December 16, 1944 – At 0540 on that fateful morning we were awakened by a salutation from big German guns, pouring shells into the village in an attempt to sever vital radio communications and harass troops in the area. We were startled by this introduction to the "Screaming Meemies" (aka Nebelwerfers) and for two hours the barrage kept us on edge, wondering where the next was to land. One exploded in our latrine, tearing the canvas screen to shreds, another fell by the C.P., throwing a large piece of shrapnel through the back of the First Sergeant's bed; and many others sprayed the buildings with dirt and hot, jagged metal. Thru the grace of God, not a single man was injured. Around 0800, when the casualties began streaming in from all directions, we were aware that the shelling was not confined to our area, but hitting all units of the 99th Infantry Division.
1st Sgt. James R. VAN ALLEN, B Co,
German Nebelwerfer 41,
150mm 6-barreled Rocket Launcher
(captured by US Forces, on display)
Click image to enlarge
Throughout the day, the terrifying barrages shook the village of Mürringen, but we could not seek the safety of cellars or foxholes, for there were too many lives to save. With each Ambulance returning from the Aid Stations, came more wounded and fresh reports of the vicious attacks being launched at our lines. Soon we reached the conclusion that this was no mere small-scale action; this was of greater importance. Something was amiss. Even then we did not know this was the beginning of the German Counter-Offensive (aka "Wacht am Rhein") in the Ardennes, known perhaps later, better as the "Battle of the Bulge" (16 Dec 44 > 25 Jan 45)
Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, nominally in command of Western Front forces did not agree with Adolf Hitler's plan, and found it not only overambitious but also dangerous. The chosen sector for the enemy Offensive however was brilliant, The Ardennes sector being a 'calm' zone where lots of American battered units were at rest to refit ...and frontlines were stretched pretty thin. Intelligence told the German Command that the 99th Infantry Division and the equally untried 106th Infantry Division stood side by side, and the plan was to slip between these neophytes, engage and hold them with infantry, while his tanks drove West. The expected reinforcements would be polished off by the armor, a mor, a