Stavelot, Belgium, 17 to 22 December 44
Stavelot, Belgium, 17 to 22 December 1944
17 December 1944
1st Battalion, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division, is at Warden, Germany.We are alerted at Noon for possible move. At 1500hrs received order to move to Eupen, Belgium, at this time we thought was probably due to rumor of a counterattack, all very vague. We thought that some new Division Commander needed to have his nerves soothed, or appeased. 1900hrs motorized move started. During the trip, word of a large scale breakthrough was heard over civilian radio. "Axis Sallie" – English speaking German Radio Broadcaster, who always tried to cause trouble, U.S. troops thought she was funny and a joke. This was the time when she stated "The Fanatical 30th Division, Roosevelt's SS Troops" are enroute to the rescue, but this time it will be completely annihilated," Sal said soothingly. The Column stopped at Hauset, Belgium. We moved on through Eupen near Malmedy, Belgium.
18 December 1944
The 1st Battalion detrucked at dawn, of 18. The orders were: Company "A" to protect bridge approaches to Malmedy from the South-East direction. Company "C" to hill on left flank (South of Company "A"). Orders quickly changed, 1st Battalion mission changed, now to go to Stavelot to relieve Company "A" 526th Armored Infantry Battalion which had not seen much action prior to this time. They told us that the road from Malmedy to Stavelot had been cut by the Germans.
The 1st Battalion moved by convoy to Francorchamps, then south toward Stavelot. We detrucked at 2 miles of town. We found Armored Infantry personnel eating K-rations and the men said simply: "Germans ran us out of town. Mission abruptly changed from relief to Assault. Units jockeyed into tactical formation and advanced. Company "A" at right of the road and Company "B" at left of road leading into Stavelot.Along the road on right side was a large number of gasoline drums, some had been set on fire to prevent the Germans from using this as a supply. I met some civilians who were very helpful, and knowledgeable about the whereabouts of the German troops. These men may have given their names, but I have forgotten, but they did mention "Belgique Resistance" and thusly I have remembered them. Also I felt that they were the ones that set the drums afire rather than the men of Company "A" 526th Armored infantry Battalion. This act took tactical foresight, which did not come through to me in my contact with the young soldiers.
As our leading echelons moved through the fields and woods toward the town, our leading men were now infiltrating into the town square, the 1st Platoon of Company "A" and 1st Platoon Company "B" moved in on their share. The 1st Platoons of Company "A" and Company "B", took the town square in Stavelot, but due to the fire power of the German tanks, could do no more. The tanks were kept at bay by the actions of the two platoons under the direction of Lieutenant Murray. Firing grenades and bazookas, they kept the tanks from being too aggressive. One tank even backed into a building.
We were ordered to hold our position. Under Lieutenant Murray's direction and organization, with the cooperation of Lieutenant Foster, Company "B", the area was tactically snug, also helped by mortar observers, light machinegun, heavy machinegun, Tank support, and Tank Destroyer.Again the Jerries tried to again breakthrough our lines. The GI's were not to be fooled, we killed or captured most of them.
19 December 1944
Midnight to dawn: the orders were: shoot anything and everything that moves. Not much action. Morning, orders to push forward to the river, specific objectives were to push forward to the Ambleve River and set up defenses along the river, and to blow the bridge. The river bank objective was reached by 10.00 hrs. The Germans had withdrawn during the night. Over the single bridge across the Ambleve River, the Germans tried to trick us again. "B" Company was to the north of the bridge; "A" Company was to the south of the Bridge and very stretched out to Parfondruy. Company "C" was in reserve, the 1st Battalion H.Q., Company "D" H.Q. and its 81mm Mortar Platoon all back on the hill overlooking Stavelot from the east (Erlinchamps).
Mid afternoon, Captain Kent was going to the chateau at the south east of Stavelot on the bluff above the river and saw 7 German Tanks approaching the bridge from the East. Nazi infantry, armored vehicles, all congregated near a small square on the east side of the river. A call was made for Artillery and mortar fire trained on the area. This strong action caused the German tanks to weaken, not wanting to channel them in such a poor position.The only tried to run the gauntlet one at a time. One of our Tank Destroyer units was in position to fire each time a German tank attempted to charge to the bridge. The Tank Destroyer unit finally, after several hits, managed to cause one tank to be disabled, knocked out and blocked the bridge. The others withdrew late in the afternoon.Meanwhile during some of the action above, my company's left flank was attacked by a company of Germans. They attempted to cut off the forward elements of the 1st Battalion, namely Company "A", by this maneuver.
They were on the hill to the West by North direction from Parfondruy. They were in perfect battle attack formation.This action was seen both Captain Kent and Lieutenant Colonel Frankland. Artillery fire and mortar fire slaughtered them. This artillery barrage along with mortar fire controlled and ended this attempt.
During this activity, Division engineers sneaked across the bridge over Ambleve River and planted a 1000 pounds bomb and blew the bridge. Thus the thread of enemy crossing with their vehicles was eliminated.
20 December 1944, morning
Rough, German Infantry made repeated counterattacks in a desperate effort to recapture Stavelot. The men of the 1st Battalion were again pitting themselves against the First SS Panzer Division. Stavelot was the key to the 1. SS. Details of the days first attack early in the morning, from river in the vicinity of the bridge. Droves of braves but foolish SS infantry attempted to assault the first platoons of "A" and "B" Companies by swimming the Ambleve River. As expected, the exposed Germans proved ideal targets and were literally slaughtered.While the attempts at the river were active, a German company of SS men, accompanied by tanks, attacks and advanced against "A" Company, 3rd Platoon on the right flank again. The single American tank supporting this platoon withdrew at the first sign of trouble. With the loss of its only tank support, the 3rd Platoon withdrew 50 meters and set up a new defense line. A lull in the conflict occurred. The river attack renewed, and Companies "A" and "B", 1st Platoons, slaughtered the German troops Again. Again "A" Company's right flank was attacked. The artillery again came to the rescue, also over our own positions. This stopped the attack.Again an attempt for the bridge, infantry, several tanks from the southeast side of the river, made a swift and aggressive drive toward the bridge and the west side of Stavelot. Intense barrages of American artillery, and our own 81mm mortars helped tremendously and most importantly. Heavy machine gun from the Chateau area also helped to control this effort. All together, five counter attacks had been thrown back this day. The artillery had to cool their barrels with water so they could keep firing for our support.
Dark, 20 December 1944.
Renew attack on 3rd Platoon, Company "A"'s right flank, caused the unit to pull back 100 meters. "A" Company's Headquarters was exposed; Captain Kent hid all overlays, maps, and other papers on the smoke ledge in the large fireplace, so if captured no written information would be available.
Combat lines readjusted and held. Lieutenant O'Neal and 3 men from the A & P Platoon placed antitank mines in front of the 3rd Platoon line and across the north – south highway (Trois-Ponts's road).
21 December 1944.
Things quieted down this morning. "A" Company's 3rd Platoon pushed forward, and after several lively scraps, recaptured its original position at Parfondruy. Lieutenant Frank Warnock, heavy machine gun Platoon aided the 3rd Platoon throughout the operation to make the efforts successful. A dozen SS men were captured. It was difficult to get our soldiers to send them back, for they had found the worst atrocities on the western from to civilians. 123 dead civilian found – old men, babies, children and women. The captured SS soldiers confessed openly that these people had bothered them and they shot them.
During this period, Task Force Harrison (our Brigadier-General of our Division) 30th Division, troops, infantry, attached tanks, anti-tanks mobile, armored infantry, Heavy machine guns, 81mm mortars were all mobilized. This Task Force pushed on to Stoumont, La Gleize, Trois-Ponts, to engage Peiper and his command. Units of 119th Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Regiment, 117th Infantry Regiment, attached Armor, CCB 3rd Armored Division, joined later by the 82nd Airborne Division fought at these areas and caused Peiper and his units to withdraw, leaving their equipment behind because of lack of fuel.Except for occasional small arms fire exchange across Ambleve River, no further significant engagements occurred around Stavelot.
22 December 1944.
A holding period for the next 3 weeks. Christmas hot Turkey Dinner with all the fixings was served. We still had to sneak past an open forward area along the street close to the river because of small arms fire from the west. It was a nuisance when moving about. The three weeks holding pattern developed essentially into a rest period. The Belgian people were very friendly and hospitable, making our stay more pleasant. Many people returned to their homes even though many were still used by our soldiers for military positions. We too were saddened with the townspeople regarding their loss of friends, relatives killed by the German soldiers. For a long time I felt that somehow I had failed by this happening. Many of my men disagreed with me, but a heaviness stayed.When we departed, it was to retake Saint-Vith area. This was accomplished.
We then back to Warden, Germany to begin Rhineland Part II. I want to impress upon any and all who read my memories, to remember and apply this Truth to all war stories. Each person, regardless of rang, Pvt, Pfc, Corporal, Sgt, Staff Sgt, 2nd, 1st Lieutenants, Captain, Major, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, or General so on up the chain of command see an entirely different war. Each one is a true story of His War.
The overlays of Stavelot were from our Battalion History map and a copy is enclosed. There are 3 overlays and 1 map to show the action of certain days, and the changes during the days. I think this will help the written word.
Last Updated (Wednesday, 03 November 2010 17:29)