Page 361


a part of Operation Greif. When the German plans to reach the Hohes Venn on the second day of the counter-offensive miscarried and the regular German formations were checked so far from the Meuse as to make a dash by this special task force out of the question, Colonel Skorzeny sought for some other road to fame and glory. His recommendation, made to the Sixth Panzer Army commander, that the group be reassembled and committed as an ordinary combat unit was accepted, and the capture of Malmedy was assigned as its first mission.


The troops that gathered in Ligneuville must have made a motley crew. Some were completely equipped with American uniforms and dog-tags; others had olive drab trousers and American combat boots surmounted by field gray tunics; still others wore the German field uniform. Their vehicles were an assortment of German makes; captured American armored cars, tanks, and jeeps; and German models which had been given a facelifting job by the addition of dummy turrets, decks, and fronts to simulate an American equivalent. Despite this rag-tag appearance Skorzeny's command was composed of tough, picked men, abundantly armed with automatic and heavy weapons.


Skorzeny divided his brigade into three groups, two for the assault and one in reserve. About two hours before dawn the right group struck straight north along the Ligneuville road in an effort to seize the bridge south of Malmedy. The assault force was engaged by the 1st Battalion of the 120th Infantry and the 3d Battalion joined the fire fight as well; but it was left to the artillery to "plaster" the Germans, as the infantry were quick to acknowledge. Two hours later the attackers had disappeared. The morning came with a dense fog floating out from the Ambleve River. Attacking under this cover the left German assault group, two rifle companies, and a tank company rolled in column along a secondary road which would bring it west of Malmedy against the 3d Battalion of the 120th. One detachment turned toward the town but came to a sudden halt when the lead vehicles hit a mine field in front of B Company, 99th Infantry Battalion. It took only minutes for mortars, machine guns, and artillery to dispel this assault.


Here, on the first day of use of the new POZIT fuze, the Germans were roughly dealt with. Nearly a hundred were killed by the shellbursts and for a moment panic spread among them, some running forward into the fire shouting "Kamerad." But Skorzeny's troops were tough and tried repeatedly to break Lt. Col. Harold D. Hansen's "Norwegians," an outfit characterized in the German intelligence reports as "old men." German machine gun crews tried to set up their pieces right in front of the railroad embankment where B Company lay but were shot down or blasted by hand grenades. Several times the enemy infantry reached the foot of the embankment, but could go no farther. Finally the assault died down.


The main enemy detachment headed for the Malmedy-Stavelot road, pushing its infantry to the fore. In the fog it encountered K Company of the 120th Infantry, knocked out a platoon deployed at a roadblock, and, using its tanks, drove the remaining American infantry back some distance to the north. Four 3-inch towed tank destroyers covering the