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HISTORY OF THE OFFICE OF MEDICAL HISTORY
Colonel Daniel B. Strickler, After Action Report
REPORT OF THE GERMAN
Colonel Daniel B. Strickler
The story the German Drive or Breakthrough in the Ardennes against the 110th Infantry Regiment is told in the graphic reports of the regimental operations for the month of December 1944, in the reports of Colonel H. E. Fuller and Colonel T. A. Seely, two of the regimental commanders who were captured, and in reports of some of the separate unit commanders. I submit a description of that part of the activities of the regiment as I saw and experienced while commanding the right regimental sector.
On December 10th I was assigned as Executive Officer of the regiment and reported in at the regimental Command Post at CONSTHUM, Luxembourg . I found that the regiment was holding a defensive line of about fifteen miles along the OUR River facing the Siegfried Line. It was supposed to be a quiet sector as no aggressive fighting by either side had taken place in that area since the initial push to the German border in September. Most of the Officers of the regiment were replacements and likewise the majority of the men were reinforcements, having been sent to the regiment after the gruelling battle in the HURTGEN FOREST during November. The regiment was endeavoring to train while at the same time it occupied and held its long front. The regimental Command Post was moved to CLERVAUX on December 13th and set up
in the CLERVALIS [Claravalis] Hotel. The front was quiet as usual on the night of December 15th with nothing coming in but routine reports. At that time the regiment was disposed with two battalions up on the line and one in Division Reserve for training. So the regiment actually had for defense four company strong points along the main "RED BALL" highway that ran along the front of the sector about one mile west of the OUR River. Each battalion had one company in a reserve position which was organized as a strong point in the village where garrisoned. Each front line company had about three and a half miles of responsible front. The Antitank Company platoons were used to reinforce the front against approach of enemy tanks. The regiment had the support of three batteries of the 109th Field Artillery Battalion, one battery of the 687th Field Artillery Battalion, one company of the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion and its own Cannon Company. Attached was Company B of the 103rd Combat Engineer Battalion.
Each Company strong point was outposted and prepared for all round defense. Each Battalion set up five outposts along the OUR River. During the hours of darkness patrols worked between company strong points and garrisons and also to the OUR River. The outposts along the river were of one squad strength equipped with a SCR 500 radio and tied in with wire.
At about 0530 on the morning of December 16th I was awakened in the regimental C. P. at CLERVAUX by the noise of large caliber artillery shells that were falling in the town. Soon the entire front seemed to be subjected to extremely heavy artillery fire. At first I
thought the Germans were having some artillery practice or probably were preparing to stage a local raid. I dressed and reported to Colonel Fuller who slept in the next room. We both went immediately to the operations room and tried to contact the battalions, but all communications were out. Then after about a half hour of continued artillery fire a report came in that the enemy was crossing the OUR and that some enemy infantry and tanks had already reached the positions of some of the 109th artillery batteries.
Colonel Fuller sent me down town to try to get in touch with Division Headquarters over the radio stations. All stations tried frantically to raise Division, but no radio contact could be gained. On my return to the C. P. I was directed by Colonel Fuller to take a jeep and go by the back way to the 3rd Battalion, find out the situation, report, and then remain with that unit and its attachments and supervise the defense of the right sector. I got hold of my driver, Bob. Martin, and off we went to the Division C. P. at WILTZ which was in rear and center of the 110th Infantry. The 109th Infantry at that time was on the right and the 112th Infantry on the left. As we proceeded to WILTZ the artillery fire increased in intensity and the whole front seemed to be under fire. On arrival at the Division C. P. I immediately went to the WAR ROOM and reported the situation as we knew it. It looked from all round reports which were rather meager at the moment that a large scale attack was being made against the 110th Infantry but the extent and the enemy objective could not yet be determined. Orders were given by the Division Commander to hold at all costs. After getting briefed I left Division Headquarters taking with
me the aide of General Davis, the Asst Division Commander.
We drove to CONSTHUM, the Command Post of the 3rd Battalion about six miles to the front of WILTZ. The C. P. was on the first floor of a building very near the defensive positions of Headquarters Company of that battalion. I found Major Milton, the Battalion Commander, busily engaged on the telephone receiving reports from his units and directing artillery fire. I determined the situation and immediately sent a report to Colonel Fuller and also to Division Headquarters. Initial enemy heavy artillery fire had landed on the area of Co. I at WEILER, on the area of Co. L at HOLZTHUM, on the area of Co. K at HOSINGEN, the Battalion C. P. at CONSTHUM, and on the artillery positions. Communications by way of telephone with most units were out but radio contact prevailed. I found that enemy troops had first been sighted within our lines at 0615 by Company L. Almost at the same time I Company, with its platoons strung out from WEILER Northward, reported the approach of a force of about two hundred enemy infantrymen. Company K reported that enemy had entered outer edge of the town at about 0730. Soon the whole front was aflame and reports kept piling up of numerous enemy groups, enemy attacks, tanks breaking through the gaps, and horse drawn artillery charging down the draws. The third battalion units were game and everywhere effort after effort of the enemy were thwarted. The battalion mortars and anti-tank guns blazed away, but some positions were overrun. The battalion staff was busy coordinating its fires and giving artillery support on the many targets. Company I seemed to be getting heavy attacks, and, as in case of other companies, had to use its kitchen and headquarters personnel to help
in the fight. L Company was hit hard and by the end of the day every unit was being attacked, and while being attacked enemy forces pushed through the gaps between companies on its surge to the rear. Artillery positions were attacked but the artillerymen repulsed many of the attacks and held to. Enemy forces bypassed HOLZTHUM and were headed for the town of CONSTHUM where we had the command post. L Company broke that advance up for the time being but the forces at our C. P. in CONSTHIJM organized for defense of the town. Cooks, clerks, drivers and headquarters personnel manned the defensive positions around the town. The battery of the 687th Field Artillery dug in on the ridge along the right flank of the town, just six hundred yards from the C. P. Five enemy attacks against CONSTHUM were repulsed by the defending force consisting of the 3rd Bn. Hqrs. Co., Bn. Hqrs., Company M, a battery of 687th F. A., and AA multiple 50's. The enemy withdrew and tried to push an attack down the road from HOLZTHUM to CONSTHUM but Capt. Maurer B-S-3 with a force met the enemy and broke up the attack inflicting many casualties on the enemy. Battery C of the 109th F. A. and the battery of the 687th F. A. fought gallantly with direct fire on enemy as they approached the positions and the on. C. P.
On came the enemy in bunches, often coming right up to our front lines and unloading from trucks. Our artillery was in great demand but there was not enough. The enemy was being slaughtered, but still they came. Our C. P. was a beehive, everyone was fighting or directing a fight. We had a grand observation point from the window in the loft of the C. P. where we could see HOLZTHUM, HOSCHEIDERDICK, and surrounding country. Requests came in for ammunition but it was
impossible to get it up past the enemy. Later in the day we were told that some friendly tanks would strike through HOSINGEN and come on down to HOLZTHUM and then to our C. P. Late that evening the tanks arrived, but only seven. We ordered three of them to take ammunition up to Co. I at WEILER. They started out but did not get beyond the cross roads near HOLZTHUM. Four other tanks moved down the red ball highway and cut in back of Co. I to join some other armored vehicles at HOSCHEID on the right flank, where some of our anti-tank guns were located.
Co. K held everything under control the first day, but the second day many enemy pushed around them on both sides, while other enemy forces with tanks attacked the town time after time. They asked for ammunition but none was available. They were told to fight it out as best they could with the help of Co. B of the 103rd Engineers who were in the town also. They kept reporting how the enemy had reached the town, were fighting from house to house, and finally the next morning the radio from K Company reported the enemy was yards away from the C. P. and they were smashing the radio and destroying equipment. The radio went off the air and that was the last of K Company.
During the second day I Co. had a similar fate, but the Company Commander in final stages, escaped and reported back to the Bn. C. P. He had lost his company after strenuous defense, along with a platoon of 81 mortars, an anti-tank platoon and his Hqrs and kitchen personnel.
L Company units were still being attacked in vicinity of HOLZTHUM. Prisoners were captured and a prize capture was one with a
map showing the grand strategic plan of the German drive. It showed the first main objective to be the sector of the 110th Infantry, WILTZ, and finally BASTOGNE , BELGIUM . This information was sent to Division Hrs. and from then on we knew the Germans were engaged in a big push.
Terrific fighting occurred at MERSCHEID and particularly at HOLZTHUM. Time after time the enemy entered the town only to be repulsed or beaten back. The fall of HOLZTHUM meant the fall of CONSTHUM eventually, for the two towns were only about two miles apart and we could observe the fighting generally from our C. P. On the night of the 16th of December, the Red Ball Highway connecting HOSINGEN, the cross-roads in front of HOLZTHUM and HOSCHEID, was controlled by the enemy. Many tanks swarmed around the company positions and up and down the highway. The anti-tank guns at the cross-roads were overrun by tanks, but one gun and crew got back to HOLZTHUM and finally CONSTHUM.
On the morning of the 17th individual companies were still holding out but, we were engaged with the situation in our own front yard. CONSTHUM was again under siege and four of our tanks were sent out to help. They got into the fight but soon one was knocked out and one had its turret jammed. It was not long before HOLZTHUM fell to the enemy and remnants of Co. L joined the forces in defense of CONSTHUM. So here was our C. P. holding out as a defense point with the aid of Hqrs. personnel, kitchen help, clerks, staff, artillerymen, remnants of Co. L, some from Co. M and a few miscellaneous troops. The artillery positions became our front line around which our Infantry took up the line. The artillery ammunition was lot with
about 90 rounds left. We had had no sleep and the enemy artillery and mortar fire pounded our troops and our town constantly. During the second day we ordered the civilians to leave town. They made such a fuss that they attracted enemy fire and during their exit many of them were killed leaving their houses and on the streets. It was a literal hell during the night of the 17th. CONSTHUM was the only strong point left between the German front and WILTZ, where Division Headquarters were already being threatened by infiltrating Germans. But we determined to hold out even if no friendly troops were within six miles of our position. During the night the enemy pounded us incessantly with his heavy fire. Tanks operated against our outpost. Flares went up and the huge German searchlights combed the skies and pointed the way to BASTOGNE . We kept in touch with Regimental Hqrs. at CLERVAUX, but Colonel Fuller reported that the 1st battalion had been overrun in his front, that the 2nd battalion had been released to him but too late to help the first battalion. He had all he could look after on the left and asked us to carry on in our own way. We later learned that the enemy had overrun the 2nd battalion, captured the 109th artillery positions, the cannon company positions, and that the Regimental C. P. at CLERVAUX together with the Regimental Hqrs. Ccmpany had been captured. That meant for me that all my personal belongings and stack of Christmas presents I had left in ay hotel room at CLERVAUX were now in German hands. However, I had my life and some of my men and that was enough. To my amazement on the night of the second day a friendly cook put a plate of hot food into my hands and some hot coffee too. That kept me going and I kept alert all night. I ordered two friendly tanks
that were on the street near our C. P. to move up to the ridge in front of our C. P. They started to move out firing and of course brought fire on the tank and on us in the C. P. also. In a few minutes, just two hundred yards up the street, we saw this tank in flames. It burned all night lighting up our C. P. in grand style and the ammunition going off in the tank gave us plenty of disturbance in our own vicinity all night long. We tried to get some 28th Div. Reconn vehicles to enter the fight but they didn't make the grade. A house was set on fire in vicinity of an M8, forcing the crew to abandon the M8.
On the morning of Dec. 18th, the enemy made a grand scale attack on our C. P. town of CONSTHUM . This was preceded by heavy artillery, tank and mortar fire, from all directions. We saw the enemy forces closing in on the town. Attack after attack was repulsed but on they came. We informed Division of our situation. I requested that by all means the main road from CONSTHUM back to WILTZ be kept open. Division informed me that they could not understand how we were holding out as they were being attacked by the enemy at WILTZ. They also informed me that the day before the enemy had come towards WILTZ on that road and had driven from KAUTENBACH, the 103rd Medical Battalion collecting station. That meant our withdrawal route to the rear was cut off and we would have to fight our way back from all sides.
So the enemy kept getting closer and closer. WHIZ BANG! A big shell hit the outhouse just outside our C. P. door. WHAM BANG! A big one hit our C. P., then another lit in the street just outside the house smashing all the windows. Bullets were flying in all direct-
ions. Tanks were rumbling. We got out of the C. P. and the troops were ordered to withdraw from the town fighting and fall back on KAUTENBACH located on a stream about three miles to the rear. I wondered what was in KAUTENBACH, but I had to take a chance. I jumped into my jeep with the Bn. S-2 and my driver and headed for KAUTENBACH. Bullets flew between us, one hit a tire and flattened it. We kept on and came behind a stone cliff where we stopped and fixed the tire. Then we went on to KAUTENBACH only to find no enemy there and no living person around. I entered the abandoned Collecting Station and found it completely set-up. Evidently the Germans, the day before, did not stop to even look at it. I had a telephone in my jeep and looking around found a line running along the road. I hooked it on to the line and Lo and Behold I could get Division Hqrs. I talked with Col. Gibney, the chief of Staff, and told him of the situation. He said they were fighting just east of WILTZ. I asked him to send out an ambulance to gather up the equipment, maps, and belongings from the collecting station. The line went out and about that time elements of my forces from CONSTHUM were backing down the road. I ordered them to get over the river at once while the bridge was in. I examined the bridge but found it was not prepared for blowing, I tried to phone Division again and I was lucky to get them. They told me they could not send out any demolitions to blow the bridge as they had none. I ordered Major Milton to take the troops up to the top of the hill in rear of KAUTENBACH and to stay off the main road. Just as our men were crossing the bridge Germans came out of the tunnel, about five hundred yards to the South and approached KAUTENBACH. I dispatched at once down the
roadway along side the railroad tracks, an M8 vehicle and a tank, with orders to run up on to the enemy and fire canister fire and machine guns direct at enemy. This worked and dispersed the enemy, giving us time to get our troops all across the stream and up on to the hill. However, on reaching the top of the hill we found the Germans already there and a small fight ensued.
We were fairly safe for the moment. Then I ordered Major Milton to hold his position on the hill while I went back to WILTZ for the situation and more ammunition. I got into my jeep and my driver Martin, took me on a wild ride to WILTZ dodging through some of our own troops and enemy fire. In WILTZ I found consternation. The Division C. P. had moved to a cellar nearby. Division has gathered together all its surplus personnel, and had put up a defense against the enemy attacking WILTZ from two directions. We fortunately were on that part of the front of WILTZ where the enemy had not disposed many of his troops. General Cota, the Division C. G., wanted us to hold out until morning in the vicinity of NOCHER which was a small town about two miles from KAUTENBACH. I got all the dope I could, a small amount of ammunition to follow, and returned to the troops. They had held of the enemy and we got a defensive position established around NOCHER by dark. The men were tired, battle weary, and hungry. Food was out of the question. I set up a C. P. in NOCHER and waited for action. The night was fairly quiet. The next morning I returned to WILTZ for orders and the situation. I found that the situation at WILTZ had become so bad that Division Headquarters had decided to move about twelve to fifteen miles to the rear at SIBRET just South of BASTOGNE . Already some of Division
Headquarters personnel had moved. However, General Cota was on hand overseeing the operations of Task Force Hoban under command of Lt. Col. Thomas Hoban, Division Hqrs. Commandant, in command of special troops. Col. Hoban had improvised companies and platoons and placed them together with tank units around WILTZ. Most of the Division Headquarters personnel were in these improvised groups, including, clerks, cooks, bakers, members of the band, drivers, and mechanics. In the force at WILTZ was the 44th Engineer Combat Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Kjeldseth, elements of the 707th Tank Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. R. W. Ripple, some batteries of the 687th F. A. Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Billings, and batteries of the 447th AAA Battalion.
General Cota ordered me to take over the command of the defense of WILTZ, giving me task force Hoban and the remnants of the 110th Infantry which I had brought back. He gave me a small staff including Major Blitt, asst G-3, Lt. Col. Hoban, Major Bodine, Lt. Col. Sieg of the 103rd Engineers, Lt. Col. Ripple, Lt. Col. Kjeldseth, Capt, Wood and others. He informed me that a great amount of Division property and equipment had been left behind in WILTZ, and that a number of trucks were in WILTZ for the purpose of evacuating task force Hoban later in the day, after the front was established. General Cota gave me a plan calling for our withdrawal to the rear on Division order. He and his aid left for BASTOGNE and SIBRET at about 0930 promising to send us some ammunition and reinforcements if possible.
I immediately began to organize the defense of WILTZ and to take stock. The fighters there were mostly inexperienced men not trained to combat, and the remainder were our own Infantry and tank
men, very battle weary but full of determination. Pressure was beginning to take place against the 3rd Battalion of the 110th Infantry elements. They had about two hundred and fifty men left. I therefore determined that it was best for them to fall back and take up a defensive position Southeast of WILTZ to fill the gap on the right of the 44th Combat Engineer Battalion. Under enemy fire they dropped back and took up a good position on the high ground indicated and I sent some tanks up to support them. During the day the enemy moved in from all directions and the siege began to take shape. All units were fighting hard to hold off the enemy. Ammunition was running low and we had little artillery left for support. We informed the Chief of Staff of our situation, and he replied that we were to keep task force Hoban with us, as it was not safe to try to get back, since General Cota barely got back to BASTOGNE and SIBRET because enemy ambush parties were already near BASTOGNE . However, at about 1800 hours, the trucks left for BASTOGNE with equipment and some Division accumulated mail. This column was ambushed near BASTOGNE and a number of trucks were lost.
By mid-afternoon of the 19th of December, the situation at WILTZ looked serious indeed. Every effort to contact Division Headquarters failed. The Division Signal Officer tried and tried but the air seemed jammed and no radio contact could even be made. The enemy attacked heavily on the front of the 110th Infantry elements, they were driven back slightly by evening but regrouped and repulsed. Enemy tanks and infantry probed around all day and tried to get through.
On extreme left flank some of our elements gave way. When darkness came the enemy started the real push. Many units ran out of ammunition. Tank men were so weary after being in tanks for days that they could hardly see and were quite exhausted. No replacements could be found to take over the tanks to drive and fight them. They were gradually driven back into the town. Soon reports came in that the enemy had by-passed WILTZ and that we were now surrounded, the enemy holding all entrances and exits. Our troops blew up bridge entrances. We decided to put the Division withdrawal plan into effect. The 110th reconnaissance parties reported that the position to which we were to withdraw was in the hands of the enemy and that they were pushed back on our right flank. Later the 110th elements were driven back and were engaged with the enemy in the rear of WILTZ. Then I decided to take the next best step, for I knew that the mission at WILTZ was finished, and it was best to salvage as many troops and as much equipment as possible. I called together at the C. P., the various commanders and quietly told them of our plight and our plans. I directed that in orderliness each group withdraw from WILTZ, and by best way possible get back to Division Headquarters at SIBRET. An I P was given and the order of withdrawal explained. Each group leader summoned his subordinate commander and gave out the plan. There was no hysteria, no commotion. With grim faces everyone went about his business of getting loose from the enemy at WILTZ. I remained at the Command Post with my staff members and Col. Hoban until the last minute about 2300 hours. We destroyed all maps and C. P. equipment. I went outside into the streets where fighting was going on in the lower part of the town. The 110th elements had already withdrawn, but could not
successfully protect the withdrawal because they had very few troops and no ammunition, and they were engaged with the enemy. We tried to get tanks and armored cars to break a way through to the West but they were all blown up by mines or knocked out by enemy tanks at road blocks. Vehicles of all types tried to make the get-away but none were successful. The cross roads were strongly held by the enemy. Col. Hoban left to go out with his troops and that is the last I saw of him. Then we decided to survey the situation to the rear. Major Plitt, my driver Martin and I took off down an alley through WILTZ. The roads were jammed and shooting was everywhere. We got to the outskirts of WILTZ and proceeded Westward down the road only to be fired on by enemy machine guns, mortars, and tanks as we went through a draw. The jeep ditched and we bailed out into the woods. It was impossible to get back to WILTZ and it was suicide to stay put so we planned to crawl through the woods to the North and encircle the road blocks on the roads leading back to BASTOGNE . We could hear heavy artillery fire in the direction of BASTOGNE , and we realized that the enemy artillery had by-passed WILTZ and was in position somewhere between us and BASTOGNE firing on that city. I had with me a piece of a map which I tore off the C. P. wall just before we left. I carried this inside my shirt. I also had a compass which was illuminated with radium dial and pointer. We crawled and crawled, getting alarmed at crackling noises in the woods. One time we ran head on to a crackling approach and we waited to make the most of it. With carbines and pistols aimed at the noise we finally saw a head, and we immediately challenged the possessor, inquiring if he was American and to give the capital of Louisiana . He responded
correctly and we told him to join us. We found him to be Cpl. Gentner, the Division Chaplain's clerk, who was escaping from WILTZ. We took him with us on the trip, and later on gathered some more men mostly Division M. P.'s., making our party a group of ten. On we went dodging enemy positions and fire and got across the BASTOGNE-WILTZ highway, went some distance South and then took a direct course West, which, if followed, would lead us to some place South of BASTOGNE. It was cold and snowy and we were all dead tired. We avoided towns, villages and roads. We struck across country and I relied on my faithful compass. Now and then we dropped to the ground and slept for ten minutes usually to be awakened by the cold. We passed through mud, fields, streams, forests, underbrush, and over barbed-wire fences and stone walls. Just about daylight we approached a town which had not yet awakened. We stayed away from the town but sought shelter in a small patch of pine woods about five hundred yards from the town, but about two hundred yards off a road running out of the town to the South. Again we dropped off to sleep with two guards out. In an hour we woke up tired and very hungry. We were thinking about sending someone into town to search for food when a civilian ran out of the torn into our woods. We grabbed him but he proved to be a civilian with his son who was leaving in order that he would not be taken away by the Germans as a laborer.
The civilian told us the same of the town was TARCHAMPS and we informed him and his son they would have to join us as we could not trust to have him leave us. In a few minutes we could hear the rumble of tanks, and like a flash, a German tank column dashed down the road in front of us. We hugged the ground. On they went by the hundreds, with
German soldiers riding the tanks, sprawling all over them, shouting, yelling, acting like drunken man. We saw many of our American jeeps and vehicles which the Germans had captured and were using in the column. We were afraid the Germans might any moment, send a patrol into the woods, so we back-crawled out of the woods to a little stream line, and headed South parallel to the tank column until we got opposite a big woods to our rear. Then we infiltrated into that woods in full view of the enemy. They were so unaware of the presence of Americans that they just didn't see us.
We remained in that woods
all day putting outposts at the edge to watch the Germans. During the day about
fifty other civilians ran into the woods and we held them until nightfall. Also
during the day two other groups of our soldiers joined us in the woods on their
way to the American lines. At dusk we decided not to proceed onward in a large
group, so we kept our own small groups. Our group of ten first and proceeded
again cross country by use of compass. It was tough going and the muddy fields,
and fences were worse than ever. We aimed at getting across the
not so alert.
The woods proved to be safe and we waited until the decided time and then made a rush to cross the highway just after a motorcycle passed by. There was a mean barbed-wire fence on both sides of the road in which we got entangled, but finally got over into far field without being discovered. We went through field after field, went close to a town only to find it full of German tanks rendenzvousing for the night. Dogs came out of the town to chase us and we hurried along before Germans followed us. Just about an hour before daylight we came to a town named HOLLANGE, and gingerly we looked it over. It was a quiet sleepy looking place, so we started to walk through it. Everyone was asleep, so we got off the street and took refuge behind a haystack adjoining one of the village barnyards. About daylight we decided that we just had to get some food before we could go any farther. Plitt and two others took off for a house up the road, and Martin and I headed for the house down the road nearby. As we got to the doorway, a Belgium farmer stood in the doorway with a lantern and a German trench shovel in his hand. We greeted him and asked for food. He said he thought we could have some. We asked him if he had seen any Germans around and he replied Oui, beaucoup Almagne Soldats ici, and pointed to the hallway and the rooms. On looking I saw Germans sleeping in the hallway and a German Officer in the bed. I thanked him, gave him the impression we were Germans, and as we nonchalantly started to walk away, he handed me the trench shovel. As we reached the haystack, Plitt was there and in an alarming voice, told us he ran into 150 Germans sleeping in a saw mill near the house he was seeking. No time was to be lost. Instantly
we started to leave the town before the Germans woke up, for we were no force to hold out against these people. We had also noticed hundreds of German bicycles standing up along side of the building. We went through the space between buildings and finally across a field and a deep stream. We went in waist deep, hit another field and for a half mile went up hill watching the town until we entered a big woods. Within ten minutes after entering the woods we saw the town we had just left swarming with German soldiers. They got on bicycles and rode off. It was a German Machine-Gun Company. They had gone to sleep without a guard or sentry on duty - thank Goodness. It was now December 21st and colder than ever. Denied again a chance to get food we made plans to spend the day in the woods. We put out some guards to watch spelling them off from time to time. Then we made a little fire, much against the fears of some of the men. But we got warm by letting three men around the fire at a time. In this way we could also dry our clothes and socks, and to some extent our shoes. Some of the boys had trench foot which worried us considerably. All of a sudden one of the boys pulled out from his shirt a K RATION. He was mobbed, and instantly he agreed to warm the ration and share that one meal for one man with the ten of us. Never did I see men so carefully handle a K ration. It was the best meal we ever ate. Boullion - five sips for each one of us, crackers, cheese, and a small egg and meat concoction. We were harassed by enemy patrols all day and we were glad for darkness again when we could be on our way. What a night. It was pitch black and it began to snow and drizzle at times. We hit a stretch of Belgium wild land full of underbrush and dense pine forest.
For hours we plowed our way through this stuff, having our eyes almost scratched out. It seemed almost hopeless. The boys were getting delirious, famished, fatigued, and disgruntled. We had not seen a house all night. Suddenly we hit an open space, then a trail which led into a road and with caution thrown to the grinds, we proceeded right down the road to a village. Again food entered our minds. We stopped at the first house and knocked. There was no response. Then we tried another and same thing. We crossed a stream close to where the bridge had been blown out. A mill was on the other side and a house nearby. We knocked at that place and a Belgium came to the door. We asked for food and he invited us in. First we inquired about the enemy. He informed us that the American troops had blown the bridge two days ago and departed to the West where he thought they were just about three and a half miles away. He expected the Germans any moment. Well, he fed us coffee, milk, bread, butter, and jam. Boy was it good. After an hour's visit we were on our way going straight down the road to the West. As we approached a town called VAUX ROSIERES, about three and a half miles Westward, we ran into American sentries who halted us, seized us and took us to their headquarters. To our great delight it was not only the American Lines but the Headquarters of our own 28th Division. What a welcome. I was greeted like a ghost come to life for I had been reported by Major Milton and others who found their way back the day before, as having been killed at WILTZ.
We were informed that the Division Headquarters and their command group had been driven out of SIBRET the day before and that the Germans were just outside the town. The 109th Infantry was miles
away to the South, anchored to the 3rd Army; and the 112th Infantry was miles away to the North, anchored on to the First Army. The main enemy attack had come through the 110th Infantry in the canter, who fought off the enemy long enough to permit the 101st Airborne Division to get to BASTOGNE on the night of the 18th of December. The job was practically done for the moment in a big division way, for all the Division could muster together in way of troops was the remnants of the 110th Infantry which I had, some Division Hqrs and Special troops, and stragglers who had come back through the German lines. I found Division staff officers in command of troops. We all dropped off to sleep, the first time for six nights, only to be rudely awakened in the morning to be informed the Germans were attacking the town. General Cota made plans to defend the town of NEUFCHATEAU , Belgium abort six miles to the South. I was sent back with the chief of staff to look the situation over, and in a short time the small force at VAUX ROSIERES had been driven back and they came to NEUFCHATEAU. I was then out in command of the 110th Infantry Regiment and of all forces and troops that were around to organize the defense of the garrison of NEUFCHATEAU and the Division Hqrs.
I gathered together men from fifteen different divisions and separate outfits and set up three rings of defense for NEUFCHATEAU. Among these I found that out of the breakthrough fight the 110th had left about 30 officers and 500 men. It was cold and snowy. The temperature was around 10 above zero, and at times lower. In the hard frozen ground we dug fox holes and it meant that men had to man the holes 12 hours a day because we had so few of men. We got some tank
destroyer guns and a few tanks to support our positions. We used the remaining artillery men to act as infantrymen, as we had no artillery piece left. Later some artillery arrived to help out. Then we sent out sentry and observation posts way in the distant near VAUX ROSIERES. We tried to get kitchens set up for most all our kitchens and trucks and equipment were captured. We had few machine guns but no mortars. I organized the garrison into provisional platoons, and set up my C. P. in N.EUF'CHATEAU, same place Division set up, but in a separate building. Christmas day came but what a day, cold, clear, and bright. No one knew just what was coming next. Early in the morning German planes cause over and bombed our lines. At noon time as the men were lined up for feeding all of a sudden a jet plane, without warning, dropped a big 500 pound bomb on our C. P. It struck the wall outside, tore all the windows, sashes and doors and door jams away, and piled tons of earth into the rooms. No one was hurt but another one dropped a half block away and wrecked six buildings, still another hit the Division C. P. in the town square and blew the Division group out bodily.
In a few days the 11th Armored Division and the 87th Inf division came up from the South and passed through us to battle their way through and together with other troops from the North broke through to BASTOGNE and liberated that city. On liberation we found a number of our 110th Officers and men had fallen back to BASTOGNE and aided in the defense.
We had held the Germans away from NEUFCHATEAU and on Jan. 2, 1945, the 110th went back to a new sector along the MEUSE RIVER , and took up a defensive line thirty miles long between MEZZIERS and GIVET
with the C. P. at FUMAY , FRANCE . In two weeks the regiment received 2500 reinforcements, reorganized quickly, and was on its way by French box cars to the VOSGES MOUNTAINS , 250 miles to the South, there to begin fighting again in a big way.
Hundreds of similar stories can be told about the fighting of the 110th Infantry in the bulge. The men of the 28th Division had taken the full brunt of Von Rundstedt's mighty offensive in Luxembourg . They fought gallantly and desperately in hundreds of scattered battles. There were days and nights of incredible heroism. The 110th Infantry was in the center of the division, direct in the path of the enemy in its advance to WILTZ and BASTOGNE . Five enemy divisions drove through the 110th's sector, but the units of the regiment held so firmly at all costs that the Germans plan was disrupted and their schedule thrown off balance. It was one of the epic stands of World War II and the 110th was responsible for stopping the enemy long enough for the 101st Airborne Division to get into BASTOGNE to make its stand until help came from the North and South.
"CUIUSQUE DEVOTIO EST VIS REGIMENT "
SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 407, Records of the US Army Adjutant General, World War II Records, 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, History, Box 8596 .