Page 555


the armored infantrymen leaped from their vehicles for the nearest doorway or wall. In the smoke and confusion the German garrison, a mixed group from the 5th Parachute and 26th Volks Grenadier Divisions, poured out of the cellars. The ensuing shooting, clubbing, stabbing melee was all that the armored infantry could handle and the C Team tanks rolled on to glory alone.


The "relief column" heading out of Assenois for the Bastogne perimeter now consisted of the three Sherman tanks commanded by Lieutenant Boggess, the one half-track which had blundered into the tank column, and two more Shermans bringing up the rear. Boggess moved fast, liberally spraying the tree line beside the highway with machine gun fire. But a 300-yard gap developed between the first three vehicles and the last three, giving the enemy just time to throw a few Teller mines out on the road before the half-track appeared. The half-track rolled over the first mine and exploded. Captain Dwight then ran his tow tanks onto the shoulder, the crews removed the mines, and the tanks rushed on to catch up with Boggess. At 1650 (the time is indelibly recorded in the 4th Armored Division record) Boggess saw some engineers in friendly uniform preparing to assault a pillbox near the highway. These were men from the 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion-contact with the Bastogne garrison had been made. Twenty minutes later Colonel Abrams (subsequently awarded the DSC for the action at Assenois) shook hands with General McAuliffe, who had come to the outpost line to welcome the relieving force.


Colonel Jaques and the 53d Armored Infantry Battalion missed this dramatic moment; they were involved in a scrambling fight for possession of Assenois-strictly an infantry battle now that the artillery no longer could intervene. This battle continued into the night, the 53d capturing some five hundred prisoners in and around the town. One American, S./Sgt. James R. Hendrix, took on the crews of the two 88-mm. guns with only his rifle, adding crews and guns to the bag in Assenois. (Hendrix was awarded the Medal of Honor). More Germans filtered in along the dense woods which lined the east side of the Bastogne road north of Assenois. Here Company A of the 53d was put in to dig the Germans out, the company commander, Capt. Frank Kutak, directing the fight from his jeep for he had been wounded in both legs. (For bravery here and in other actions Kutak was awarded the DSC.)


An hour or so after midnight enough of the enemy had been killed or captured to give relatively safe passage along the Bastogne road. Over 200 vehicles had been gathered at Rossignol waiting for the road to open, and during the night the light tank company of the 37th Tank Battalion escorted forty trucks and seventy ambulances into Bastogne.