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Page 152(Battle of the Bulge)previous pageNext Page


over the 106th Division lines attempting to divert attention from the noise created by the German ground columns moving forward to the line of departure. Their efforts were wasted. The vehicular activity behind the German front was heard and duly recorded, but it caused no alarm. Enemy patrols also were unusually active during the night-except at the Schnee Eifel positions of the 422d Infantry which did not figure in the German attack plans. Again there was no particular reaction among the Americans. No one anticipated a German attack, although with the advantage of hindsight all these warning signs and others would be resurrected and given an importance never accorded them on the night of 15 December.

At 0530, 16 December, the guns, Werfers, and mortars of the LXVI Corps opened fire, marking the commencement of the advance against the 106th Division. The artillery available to the LXVI was limited, by comparison with most other parts of the front, but was well served by its forward observers and did much damage to telephone wire, ammunition dumps, and other supply points. The first word from a specific target reached the division headquarters at St. Vith about 0550, a report that the 423d Antitank Company had been shelled since 0530. The 423d Infantry was in fact bearing the brunt of the enemy barrage and most of its telephone lines to the forward units went out in the first few minutes. Within the hour messages from the 28th Division and the 99th Division told of heavy shelling to the south and the north of the 106th. But the German assault troops who had been moving forward in the darkness onto the 106th Positions since 0500 were not immediately detected. German pressure would first be felt in these areas within the regimental sectors: the Heckhuscheid and Winterspelt areas (424th Infantry); the Bleialf area (423d Infantry); and on the Auw-Schonberg road (422d Infantry). In the last case, the northern assault wing of the 18th Volks Grenadier Division concentric attack would strike the American cavalry before turning on the north flank of the 106th Division.

At dusk on 15 December the 62d Volks Grenadier Division, forming the left of the LXVI Corps, had come into the lines opposite the left and center of the 424th Infantry. This new division would have no opportunity to reconnoiter the broken and heavily wooded ground over which it was to advance the next morning-a fact which had direct bearing on the subsequent story of the 424th Infantry-but its scheme of maneuver had been given detailed study. The attack would open with two regiments abreast attempting a breakthrough on a wide front. The main effort would be made in the vicinity of Winterspelt, breaching the American switch line southeast of that village and thus gaining entrance to the main macadam road to St. Vith. Once in position astride the road, the mobile reserve of the 62d would be committed for the penetration, while the two regiments extended their hold on either side of the road. On the left, therefore, the 183d Regiment had as its objective the northern side of the plateau on which lay the village of Heckhuscheid. Possession of this high ground was deemed essential to the German plan. On the right the 190th Regiment aimed at the wooded heights at Eigelscheid around which twisted the road to Winterspelt, two thousand yards westward.

The 3d Battalion of the 424th Infantry received the first German blow in its positions north of Heckhuscheid. After a 20-minute concentration of artillery and mortar fire a shock company of the 183d drove in on Companies K and L about 0645. Although the defenders got word back to their own artillery, when daylight came the enemy had penetrated well into the position. The 3d Battalion, however, was on ground which favored the defender and not unduly extended. The most serious threat developed to the north on the weak flank screening the switch position. Here the regimental cannon company (Capt. Joseph Freesland), armed only with rifles and machine guns, was deployed at the Weissenhof crossroads blocking the main road to Winterspelt. Guided by flashlights and flares the Germans made their attack in column, advancing erect, shouting and screaming. The cannoneers, nothing daunted, did well in their infantry role, holding for several hours against assault from front and flank. Colonel Reid, the regimental commander, ordered his 1st Battalion, in reserve at Steinebruck, to the support of the threatened north flank. Company C arrived to reinforce the cannon company and the rest of the reserve battalion hurriedly established defensive positions to the rear at Winterspelt.

In the 3d Battalion zone Company I came in to help restore the line. A series of counterattacks, well supported by fire from the 591st Field Artillery Battalion, erased the dents in the American position, and a sortie led by the battalion S-3, Capt. Lee Berwick, entered Heckhuscheid and took 107



Page 152(Battle of the Bulge)previous pageNext Page



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THESE ARE ARCHIVED PAGES OF THE OLD EHISTORY SITE
These pages are not actively maintained and may have errors in content and functionality