TESTIMONIES - BULGE

[William H. TUCKER] , [Howard P. MELVIN] , [Chris CHRISTENSEN] , [Louis A. HAUPTFLEISCH] , [Patsy PASSERO] , [Warren C. WILT] ,
[Dick W. DURKEE] , [Douglas C. DILLARD] , [Lester W. SCHWARM]

BATTLE of the BULGE - 16 December 1944

Excerpts from After-Action Report for December 1944, written by MG James M. GAVIN, CG 82d Abn Div, dated 9 Feb 45, and classified SECRET – these documents describe arrival, consolidation, and first combat action of the “All American” Division, from December 17 > 31, 1944 (-ed)


partial map of the XVIII A/B Corps sector – December 21-23, 1944
(red lines > axis advance & penetration in the Bulge)

17 December 1944
The Division, engaged in normal training activities near RHEIMS, FRANCE, was alerted at 1900 hours to move into combat the following day (18 Dec 44) . At 2100 hours a movement order was received directing the Division to move by motor at 180900 from base camps and to concentrate in the vicinity of BASTOGNE, BELGIUM, where further instructions would be forthcoming . From general information available then, there appeared to be a serious GERMAN penetration in the VIII CORPS sector .

18 December 1944
The Division’s leading serials left the base camps at SISSONNE and SUIPPES, FRANCE, at 0900 hours . Combat team component march units met at SEDAN, FRANCE and proceeded toward BASTOGNE, BELGIUM . At SPRIMONT, BELGIUM, the head of the Division column was directed to proceed to WERBOMONT . Higher Headquarters had then decided that the Division would hold the Northern flank of the penetration and the 101st Airborne Division, the Southern flank at BASTOGNE . Roads were clogged with vehicles and refugees . The location of the German advance breakthrough elements was uncertain . A screening force from the 119th Infantry Regiment (30th Inf Div) was deployed in the vicinity of HABIEMONT to cover the assembly of the Division . The leading serial arrived at WERBOMONT at 1730 hours . Defensive positions were organized without delay by each unit upon its arrival . Security and reconnaissance measures were established at once .

19 December 1944
The Division closed in the WERBOMONT area by 1000 hours . Defensive positions were improved progressively .

325th Glider Infantry – the 3d Battalion established roadblocks in the vicinity of BARVAUX . F Company occupied GRANDMENIL and MANHAY
504th Parachute Infantry – occupied RAHIER and relieved elements of the 119th Infantry (30th Inf Div) in its sector
505th Parachute Infantry – occupied BASSE-BODEUX and relieved elements of the 119th Infantry (30th Inf Div) in its sector
508th Parachute Infantry – H Company occupied a crossroad just north of FLORET

20 December 1944

325th Glider Infantry – the 1st Battalion occupied a defensive position in the vicinity of BRA . The 3d Battalion was relieved in the BARVAUX area by elements of the 3d Armored Division . The 2d Battalion, less F Company, was in Division Reserve . F Company continued to occupy GRANDMENIL and MANHAY
504th Parachute Infantry – the 1st Battalion, less A Company, attacked CHENEUX at 1400 hours . A heavy engagement ensued with a battalion of the 1st SS Panzer Division supported by tanks, flak wagons, and artillery . A Company took positions in the vicinity of BRUME
505th Parachute Infantry – pushed out to the SALM RIVER along the line TROIS-PONTS – COURNAIMONT, south of GRAND-HALLEUX and relieved elements of the 51st Engineer Combat Battalion at TROIS-PONTS . One Company held the bridge at HOURT . One Platoon crossed the river near TROIS-PONTS . Another Platoon crossed at LA TOUR ;
508th Parachute Infantry – began moving by foot and by motor to the vicinity of GORONNE

21 December 1944
Division completely occupied the line TROIS-PONTS – SALMCHATEAU – HEBRONVAL and made contact with the 7th Armored Division, 106th Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Division (112th Inf Regt), and CCB, 9th Armored Division

325th Glider Infantry – closed in the area southwest of LIERNEUX and occupied the sector SART – HEBRONVAL . One Platoon of F Company occupied REGNE . Patrols advanced as far south as BIHAIN
504th Parachute Infantry – 1st Battalion, less A Company, had cleared CHENEUX by mid-morning, capturing 14 flak wagons, 6 half-tracks, 4 trucks, 4 105mm howitzers, and 1 Mark IV tank . 3d Battalion, less G Company, attacked and captured MONCEAU against strong enemy resistance and assisted 1st Battalion by swinging north of CHENEUX . The 1st Battalion, plus G Company, consolidated positions in CHENEUX and then with the 3d Battalion, attacked and drove the enemy across the AMBLEVE RIVER and established positions on the south bank of the river
505th Parachute Infantry – two Companies of the 2d Battalion crossed the SALM RIVER at TROIS-PONTS and established a bridgehead
508th Parachute Infantry – closed in its area southeast of GORONNE and occupied the sector VIELSALM – GRAND SART


MG James M. GAVIN (CG 82d A/B Div) in front of the Division CP, at Bra-sur-Lienne, Belgium – Dec 22-24, 1944

22 December 1944
Troops of the 7th Armored Division, the 106th Infantry Division, the 28th Infantry Division, and CCB, 9th Armored Division began to withdraw through the Division’s lines

325th Glider Infantry – 2d Battalion occupied FRAITURE . F Company occupied the main crossroad southeast of MANHAY and contacted the 3d Armored Division . 5 enemy tanks and two enemy patrols were repelled in the vicinity of JUBIEVAL by artillery . 125 enemy vehicles, including armor, were reported in OTTRE . Friendly artillery fired on the town . Two enemy infantry attempts to form up for attack were both stopped by 155mm fire . OTTRE was a mass of smouldering ruins
504th Parachute Infantry – the 2d Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion . Contact with the 119th Infantry Regiment (30th Inf Div) was established
505th Parachute Infantry – 2d Battalion bridgehead across the SALM RIVER at TROIS-PONTS was attacked by a battalion of the 1st SS Panzer Division, supported by armor and artillery . 2d Battalion forces were consequently withdrawn and the bridge was blown . Two enemy squads infiltrated into TROIS-PONTS but were driven back across the SALM RIVER . 3d Battalion repulsed an enemy platoon attempt to cross the SALM RIVER at LA TOUR and another two-platoon effort in the G Company sector . 1st and 3d Battalion bridgeheads at GRAND-HALLEUX and LA NEUVILLE were established
508th Parachute Infantry – organized defensive positions from VIELSALM to SALMCHATEAU and to GRAND SART . 1st Battalion was placed in Division Reserve . Patrols reported German columns moving in a steady stream through PETITE LANGLIRE towards OTTRE
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion – blew the bridge at ROCHELINVAL . An officer patrol dispatched to PETITE LANGLIRE blew a vital bridge over the RONCE stream which was being used by the enemy

23 December 1944
Troops and vehicles of the 7th Armored Division, the 106th Infantry Division, the 28th Infantry Division, and CCB, 9th Armored Division continued to withdraw through Division lines

325th Glider Infantry – 2d Battalion drove back several enemy probing attacks . A composite force consisting of F Company, 325th Gli Inf Regt, and tanks of the 3d Armored Division was attacked by a strong enemy force at the main crossroad southeast of MANHAY . Two Platoons of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion joined the composite force . At 1630 hours, after a very effective mortar and artillery preparation, an estimated infantry battalion with tanks of the 2nd SS Panzer Division attacked . Enemy tanks shelled the crossroad with deadly effect, while enemy infantry overran the defenders . F Company was forced to withdraw . 1st Battalion lost and re-established an outpost at JUBIEVAL . 3d Battalion captured an enemy document in OTTRE that contained plans for the attack to LIEGE
504th Parachute Infantry – the 2d Battalion, relieved by the 1st Battalion, moved into position as Division Reserve in the vicinity of LIERNEUX and the latter was moved southwest of MALEMPRE to meet an enemy threat . The 1st Battalion took over the sectors of the 2d Battalion, 504th Prcht Inf Regt and the 2d Battalion, 505th Prcht Inf Regt
505th Parachute Infantry – the Regiment continued to defend the SALM RIVER line against determined, well supported attacks of the 1st SS Panzer Division . Except for patrols, all elements of the 505th Prcht Inf Regt were located on the west bank of the river
508th Parachute Infantry – repulsed an enemy attack directed towards SALMCHATEAU from the STE MAIRE – PROVEDROUX area . Enemy forces were estimated as a battalion of infantry supported by Mark III tanks . The three bridges at SALMCHATEAU and the railroad bridge at VIELSALM were blown . 1st Battalion reverted to Regimental control . The 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment (28th Inf Div) was attached
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion – executed demolition of stone culvert 1 ½ miles south of SALMCHATEAU after the last vehicle of the 7th Armored Division had passed
14th Tank Battalion (CCB, 9th Armd Div) – attached to Division . Company C established a roadblock at the MANHAY crossroads

24 December 1944
The last elements of the 7th Armored Division were withdrawn through Division lines . Division was ordered by XVIII A/B Corps to withdraw under cover of darkness to a defense line extending from TROIS-PONTS – BASSE-BODEUX – EN BERGIFA – DRI-LE-CHESLIN . Regiments were ordered to delay enemy until 00400 December 25 with a covering shell

325th Glider Infantry – 2d Battalion with strong enemy pressure on both flanks withdrew from FRAITURE and took up a position in BOIS HOUBI after killing at least 50 enemy and routing the remainder . One Platoon, holding REGNE, was overrun by enemy infantry and armor . B Company, supported by a tank company of the 14th Tank Battalion (9th Armd Div), recaptured the town and ejected the enemy
504th Parachute Infantry – the 3d Battalion, less G Company, moved into position southwest of LIERNEUX and there repulsed a strong enemy attack
505th Parachute Infantry – the 2d Battalion moved north to intercept an enemy force estimated at 800 enemy reported to be attempting a crossing of the SALM RIVER toward the east . I Company was attacked by an estimated enemy company who were trying to withdraw across the river, most of them were destroyed . Initiated withdrawal as per plan
508th Parachute Infantry – the highway bridge at VIELSALM was blown / The covering shell was attacked by an enemy battalion, strongly supported by artillery and mortar fire
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion – upon receipt of the withdrawal order, prepared extensive obstacles on the defense line, mined approaches, and prepared bridges and culverts on the withdrawal routes for demolition
14th Tank Battalion – C Company was relieved at the MANHAY roadblock by elements of the 7th Armored Division . The enemy attacked in force and captured MANHAY

25 December 1944
All units successfully broke contact with the enemy and withdrew to the new defense line

325th Glider Infantry – the 1st Battalion filled the gap between the 504th Prcht Inf Regt and the 7th Armored Division by occupying DRI-LE-CHESLIN and VAUX-CHAVANNE . At 2200 hours an enemy infantry attack was repulsed . The 2d Battalion as Division Reserve and the 3d Battalion as Regimental Reserve occupied positions near AU-HETRE
504th Parachute Infantry – 2d and 3d Battalions occupied new positions along the line EN BERGIFA – BRA – VAUX-CHAVANNE . The 1st Battalion, in Regimental Reserve, vicinity of BRA
505th Parachute Infantry – the 2d and 3d Battalions now occupied new defensive positions between TROIS-PONTS and BASSE-BODEUX . 1st Battalion occupied a position 3000 yards north of BASSE-BODEUX as Regimental Reserve
508th Parachute Infantry – occupied new defensive positions along the line HAUTE-BODEUX – EN BERGIFA with all Battalions on the MLR . The 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry Regiment (28th Inf Div) was relieved of attachment to the 508th Prcht Inf Regt
307th Airborne Engineer Battalion – laid minefields, constructed abatis, and blew bridges to form a barrier along the Division front

B Company, 86th Chemical Battalion, A Company, 703d TD Battalion, and 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion were attached to the Division .C Company, 563d Antiaircraft Artillery, Automatic Weapons Battalion was relieved of attachment to the Division

26 December 1944

325th Glider Infantry – at 0630 hours one battalion of the 2d SS Panzer Division attacked and succeeded in overrunning a portion of the sector . B Company and C Company promptly counterattacked and restored all positions, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy . The 1st Battalion was relieved by the 23d Armored Infantry Battalion (7th Armd Div), and moved to an area northeast of DRI-LE-CHESLIN
504th Parachute Infantry – the 2d Battalion broke up two enemy attacks launched by the 9th SS Panzer Division from the vicinity of FLORET
505th Parachute Infantry – patrolled aggressively . Sector generally quiet
508th Parachute Infantry – 2d Battalion repulsed an enemy attack near road junction west of REHARMONT by an estimated two companies of infantry, supported by 4 half-tracks . 3d Battalion outposts repulsed attack by enemy infantry

27 December 1944

325th Glider Infantry – the 2d Battalion, Division Reserve, moved to a position approximately 1000 yards south of MOUCHENOULLE
504th Parachute Infantry – 3d Battalion extended MLR slightly to the southeast . The 2d Battalion knocked out an enemy flak wagon near EN BERGIFA
505th Parachute Infantry – 3d Battalion received heavy artillery fire throughout the day . A Company and B Company, moved to new areas in the rear of the 3d Battalion
508th Parachute Infantry – F Company and G Company were attacked by an estimated two battalions of infantry of the 9th SS Panzer Division at 0120 . G Company was partially overrun . Enemy infiltrated to ERRIA . I Company committed to aid G Company in destroying and ejecting the enemy . E Company, less 1 Platoon, mopped up the town of ERRIA and the entire sector was cleared by 0430 . Enemy casualties were heavy
551st Parachute Infantry Battalion – attacked at 2300 towards limited objectives ODRIMONT and AMCOMONT

28 December 1944

325th Glider Infantry – improved defensive positions
504th Parachute Infantry – the 3d Battalion broke up an attack by an estimated 60 enemy and inflicted heavy casualties . 2d Battalion fired on by enemy tanks . Friendly 4.2 mortar fire and artillery fire forced the tanks to withdraw
505th Parachute Infantry – improved defensive positions . 3d Battalion captured an entire 5-man enemy patrol 508th Parachute Infantry – improved defensive positions
551st Parachute Infantry Battalion – reached NOIREFONTAINE, killed an estimated 30 enemy and captured 5 . Battalion only sustained very light losses

29 December 1944
There were NO major attacks along any of the Regimental fronts . All units improved their defensive positions and patrolled aggressively to the front . The 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion placed additional minefields . The 740th Tank Battalion was attached

30 December 1944
There was very little enemy activity along the Division front . All units maintained and strengthened their defensive positions and patrolled vigorously to the front . Division Artillery fired on enemy concentrations . 2d Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment closed into new positions east of TROU-DE-BRA . The 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion continued to place more minefields . The 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment conducted combined infantry-tank-tank destroyer-engineer training in the vicinity of CHENEUX

31 December 1944
Enemy activity was again very light along the Division front . The Regiments patrolled vigorously to the front and contacted the enemy in the vicinity of FLORET and XHOUTE-SI-PLOUT . The 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment continued their combined training . The 740th Tank Battalion sent two patrols, each consisting of 3 tanks and Division Reconnaissance Platoon men to reconnoiter south of the DRI-LE-CHESLIN, ERRIA, and TROIS-PONTS; 2 enemy soldiers were killed and 9 captured

NOTE :
In January 1945, the Division with the 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment attached, regrouped in preparation for offensive attacks to protect the left flank of VII Corps . The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the attached 517th Prcht Inf Regt assumed responsibility for the entire Division front . The 325th Glider Infantry Regiment and the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment closed in forward assembly areas in preparation for the attack . The 628th Tank Destroyer Battalion is attached to Division, relieving the 703d TD Bn which passes to Corps control . Meanwhile the 75th Infantry Division assumes tactical control of the 504th Prcht Inf Regt . The attack, to be launched as from January 3, 1945 will also include the 80th Airborne Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion as well as the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion . Other elements also involved, and attached at a given period of time, were the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, B Company, 86th Chemical Battalion, B Company and C Company, 643d Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 32d Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, and the 740th Tank Battalion … followed by additional temporarily attached units, such as the 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and the 634th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion


abandoned German Königstiger PzKpfw VI Ausf. B (Sd.Kfz 182) or Tiger II tank


    

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SSI of the XVIII Airborne Corps


XVIIIth A/B Corps staff > from L to R : Frank W. MOORMAN (G-4), Jack WHITFIELD (G-2),
Frederick M. SCHELLHAMMER (G-1), James B. QUILL (Asst CofS), A. Day SURLES (G-3),
Jay G. BROWN (Air Officer), Harry P. CAIN (G-5)



Maj General Matthew B. RIDGWAY (CG XVIIIth A/B Corps) and
Maj General James M. GAVIN (CG 82d A/B Div) –
Belgian Ardennes (Bulge), January 1945

XVIIIth AIRBORNE CORPS – originally constituted from the II Armored Corps October 9, 1943, at Cp. Bowie, Texas . Redesignated as HHC, XVIII Corps and activated at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif., hence relocated to Cp. Bowie, Texas . Relocated to FCt. Dupont, Delaware in 1944 . Deployed overseas August 17, 1944 to Ogbourne St. George, England . Redesignated as XVIII Airborne Corps . Campaigns Rhineland-Ardennes-Alsace-Central Europe, no D.I. authorized, Commander Major General Matthew B. RIDGWAY August 1944, special shoulder patch (blue/white dragon with Airborne tab in same colors) . Reorganized as Headquarters & Headquarters Co. and subsequently assigned to the First Allied Airborne Army, it provided logistical and technical planning expertise for “Operation Market” (i.e. the airborne phase), Forward Headquarters relocated to Epernay, France, and later to Werbomont, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge, back to France for preparation and coordination of the Rhine crossing “Operation Varsity”, Wesel, Germany, including units as the British 6th Airborne Division and the US 17th Airborne Division . Assigned to First Army, with operational command of 8th, 78th, 86th and 97th Infantry Divisions 13th Armored Division, later briefly attached to British Second Army, with command of the British 6th Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne Division, and the 8th Infantry Division . Redeployed to the ZI in 1945 . Inactivated from 1945 to 1951 . Reactivated as XVIII Airborne Corps at Ft. Bragg, N.C., May 21, 1951, under command of General John W. LEONARD, and assigned to the U.S. Army Strike Command …

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TESTIMONY (Battle of the Bulge – BELGIUM – December 1944)



'severe' winter conditions in the Bulge, hamper movements of troops and equipment, winter 44-45

… “tidying up the battlefield” … ?

My outfit, I Company, 3d Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment , (CO > Captain Archibald A. McPHEETERS, Jr., later KIA at Fosse, 3 Jan 45) part of the 82d Airborne Division (the most experienced Airborne outfit of WWII), normally consisting of approximately 8 officers and 140 men, came into the “Battle of the Bulge” as a well-trained and experienced Parachute Infantry combat unit ! “OKITE”, (> I Co’s radio callsign) was not at its full strength (about 15% down in personnel) when it occupied Rochelinval, Belgium, and took up defensive positions along the railroad pit by the Salm River the night of December 20, 1944 . While I Co, had not sustained too heavy losses in Sicily (July 43) and Italy (September 43), it lost two-thirds of its men, either killed or wounded, during the 33 days of severe fighting in Normandy (June-July 44), from Sainte-Mère-Eglise to La-Haye-du-Puits . The casualties suffered during the Holland campaign (September 44) were light . It can be fairly stated that about 90% of I Company’s troopers had had at least one previous combat experience


Major General James M. "Slim Jim" GAVIN,
CG 82d Abn Div, visiting the 508th PIR near Erria,
Bulge, Belgium, Dec 44 ...

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Sgt. William "Bill" H. Tucker, I Co / 505th PIR,
taken around end July - early August 44,
upon return to England from the Normandy Campaign ...

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The 3 Squad Leaders of Second Platoon, were Sergeants Charlie Matash, Larry Leonard, and myself, Bill Tucker – the former 2 were original members, and I got assigned to I Co, after the Sicily jump, back in 1943 . We were hurriedly rushed into Belgium, as part of the 82d Abn Div, because of the surprise German Counter-Offensive (which started December 16, 1944), and were supposed to help hold the battle line along the eastern side of the Salm River (roughly running from Trois-Ponts- Rochelinval-Grand-Halleux-to Vielsalm) . The main objective was to stop the German westward advance ! (a later American occupant of Rochelinval would be the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, temporarily attached to the “ All American” during the Battle of the Bulge) .


men of the 505th Prcht Inf Regt (I Co ?),
brewing coffee in the railroad pit, near Rochelinval,
Bulge, Dec 21, 44

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505th PIR in the Bulge,
I Co's action at Rochelinval, Bulge, Dec 44

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On December 21, Kampfgruppe Hansen’s First SS Panzergrenadierregiment and elements of the Ninth SS Panzerdivision “Hohenstaufen” attacked the 505th Prcht Inf Regt’s Second Battalion at Trois-Ponts, but were repulsed after hard fighting . The Hansen Battlegroup then went north, but elements of the Ninth SS swung south from Wanne, heading for “OKITE’s” river crossings … Our rifle squads were well dug in on the west bank and maintained outposts on the east bank of the Salm River . The steep hill going up from the railroad to the village was also busy, a dirt road connecting Rochelinval to Bergeval and Dairomont was used to bring in supplies – a 57mm antitank gun with full crew (pertaining to the 80th Abn AA Bn) was dug in at the first house – the 60mm mortar crew was at the top point of the village itself where it could fire on sight (this however involved constantly hiking up and down the hill for me) . As I got back to the CP, the afternoon was turning to darkness, I stopped to check the .30 caliber LMG position (about 50 yds across from the river, and some 75 yds from a bend in the road coming from the east), when suddenly we heard the rumble of tanks, and men yelling – several black-clad Germans came around the bend, in front of a huge enemy tank . They quickly picked up our Atk mines and threw them aside – then, our machinegun crew opened up – the German tank swung its turret toward it and while I dove into the nearest depression, the shell exploded nearby, missing me but badly wounding the gunner (Pvt Maglothin), and his assistant (Pvt Augustine) .


57mm antitank gun of the 80th Abn AA Bn in action,
during the Battle of the Bulge, Belgium, Dec 44

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"All American" troopers moving out on patrol in the Ardennes Forest,
Belgium, Dec 44 - Jan 45

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After this first skirmish with I Co, the enemy wasted no time in making a rush for the wooden vehicle bridge – which, luckily was blown up along with a German tracked vehicle ! Firefights followed across the River, from one side to the other . The Germans tried to find ‘soft’ spots along I Company’s Second and Third Platoon defenses above the Salm River. “OKITE’s” 60mm Mortar Squad being located on top of the hill at Rochelinval, allowed us to watch the attack develop, and from our shed we had a good field of fire and fair visibility – we had already calculated targets and had plenty of ammo available – we then poured it on as soon as the attack began and moved our firing target points from bridge to bridge across the River . The German tanks could see our mortars’ sparks and flashes and tried to annihilate us by cannon fire, the elevation was not high enough from their position, although they could pound the house where our 57mm gun was firing . Instead they fired a steady stream of 40mm shells directly at us and mangled our shed – I had only one man slightly wounded – we kept firing inside the woods where the enemy tanks had stopped, with rather good results, and felt pretty safe up there on the hill – but, finally we had to quit, when the Company runner came up and told us the Major and Captain ordered us to cease fire, before the German 40mm guns totally obliterated the Company’s CP and everyone up on the hill, except my own mortar crew !!!

Spasmodic firing continued along the River at night, and the Germans again attempted to cross it, without success . We found out just how ‘thin’ our Division’s lines were, when we learned that our Regimental Commander (> Colonel William E. EKMAN) had given orders to gather up all HQ personnel, supply people, cooks, clerks and to form them into a ‘combat group’ to fill in where needed … as the days faded toward Christmas,I Company had held fast and secured Rochelinval for 4 days already . By Christmas, Rochelinval was I Co’s village, but it was soon to become a targeted crossing point for Jochen Peiper’s SS Kampfgruppe, and it would later become a final battle site for another crack unit of Paratroopers (551st Prcht Inf Bn) ...


'happy faces' - 60mm Mortar Squads get Christmas packages,
near Basse-Bodeux, Bulge, Belgium, Dec 44

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German PWs captured by the 82d Abn Div -
for them the war is over ! , Bulge, Dec 44

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During late morning of December 24, 1944, Captain Archie McPHEETERS, Jr. received the order to pull back from the Salm River, all the way to Basse-Bodeux . Word ‘came down’ that despite protests from Generals M.B. RIDGWAY and J.M. GAVIN, Field Marshal B.L. Montgomery had ordered a major pullback of the 82d Abn Div to ‘tidy up the lines’ – We were furious ! We held a secure, almost impregnable position, centered at Rochelinval along the Salm River, and had beaten off major elements of a German SS Panzer Division ! All our 3 Platoons held the high ground … the idea of giving up captured ground to ‘tidy up the battlefield’ was never accepted by the ranks of the 82d Abn – it was outrageous ! But orders are orders, and they are meant to be carried out ! It was planned to move the main body of I Co, assisted by 2 trucks (for ammo & supplies) at about 2000 on Christmas eve . Part of Second Platoon (about 10 men) was to provide a rearguard at both the River line and the Railroad until first light – the three 60mm Mortar Squads were ordered to be united into one sole operating group (as in Holland, and despite narrow roads and thick woods) . I was to supervise all 3 mortar gunners, hoping that the radios would work in case a fight developed, and that they would remain fully operational in this hilly and wooded terrain … With everything in place, I Company moved up the road in the direction of Basse-Bodeux in good order – with about 8 miles to go, they crossed the open area thru the snow and started over the backside of the first hill in the deep woods – when suddenly firing started up front and on both sides of the column . Captain Archie McPHEETERS, Jr. left me with the mortars and moved ahead . I was called by radio and asked for mortar fire to hit 300 yds ahead on each side of the road . The mortars did the job and pulverized Jochen Peiper’s people ahead . Our CO kept moving the column forward, while the 3 mortars kept firing at each stop, even though limited to forward firing in order to clear the trees . The column took some hits from the flank, but luckily without too many casualties . The fight didn’t last long, I Company knifed thru what was left of the main elements of Kampfgruppe Peiper trying to get back to the Fatherland . In the process, “OKITE” picked up several prisoners . The escaped Major Hal D. McCown ( 2d Battalion Commander, 119th Infantry Regiment / 30th Infantry Division, captured near Stoumont, Dec 21, 1944), being taken back with the Germans, took off in the fighting and later joined up with I Co . As the retreating column cleared the woods near Basse-Bodeux, it set up a line of strong points on the snowy hills around the village – the snow continued to fall steadily, and the troopers hoped they would see their rearguard again . That proved to be the case, but not without some losses and hardships – in falling snow - over the railroad bridge - and up the hill toward Rochelinval – amidst desperate enemy troops …

As a beautiful white Christmas day dawned, I Company, now with its reargard back from the Salm defense line, settled along the snowy hills around Basse-Bodeux . We all thought, our Company might at least have a few days of peace and rest before it had to go back to retake the ground it never wanted to give up !


Column of "GOYAs" (551st Prcht Inf Bn) on the road ...
en route to Ster, Bulge, Belgium, Dec 21, 44

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Mixed bunch of 82d Abn Div Paratroopers,
somewhere in the Bulge, Dec 44

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By the way, the 551st Prcht Inf Bn was to fight its very last bloody battle on the bluffs of Rochelinval, Jan 7, 1945, thereby sustaining heavy casualties and also losing its CO, Lieutenant Colonel Wood G. JOERG, O-20793 !

(William H. TUCKER Jr, Sgt, I Co, 505th Prcht Inf Regt, 82d Abn Div, USA, 11087454, recollections)

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TESTIMONY (Battle of the Bulge – December 1944/January 1945)


Service Company, 505th Parachute Infantry vehicles stuck in the snow – Bulge, January 1945

"...cold and hungry..."

… I joined the service February 23, 1942, and after receiving Basic Training, volunteered for the Paratroops ! It looked attractive, sounded interesting, and provided for extra pay ! I got my "wings" in July 1942 . I was part of all the major combat jumps made by the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and participated in 6 Campaigns, making 4 Combat Jumps – I joined the "All Americans" for the Assault against Sicily (July 1943), the Jump over Salerno (September 1943), the Normandy Operation (June 1944), the Holland Jump (September 1944), and also took part in the fighting during the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945) . I was a member of I Company and served as a Rifleman, got started as a private, then promoted to Corporal, followed by Sergeant, and became the Regimental Sergeant-Major after the Holland Campaign . I retired a First Sergeant, but on returning to the US in 1945, I got reassigned as Regimental Supply Sergeant, 505th PIR ! While in Normandy, the guys from my Company already hated my guts, and thought I was a real s.o.b., I kind of have a rather powerful voice and shouted a lot; but I still think my job was to care for the men and the equipment, and that’s just what I did ! When stationed in the Belgian Ardennes my main concern was cold and hunger … sometimes we were lucky and found some temporary shelter in an old barn, or abandoned houses, where bits of food might be available ... we had to wear different layers of clothing to keep warm, and some of us managed to scrounge for warm clothing . I at one time I was wearing woolen underclothes, a woolen shirt, a woolen sweater, topped by an M-43 field jacket combined with long johns, woolen trousers covered by mountain trousers, woolen socks, thick ski socks and double-buckle boots, I never saw neither overshoes nor shoepacs during that cold and bitter winter …

(Howard P. MELVIN, 1st Sgt, I Co, 505th PIR, 82d Abn Div, USA, 12061240, recollections)


Howard P. MELVIN
Picture taken in 1945

Howard P. Melvin continued serving his country after 1945 . He became a WO in 1949, followed Quartermaster Training, graduated from Rigger School, and received several assignments in the United States, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam . He made his 5th combat jump with the 173d Abn Bde at Katum, RVN in 1967 . He received numerous awards, both national and foreign . I had the privilege of meeting ‘Mel’ several times, from 1992-1999, while participating in the annual hike “In the Footsteps of the 82d Airborne Division”, organized by the C-47 Club, Belgian Chapter in the Ardennes – Sgt Melvin always seemed to continue playing his never-ending rôle as Regimental Sergeant-Major, trying to keep the hikers together, keeping track of his comrades, and ready to holler the necessary commands at the various ceremonies, with his well-known heavy voice … ‘Mel’ made his ‘final’ jump on July 5, 2002 - he’ll always be remembered ! Airborne … all the way !



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TESTIMONY
(European Theater of Operations – Grand-Halleux – BELGIUM – December 1944)



… G Co troopers at Cp Suippes, France, after the Holland campaign, fall of 1944 …

"...fighting on the Salm River..."

G Company Commander, Capt Jack ISAACS, 22-years old, was responsible for the sector of the Salm river south of Rochelinval . One platoon was defending Grand-Halleux, while the other two platoons were holding positions in Petit-Halleux . Our defensive positions were on high ground . To strengthen our defense, we had two TDs placed on a road leading west of Petit-Halleux, between some houses, and an abandoned quad-fifty mount was set up to the north where it covered Grand-Halleux and part of the Salm river . On call, if needed, were my own three 60mm mortars, Battalion’s 81mm mortars, and Division artillery . I reported to G Co, December 21 (after having been released from hospital in England, and brought over to the continent), where I now was a T/Sgt in charge of 1st Squad, 3d Platoon . My men were dug in about a couple of hundred yards west of and running parallel to the railroad, up the hill was the 60mm mortar squad, and a little further north was a machinegun position from Third Battalion Headquarters Company .
After a few incoming enemy mortar shells, which caused no harm, our outpost, across the river, was suddenly attacked by Germans running downhill . In the darkness, we still hadn’t been able to properly locate the enemy, and I peered across the river for signs of the 1st Platoon withdrawing . About this time there was a tremendous explosion, indicating the bridge at Grand-Halleux had been blown ! By then we knew the exact location of the enemy, screaming and yelling to the top of their lungs, charging downhill, and attempting to wade the river . Artillery and mortar fire rained down on the Germans and together with our quad-fifty, the enemy advance was brought to a halt at the river’s very edge ! G Co remained on alert for the rest of the night, but the enemy did not attempt another crossing, they were busy attending and evacuating their wounded .
When the order came to ‘tidy up the lines’, we had to withdraw from our positions on the west side of the Salm river during the night of December 24 > 25 …
(Wheatly, ‘Chris’ CHRISTENSEN, T/Sgt, G Co, 505th PIR, 82d Abn Div, USA, 33154656, recollections)


picture taken in 1944

picture taken in 1945
C.Christensen (right)


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TESTIMONY
(European Theater of Operations – Cheneux – BELGIUM – January 1945)



HHC, 3d Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry, moving thru heavy snow – Bulge, January 1945

"...bitter fighting in the Bulge..."

… I was born July 17, 1918 in Waterloo, IL . After graduating from AROTC (Army Reserve Officers’ Training Course) at the University of Illinois, ‘Class of 1940’, I joined the Army on January 26, 1942 . My combat background includes the Parachute Assault against Sicily, the one against Salerno (Italy), and while being in Italy, I served with the 504th PIR Liaison Team, which was the link between Fifth US Army and Eighth British Army during the mountain fighting north of Naples, October-December 1943 . I also landed at Anzio Beachhead January 22, 1944 by means of an LCI . I later jumped over Holland, where I spent 58 combat days, and trucked into a place called Werbomont (Belgium) December 18, 1944 where we were temporaly attached to V Corps to fight the Battle of the Bulge . I finally got relieved February 18, 1945 .
My military ‘career’ went from private in F Company, to Platoon Leader, then to Commander of F Company, I then became S-2 (Intelligence) for Second Battalion, and subsequently S-1 (Personnel) for the 504th PIR, being ultimately appointed Regimental Adjutant of the 504th (our CO at the time was Colonel Reuben H. TUCKER, III) . When stationed in Werbomont, where we detrucked after being thirteen hours on the roads, the Regiment initially established a defense perimeter on the highgrounds surrounding Werbomont, which was a vital junction, without really having any knowledge of what was at stake . The first movement was toward Rahier, and I think our first action was to prepare an attack against Cheneux, where we met the enemy for the first time (SS-troops) . The 504th was responsible for the area running from Cheneux to Trois-Ponts, and our initial strength was approximately 1800 to 1900 men, mostly youngsters (the Regiment had suffered many casualties in Italy, and could therefore not take part in “Operation Overlord”) around 18 years of age . It was also there that I met my brother Richard, for the first time since the outbreak of WWII - he was a member of C Co, 395th Inf Regt, 99th Inf Div, and was part of a group of soldiers being returned to the rear - he luckily made it thru WWII …
The Field Map I always carry with me (during our Battlefield visits, and the 82d Abn Div Commemorative Hikes in winter) was obtained from an Officer, whose positions were relieved by the “All Americans” – if I do remember well, he was a Lieutenant who had served with the 106th Inf Div . The document came in very handy, since we had almost no information about Allied and German positions, and the notes and indications he had made on the map, were of enormous help to me as an Officer … (survivors of both the 7th Armd Div and 106th Inf Div which had been overrun by the Germans were being evacuated via a route leading to the Salm River, and terrain occupied by the 82d Abn Div)
(Louis A. HAUPTFLEISCH, Capt, Regt’l Adj, 504th PIR, 82d Abn Div, USA, O-394787, recollections)


picture taken in 1944

picture taken in 1945

picture taken in 1997

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TESTIMONY
(European Theater of Operations – Fosse – BELGIUM – January 1945)



Troops of the 325th Glider Infantry move thru snow-covered terrain – Bulge, January 1945

"...almost killed at Fosse..."

… I joined the 82d Abn Div early 1944, coming from the Army Air Forces (8th USAF), while being stationed in Britain . I was looking for more ‘action’ since my own job was boring . The Airborne were still looking for volunteers and replacements after the Sicily and Italy Operations … I got transferred to France, and later became a private in the 505th PIR . I was a Medic, assigned to I Co, just before our new offensive started and got wounded for the first time (this was my first combat) during our attack against Fosse, January 3, 1945 … we were pinned down by enemy fire, our guys were yelling, and suddenly I hear someone hollering “Medic, Medic ”, I slipped thru a fence and some bushes, and run across this open field, figuring my Geneva Convention brassard would protect me, I cut right across the field, crouching down, trying to keep both medical pouches from slapping against my legs, I could see the bullets hitting all around, but I didn’t get hit while I was running and reached the top of the field . There were four of our guys lying there, so I knelt down alongside the man I figured needed the most attention . Suddenly I felt my legs go from underneath me, it felt like something hot plowed right into me and knocked me flat on my face …
I tried to raise, but got hit in the back now, so I just lay there . The other three guys somehow got away, and I was now lying in this snow-covered field, the guy next to me dead . Since I couldn’t stand up, I started crawling backwards, helping myself along with hands and elbows, I kept pushing and pushing, dragging my useless left leg so it wouldn’t get caught, I thought I could get away, but the lead would keep slamming into me . I caught another bullet in my elbow and got hit in the heel too, a terrible experience . I kept thinking about the Germans lacking all respect for medics and the Geneva Convention, because they just kept firing at me ! So, I played dead, for some long, very long minutes, God knows how long ! I then started to try and move a little again, but got fired at, it looked like the enemy was using me for target practice – a real sitting duck I was … in the end I managed to reach the hedgerow, where I’d started from, and my buddy Rocky Rubino, also a Medic, grabbed me by the leg, I almost fainted and let out a yell, it hurt like hell; he then pulled me back thru the fence and behind the hedgerow . Fosse was heavily fortified, the enemy had dug in well, and going uphill was murder, for there wasn’t much cover … I was evacuated by jeep to Basse-Bodeux … ‘Item’ Company lost thirteen men at Fosse .
(Patsy PASSERO, Pfc, I Co, 505th PIR, 82d Abn Div, USA, 32580085, recollections)


picture taken in 1944

picture taken in 1945

picture taken in 1995

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TESTIMONY
(European Theater of Operations – Thier-du-Mont – BELGIUM – January 1945)



religious service for troopers of the 3d Bn / 508th PIR, celebrated by Chaplain Joseph P. KENNY – Bulge, 6 January 1945

"Bazooka gunner...at risk"

… I joined the service in 1943 and participated in the D-Day Normandy Assault June 6, 1944 as a private in H Co, 508th PIR ! While standing and looking at some German positions, I got blasted by a German mortar round which impacted behind me, and wounded me in the left leg, crotch and back, this happened on June 20 . I was consequently evacuated to England for further treatment . Because of the multiple wounds received in Normandy, I did not participate in Operation Market-Garden, Holland, September 17, 1944 .
I arrived by truck, together with other “All American” Regiments, in the region of Werbomont, second half December, right after the German breakthrough ! I was now a Pfc in G Co, 508th PIR and my specialties were Bazooka Gunner and Radio Operator . The 508th had remained in reserve until the evening of January 6, when it received new orders to capture the Thier-du- Mont ridge (from which the Regiment had withdrawn on Christmas eve) . Our troopers had to march thru snow-covered roads from Odrimont, Arbrefontaine, toward Menil and set up a CP northwest of the hill . Supply vehicles and 81mm mortar support were in position for the attack . G Co was to lead the assault followed by the rest of the Battalion . Jump-off came shortly after first light with the 319th Gli Fld Arty Bn laying down a barrage . We however had to cross several hundred yards of open ground before being able to reach cover at the base of the hill . My Company pushed out across the open, when suddenly one of our scouts pointed at something, about 500 yards away was the well-camouflaged muzzle of a German 88mm gun ! (there were three of them) . In a matter of seconds the first shell burst among our guys, and others followed fast . That’s where I got injured (Jan 7, 1945), I received shrapnel in my left arm and shoulder, with fragments tearing into my private Missal tucked away in my left breast pocket of the M-43 jacket – it probably saved my life – and I still have it !
During the attack, and although wounded, I raised myself, and fired a bazooka rocket at extreme range against one of the enemy guns, it detonated on its protective shield wounding the servants and driving off the rest of the enemy crew . Meanwhile our tanks were being called up and shot at, and additional artillery fire was requested . We realized that we were sitting ducks in the open, and our CO > Capt Russell C. WILDE told us to move forward, and drive the enemy away … fierce fighting took place, and the 1st and 2d Battalions were called in to help capture the ridge . Recapturing the hill cost G Company 67 men …
We were relieved by the 75th Inf Div January 10, 1945 . Due to my injuries, I was medically evacuated to France first, then to England, and finally to the USA, where I was discharged December 24, 1945, just in time for Christmas !
(Warren C. WILT, Pfc, G Co, 508th PIR, 82d Abn Div, USA, 37497812, recollections)


picture taken in 1944

picture taken in 1995

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TESTIMONY
(European Theater of Operations – Thier-du-Mont – BELGIUM – January 1945)



the 551st Prcht Inf Bn at Ft. Bragg, N. Carolina, in September 1944 – training hard …

"night operation"

… the 551st PIB CP was at Rahier, and it was there that General Gavin called on our CO > Lt. Colonel Wood G. Joerg, O-20793 to organize an attack, in order to determine whether conditions to start an Allied counteroffensive were right ! There didn’t seem that much German pressure on our frontlines, and this might just be a good opportunity to have a night operation against the German forces at Noirefontaine … thus the 551st PIB was to become the initial spearhead in the XVIIIth Abn Corps sector (northern shoulder) for the first American counter thrust of the Battle of the Bulge . This was also going to be a good opportunity to capture prisoners for our intelligence people . The night raid started around 2100, December 27, when our men assembled on the road from Rahier, we were supposed to walk the few miles to Basse-Bodeux, which we reached by 2300 . The 551st Prcht Inf Bn was to advance thru the lines of the 508th PIR and reach Noirefontaine thru the dark snow-covered forest . Before the attack, the men dropped their overcoats (only those few men who had any) M43s and Mackinaws, and any extra gear (they wouldn’t need) and moved quickly thru the 508th PIR’s lines, off the road, and into the wooded area . A Company got spotted early and came under heavy enemy small-arms fire, followed by incoming artillery – German tanks and halftracks joined the fight and even a 20mm flak gun started firing into our men … at one time, our 60mm mortar crews got fired at by trigger-happy 508ers who mistook them for the enemy . I remember, it was so damn cold, our bazookas wouldn’t fire, but good for us, German mines sometimes also failed to explode ! We then got help from our 81mm mortars and soon the place was ablaze, with Germans running everywhere, resulting in total confusion . By 0230, December 28, the enemy started withdrawing, the farmhouse complex was ours, and … the 551st brought back approximately 25 enemy prisoners ! Our losses were rather light, although B Co was hit several times and suffered the highest losses . A Co, my company was lucky, but … this was unfortunately not going to last …
(Dick W. DURKEE, 1st Lt, A Co, 551st PIB, 82d Abn Div, USA, O-1325809, recollections)


picture taken in 1942

picture taken in 1944

picture taken in 2000

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TESTIMONY
(European Theater of Operations – Dairomont – BELGIUM – January 1945)



Map of the Belgian Bulge – showing where the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion fought its battles

"FIX BAYONETS"

… we were to “Fix Bayonets and Charge” ! This was the order we received from 1st Lt. Richard W. DURKEE O-1325809, CO, A Co, 551st PIB (attached to the 82d A/B Div) – it was about 1600 hrs, January 4, 1945 – we charged across the field and wooded area into the German positions in suppoin suppo