noville-Houffalize highway. Thereafter CCB was to be prepared to continue NW and assist CCA's crossing of the Rau de Vaux; or continue its advance to the NE along the Noville-Houffalize highway to seize and occupy its portion of the Division objective.
At 2005, Operations Memorandum #11 was received from VIII Corps directing continuation of the attack at 0830, January 16. Formalizing the Division plan, Operations Memorandum #13 was issued at 2300 for accomplishment of the mission assigned. At 2330 the road from Longchamps to Compogne was reported clear of snow and mines and engineer equipment in position for assistance of the CCA attack the following day.
16 January 1945
CCA's infantry task force jumped off at 0800 to complete reduction of their previous day's objective. At 0900 the main effort to the E was initiated. An infantry bridgehead over the Rau de Vaux allowed quick construction of a treadway bridge by engineers. The tank force then pushed rapidly BE through Mabompre in a pursuit action. The infantry task force followed echeloned to the right. Reducing several road blocks and advancing under artillery, sniper, and automatic weapons fire, the advance tank elements of CCA reached the final objective at 1320. Regrouping for the then assigned defensive mission, CCA disposed its infantry elements across the front and the tanks were rallied in defilade positions to the W. The CP was moved forward from Longchamps to Compogne, closing at 1500.
In accordance with plans, CCB initiated action with tank and artillery fire on the woods N and NE of Vaux and the town of Rachamps. At 0945, with their tank task force leading, followed closely by the infantry, CCB attacked and seized the woods N of Vaux by 1045. Probing indicated no concentrated enemy resistance to the NE. Immediately reorganizing, CCB pushed NE through Wicourt against anti-tank fire from enemy forces to the E in the vicinity of Rachamps. Leaving a small holding force to reduce Wicourt, the infantry pushed ahead, moving into the woods on the final objective at 1500 supported by artillery and fire from the tank task force. The final objective was organized and outposted by 1630. Anti-tank, rocket and mortar fire from a strong enemy position in the woods near Neufmoulin was hurled into forces on the final objective during the remainder of the afternoon. Intense flurries of nebelwerfer were dispatched between 1900 and 2000. At the close of the engagement, enemy order of battle in the Division sector indicated remnants of the 130th Panzer Lehr Division, 26th Volksgrenadier Division, 9th Panzer Division, and various GHQ units, predominantly engineers, across the front.
Organization of Div Arty for its support mission remained unchanged during the day. An advance FDC was established and operated at Longchamps to control fires of artillery in the CCA zone. By late afternoon, over 12,000 rounds of ammunition had been fired in support of the entire engagement. Missions included 105 harassing and interdiction, one counter-battery, 23 targets of opportunity, 14 registrations, 38 preparations, 14 TOT's, and 8 defensive fires. Air OP's completed a total of 46 missions for the engagement, rendering invaluable assistance in adjusting fires.
56th Eng Bn constructed the bridge to facilitate CCA's attack early in the morning and continued sanding icy places and sweeping roads for mines throughout the day. After dark the heavily mined road from Noville north to the final objective was cleared of mines.
Close contact was maintained during the day with the 101st AB Division to insure coordination of effort among interspersed forces. About noon, information was exchanged with elements of VII Corps, First Army, regarding relative locations of troops in the vicinity of Houffalize. On the basis of preliminary information, major units were directed about 2000 to hold their present positions but to be prepared for relief by elements of the 17th AB Division in a sector to the south.
Spearheading the VIII Corps attack to reduce the Belgian Bulge, the Division had been first to link up with First Army forces to the N along the L'Ourthe River near Houffalize. During four days of offensive action against stiff enemy resistance:
1) A two-pronged attack had advanced over seven miles, liberating 45 square miles of Belgian territory.
2) Again over 12 towns had been taken, or cut off to fall into the hands of following troops; most notably Bertogne, Compogne, Mabompre, Noville, and Wicourt.
3) About 800 prisoners had been captured. Fifty irreplaceable German tanks, including six ponderous and powerful Mark VI's had been destroyed.
4) An American Armored and two Airborne Divisions had joined forces to operate as an indomitable team.
One officer and 197 enlisted men joined the Division during this period. Relative losses in personnel and significant weapons are tabulated below.
The Division plan formulated on these premises contemplated the use of a heavy infantry and defense weapon force, under CCR, for defense of the newly assigned sector. The Division Artillery supported the defense and the two major combat commands were held in reserve assembly areas.
At 0300 word was received that sweeping of the Bastogne-Houffalize road as far N as the Division final objective had been accomplished. By early daylight FO #5 of the 17th AB Division was received outlining the plan for relieving Division elements the following day. At a mid-morning conference, attended by the Commander of the 17th AB and the Commander of the 101st AB, plans were perfected for the coordinated transfer of responsibility and assumption of new missions in accordance with the Corps order.
Meanwhile, the Commanding Officer of CCR and a small party had conducted a reconnaissance of 101st AB Division front line positions preparatory to the relief planned for that night. Elements of a reconstituted CCR began movement to assembly areas in the vicinity of Recogne around noon.
Broad scale arrangements having been perfected, the detailed plan for accomplishment of the Division mission was developed. CCA was directed to release attached elements to the 17th AB and on relief by 17th AS to move to an assembly area in the vicinity of Longchamps. 41st Cavalry was be released from CCA on arrival in the vicinity of Villeroux. CCB was directed to release elements for the reconstitution of CCR, remain in its present position until relieved by 17th AB Division., and then move to an assembly area in the vicinity of Hemroulle. To CCR was assigned the primary mission of occupying and defending the Division sector from Hardigny to Bourcy inclusive, on relief of elements of the 101st AB. to CCR was also assigned responsibility for maintaining lateral contact and protecting the S flank of the Corps. Responsibility for defense was to pass at 0800, 18 January. Division Artillery was ordered to place 491st and 492nd AFA Bns in direct support of CCR while 490th AFA and 174th FA Gp were to furnish general support. 56th Engr Bn was assigned the crucial job of clearing, repairing, and maintaining mined and deeply snow-drifted roads, for movement of the Division's major elements. Troops of the Division were allocated as follows:
These directives were formalized in FO #9 issued at 1500.
Before daylight enemy contact was maintained in the northern sub-sector of the Division front by CCA, 18 prisoners being captured in the vicinity of Cowan. During the day, CCA continued in its defensive position until relieved by the 17th AB Division late in the afternoon. On its relief CCA began a movement by echelon to its assembly area in the vicinity of Longchamps.
CCB defended the southern sector of the Division front during the day. At 1730, upon relief by elements of the 17th AB, CCB marched to its assembly area in the vicinity of Hemroulle, closing at 2300.
Div Arty supported the defense of the Division sector during the early part of the day and coordinated plans with the 17th and 101st AB artillery incident to the contemplated transfer of sector responsibility.
Assembling in the vicinity of Recogne, where its CP was established, CCR prepared to relieve elements of the 101st AB Division in the newly assigned Division sector. Support positions for Tank Destroyer and Anti-Aircraft elements were occupied without delay. Front line infantry relieved elements of the 101st AB Division after dark. Contact was established with the 17th AB on the north in the vicinity of Rachamps and with the 6th Armored Division on the S flank, in the vicinity of Bourcy.
56th Engr Bn continued removing mines and maintaining roads for Division movement, particularly along the Houffalize-Bastogne and Longchamps-Bastogne routes. 602nd TD Bn and 575th AAA Bn moved to the vicinity of Noville for direct employment by CCR in the defense of the Division sector. 41st Cavalry initiated movement at 1300 and closed in the Villeroux area about 1600. G-5 assumed responsibility from the 101st AB Division for administration of Civil Affairs in Bastogne.
18 January 1945
At 0800 the Division assumed responsibility for defense of the sector from Hardigny to Bourcy, both inclusive. The defense, formulated around infantry strong points organized in depth, took full advantage of critical terrain. Normal infantry support elements were augmented by dug-in TDs and heavy automatic fire AA emplacements.
CCR night patrols had encountered none of the enemy. However, day patrols met determined enemy resistance. Forward positions were subjected to light mortar and artillery fire during the day. Improvement of positions went on as OP's were established and active patrol contact was maintained with adjacent units on the N and S flanks. Four German tanks and a small infantry force attempted a counterattack at 1720, but withdrew when taken under fire. Listening posts were established to maintain contact after dark.
Division Artillery worked over woods N of Bourcy and the Bois Brule during the day. Harassing and interdiction fires continued after night-fall. 85 missions, entailing the expenditure of 1804 rounds, were fired.
Continuing their road improvement work, 56th Engineers replaced a treadway bridge near Longchamps with a wooden structure. Other units of the Division initiated rehabilitation of personnel and maintenance of vehicles and weapons; and remained in readiness to support CCR.
FO #6 was received from VIII Corps at 1230. In order to secure the Noville-Houffalize road, a limited objective attack was ordered: 11th Armored Division on the right; 17th AB on the left. The Division mission was outlined as an attack at H hour, D day, to secure the high ground N and E of Buret; clear all enemy in a limited zone; and protect the Corps S flank.
19 January 1945
At 0800, the 492nd AFA was placed in direct support of CCR, relieving the 491st AFA. Information was received that D-day had been established as 21 January. In accordance with FO #6, HQ VIII Corps, plans were made for the renewal of offensive action. The Division limited objective attack plan visualized CCA and CCB moving abreast, CCB on the right, with CCR following centrally. At 1800 FO #10 was issued reallocating elements of the Division and attachments as follows:
CCA was directed to move to an assembly area SW of Rachamps prior to daylight 21 January. Coordinating movement with elements of the 17th AB on its N flank, CCA was then to attack H-Hour 21 January, to seize the Division terrain objective N and E of Buret. CCB was directed to move to an assembly area in the vicinity of Noville prior to daylight 21 January. At H-hour 21 January, CCB was to assist the attack of CCA by fire until the Bois Brule had been secured. Thereafter, in coordination with the 6th Armored Division on the S flank, CCB was to be prepared to launch a limited objective flanking attack as far E as the Buret-Troine road, on Division order. CCR was charged with assisting the attack by fire from its defensive positions, with particular attention to the Bois Brule. When passed through by CCA, (and CCB in case the latter was ordered to attack), CCR was directed to reform and be prepared to follow along the boundary between the two major combat commands to assist either attack. 490th AFA was placed in direct support of CCA; 491st in direct support of CCB; 492nd AFA and 174th FA Gp. in general support. 56th Armd Engr Bn was directed to prepare for the clearance and maintenance of routes 575th AAA and 602nd TD were to revert to Division Control when CCA and CCB passed through CCR.
Division CP was moved forward in the late afternoon to a more central position one km W of Bastogne.
20 January 1945
CCA moved forward to its attack position during the afternoon closing in the area SW of Rachamps at 1900. Cavalry elements were sent E to contact CCR and assist in patrol activities. Engineers were set at work clearing trails through thre Bois Brule. The combat command CP was established at Rachamps.
CCB advanced to its Noville assembly area, closing at 1735. Engineer elements were sen forward over routes to Bourcy and Bois Regne, after nightfall, to clear minefields and locate crossings over the Rau Du Hardigny.
Missions of the artillery battalions were changed to conform to FO # 10: 490th AFA was place in direct support of CCA; 491st AFA in direct support of CCCB; and 492nd and 174th FA Gp in general support.
In spite of diligent preparation and maintenance, snow-covered routes necessary for the movement were drifted over in may places, and movement of all our elements was considerably slowed.
At 1730, a message was received from VIII Corps designating 0830 21 January as H-hour. Instructions were accordingly relayed to all major units concerned. 56th Engrs scraped the road between Longchamps and Noville and completed clearing the trail from Noville to Rachamps by 1830. an airstrip for Div Arty was prepared. After nightfall two snow clearance crews were organized to cut trails for the advance of CCA and CCB. Treadway was laid across the Rau Du Hardigny.
21 January 1945
The first elements of CCA initiated their advance at 0730. Pushing forward from the CCCR line at 0900, a small combined infantry and tank task force went through Boeur without resistance. A blown bridge and numerous hasty mine fields delayed progress. However, dismounted infantry and cavalry elements proceeded toward Buret, reaching there by 1200. A bridge having been constructed at Boeur, the bulk of the command moved forward, closing in Buret about 1800, and capturing 10 prisoners, who were waiting to surrender. Cavalry patrols continued to the E and occupied the Division objective.
CCB moved its infantry task force eastward to the vicinity of Bourcy at 0900. A tank task force remained in the woods one mile E of Noville. Due to the unopposed progress of III Corps elements to the S, and the rapid progress of CCA, CCB was not commited to action but remained in a state of readiness. Div Arty fired no missions during the day, except for the 490th AFA's original registration in preparation for CCA's attack. 490th AFA displaced forward to the vicinity of Boeur and the 492nd AFA to positions in the vicinity of bourcy, in order to cover the advance to its extreme eastward limiting point.
On being passed through by CCA, CCR assembled in the vicinity of Boeur-Wandebourcy, completing this movement at 1630. the 56th Armd Engr Bn followed up the advance of CCA with the sweeping of the Boeur-Buret road and the sanding of critical icy stretches.
Enemy identifications made during the day indicated that remnants of the 26th Volksgrenadier Div, 9th Panzer Div, and 130th Panzer "Lehr" Div, as well as several engineer battalions, had been operating in the Division sector. Enemy action was characterized by occasional long range mortar and artillery fire and typical pioneer delaying tactics. At 1145, Operations Memorandum #13 was received from VIII Corps prescribing a change in the boundary between III and VIII Corps which extended the Division sector further eastward to include the whole of the Bois De Rouvroy. This boundary change shifted Bastogne to the jurisdiction of the III Corps and re-adjustment of our elements therein was initiated. Shortly thereafter Operations Memorandum #14 was received directing the continued advance of the Division 220830 to clear all enemy in its zone.
At the close of the day's operations it was apparent that no further movement of major elements of the Division would be required to complete the Division mission. All units were accordingly instructed to remain in their present positions. CCA was directed to continue its operation the following day, with an economy of force, to probe through and around the Bois De Rouvroy.
22 January 1945
Except for the 490th AFA all guns of Div Arty were soon outranged. So far during the engagement Dev Arty had fired some 3,649 rounds, including 154 rounds of pozit fused ammunition.
The 56th Armd Engr Bn sanded roads, particularly in the Boeur-Buret area, and cleared numerous mine fields. Locating mines was complicated by heavy snow drifts. VIII Corps directed the Division to be prepared to assist the 17th AB Div in the accomplishment of its mission. This directive was relayed to CCA which was in the most advantageous position for such an assignment.
23 January 1945
Further immediate operations of the Division being unlikely, action was initiated to regroup and concentrate the bulk of units around Bastogne for rehabilitation and necessary maintenance. A recommended area was submitted to VIII Corps for approval. For orientation and training purposes, Operations Bulletin #2 was issued, summarizing the Division's action during the Bertogne-Houffalize engagement.
CCB remained in the vicinity of Noville. Reconnaissance of routes and an assembly area in the vicinity of Bercheux was initiated. Div Arty remained in position. CCR returned to Magerotte, closing at 1820, and the 56th Armd Eng Bn moved to Isle Le Pre. 602nd TD Bn, (-C Co) concentrated at Hemroulle.
24 January 1945
Shortly after noon, Operations Memorandum #15 was received from VIII Corps outlining another change in Corps boundaries and directing the Division to retain one combat command in the vicinity of Buret for possible assistance to the 17th AB Div.
Division Operations Memorandum #17 was immediately formulated and issued directing CCA to maintain close and continuous liaison with the 17th AB, reconnoiter routes, and to be prepared for rapid movement in the event the 17th AB required assistance.
Concentration and regrouping of forces having been substantially accomplished, Operations Memorandum #18 was issued at 2000, prescribing composition of certain major units as follows:
Division Artillery was directed to remain in its Noville positions and to have the 490th AFA prepared for direct support and the 491st and 492nd AFA Bns prepared for general support of CCA. Normally detached organizations of the 56th Engr Bn, 41st Cav Rcn Sq, 575th AAA Bn, and the 602nd TD Bn were returned to parent unit control. Continued attention to rehabilitation of personnel and maintenance of vehicles, weapons and radios was directed.
25 January 1945
26 January 1945
Training in combined tank-infantry action stressing small unit tactics was conducted by major units. Physical conditioning was maintained by prescribed road marches.
27 January 1945
At 1630 FO #7 was received from HQ VIII Corps stating that the Corps would continue its eastward move nto Germany proper by an attack on H-hour 29 January 1945, to penetrate the Siegfried Line. Threee Infantry Divisions abreast were to be used; from right to left, 90th Inf Div., 4th Inf Div, and 87th Inf Div; attacking from a line of departure generally along the high ground W of the our River. 95th Inf Div and the 11th Armored Division were initially to be in Corps reserve.
The Division was directed to remain in its present position; prepared to move combat commands to Lommersweiler and Burg Reuland, and to exploit any penetration of the enemy defenses. The 602nd TD Bn (-C Co) was relieved from and the 811th TD Bn attached to the Division.
A warning order was issued to all units at 2130, outlining the Corps attack plan for 29 January and specifying the Division mission.
28 January 1945
29 January 1945
Physical reconstitution of the major units as specified above was not to take effect until a movement order incident to possible active employment of the Division was issued. Major units were authorized to conduct route reconnaissance and make periodic contacts with the Infantry Divisions conducting the Corps attack, preparatory to possible employment.
Small infantry-tank unit tactics, removal of minefields, and patrol training continued. CCB developed and demonstrated a technique of hasty roadblock reduction.
VIII Corps Operations Memorandum #19 was received late in the day,, prescribing a renewal of the attack early the following morning. The Division was retained in a reserve status.
30 January 1945
31 January 1945
A quick summary of comparative losses during this engagement follows: Personnel Casualties
Vehicular and Weapons Casualties
For the entire report period, 43 Officers and 1,675 EM reinforcements were received, principally during the last half of the month. Strength of the Division 31 January 1945 was as follows: 561 Officers; 52 Warrant Officers; and 9,642 Enlisted Men.
The Boeur-Buret engagement, in its offensive aspects, was substantially a pursuit against rear guard opposition. Heavily snow-covered terrain, drifted secondary roads, blown bridges, and a clever concentration of mine fields were the principal obstacles. Nevertheless, some 16 square miles of territory and four towns had been liberated, as the Division's 6.5 eastward push toward the Our River and Germay was driven home.
Summary - 23 Dec 1944 to 31 Jan 1945
Vehicular and Weapons Casualties
Personnel losses were about one for every two of the enemy. Over two hundred irreplaceable pieces of German Ordnance, including 90 tanks, were destroyed. Advancing 20 miles through enemy held territory, the Division captured 28 towns and cleared 90 square miles of beleaguered Belgium. Battle tested and battlewise, the 11th Armored Division was ready for further aggressive, offensive combat.
Weather: The entire period can be described as cold with intermittent snow showers. The ground was frozen and snow covered. The mean temperature was minus 4 degrees at 0800, maximum 34 degrees at 1500. Conditions were not favorable for gas, screening smoke or air operations.
Artillery: 75mm artillery was employed. Heavy mortar (up to 12.0 cm), however, was the principal supporting weapon. The nebelwerfer was use extensively. Aviation: Limited principally to sporadic strafing of vehicular columns and assembly areas.
Engineers: Mines were employed along the shoulders of roads, Morhet, Auchabet, fringes of woods, and isolated areas to harass and impede without cover from supporting weapons.
Tanks: Initially, tanks were employed in no more than platoon strength. The enemy's tank activity increased considerably toward the close of the period, and were reported in groups of 35 to 35.
Anti-tank: AT weapons including 88mms and bazookas were employed at all enemy cores of resistance.
12 Jan - 16 Jan: The enemy continued his policy of defending to the limit and then, after withdrawing, launching a vigorous counterattack. In his stubborn resistance the enemy relied heavily on mortar (81mm and 12.0cm) and AT weapons in our Western and Eastern sectors respectively. Tanks were utilized to spearhead his main unsuccessful counterthrusts.
The enemy endeavored to delay on a series of strong points by utilizing every component arm including AT weapons. A series of clashes preceded the enemy's withdrawal to the high ground South of Bertogne where Lt. Col. Schrieffer, CO of the 77th Volksgrenadiers, suddenly aware of the possibility of his division being caught with a rear exposed to our armored thrust, elected to stand and cover the rest of the division. He chose the Compogne-Rastadt-Vellereux triangle for his "hold at all cost stand", where very stubborn resistance with numerous AT weapons was encountered. The 2nd Battalion of the 77th VGR was surrounded by our tanks South of Compogne and a large part of its personnel surrendered. Escaping remnants were pushed eastward by our northern thrust. Meanwhile the 78th Volksgrenadier began its retreat from the vicinity of Rouette and on 14 January 14, the CO of 1st Battalion of the 78th elected to stand at Wicourt with the aid of 2nd Battalion 78th VGR. Constant pressure by our tanks and infantry rendered the selected position untenable and the enemy retreated to Rechamps. An attempted stand at this point by the enemy was frustrated. Following the retreat of the 78th to the East, stragglers were taken at Boeur and Hoffelt by our armor.
The 11th Panzergrenadiers of the 9th Panzer Division was deployed along the line Monaville-Cobru protecting the South flank of the 26th VG Division. These well chosen positions were disrupted by our artillery concentrations and armored penetrations. The 11th PGR pushed into Bourcy and now bolstered by an infusion of men from the supply services, engineers and recently arrived replacements, attempted a stand but was driven East to Troine and out of contact.
Weather: During this period the maximum temperature was 27 degrees at 1300, minimum temperature was 17 degrees at 0400. Wind generally N and NW at 10 mph. Conditions favorable for air support in morning and afternoon of each day of this period. The ground was frozen an snow covered.
PW Interrogation: Captain Roemer, CO of the 26th Rcn Bn, 26th VG Division. Capt. Roemer holds the three highest awards of the German Army and had been on the Russian front for three years. Upon being interrogated, this officer very politely but very firmly made it clear that he could not impart any military information other than that concerned with the conduct of our recent attacks. He had high praise for the 11th Armored Division in their conduct of the attack on Compogne on 15 January. He thought that our armor was unusually aggressive and not at all hesitant in closing with the enemy, very much to his surprise. He said that on previous occasions, when US tanks were encountered by his unit, our armor would rarely advance closer than 250 yds. Upon receiving enemy fire. He also praised the efficiency and elusiveness of the recon patrol which had reconnoitered his positions the night before his capture. His Bn CP was surrounded only two hours after his men had reported the patrol. He did not know he was opposed by the 11th Armored untl after his capture; but knew from their tactics that they must be fresh troops recently come out of a rest area. He still thought, however, that our armored infantry was somewhat lacking in following up and exploiting the armored penetration. He state that the German counter offensive was only successful insofar as it relieved pressure in the North and South, and that it had had, in fact, no more far-reaching objective. He believed that the main action had yet to be fought on the Siegrfied Line. His orders in regard to the present defensive action were simply to hold, which he interpreted as meaning to hold to the last man. No provisions were made for the withdrawal of his own unit.
Anti-tank: AT weapons including bazookas, 75mm and 88mm guns were encountered at all points where terrain favored the defense.
Artillery: The enemy denied himself use of extensive artillery initially. On 15 January, however, he employed 75 mm guns North of Compogne.
Tanks: The enemy employed tanks throughout the period four of which were, along with three Ferdinands, knocked out in Bertogne. Twenty tanks moved South from Compogne and dispersed when taken under fire. Enemy tanks were employed in the entire zone an were specifically utilized Noville and Foy.
Air: A total of 25 Focke-Wulfs were observed during e period. Operations were limited to sporadic strafing.
Engineers: The enemy demonstrated a good understanding of the tactical employment of defiles by his economic employment of mines throughout the zone of action.
17 Jan - 23 Jan: The enemy was well dug in initially and disposed on favorable defensive terrain. Mine fields and light caliber artillery were incorporated into the general defensive scheme and was augmented by counter attacks launched from the ridges. Under increased pressure the enemy elected to withdraw and on 21 January no enemy contact was reported. Enemy minefields were uncovered 22 January in our entire zone. These were supplemented by road blocks, demolished bridges and other aids to withdrawal.
Weather: Same as for period 12-16 January. Engineers: Fifteen miles of road were cleared of enemy mines. The enemy used captured American mines as well as German box and plastic mines. No Teller mines were reported. His fields were spotted n logical and what might well have been effective locations.
Tactical Study Of Terrain Encountered
From 23 Dec-31 Jan
The road network is poor with few good roads. The best roads converge at Bastogne and are the water-bound macadam type. Cover and concealment ample for both sides. Natural obstacles favor defense. Mines, roadblocks, field fortifications and other artificial obstacles may be woven into formidable defensive points. Fields of fire for the defender are excellent. Favorable tank terrain is very limited.
There are no large cities. Villages and hamlets which dot the area are all potential strong points. Houffalize is the largest town with 6,000-8,000 inhabitants.
The enemy has chosen the same route which he used in 1940 and must consequently be considered familiar with the area. Any movement will be largely confined to the rather poor network of roads since deployment into the soft terrain is not feasible. The natural defensive quality of the terrain under consideration presents the enemy with choice opportunities for an aggressive defense.