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Breakthrough at the Schnee Eifel

Introductory Note

The story of the 106th Infantry Division and the attached 14th Cavalry Group is tragic. It is also highly controversial. Since the major part of the division was eliminated from combined operations with other American forces on the second day of the German counteroffensive, information from contemporary records is scanty and, as to particulars, often completely lacking. The historian, as a result, must tread warily through the maze of recrimination and highly personalized recollection which surrounds this story; It should not be concluded that reminiscence by those caught up in this disaster is consciously tendentious. But the officers and men of the 106th Division who so narrowly escaped the German trap or who spent months in German prisons would be less than human if they did not seek to discover the cause of this debacle in either human error or frailty. Since the author has been forced to depend in so great degree on the human memory, unaided or unchallenged by the written record, the scholar's old rule "one witness, no witness" has been generally applied. Even so, some relaxation of the rule is necessary if a sustained and sequential narrative is to be presented. Fortunately, the picture as seen from the German side of the Schnee Eifel is fairly complete and can be applied as a corrective in most of the major areas of controversy and contradiction. *

* The records and reports of the 106th Division and the 424th Infantry are intact although rather scanty in content. The records of the 422d and 423d were destroyed before the capture of these regiments, but the Historical Division, ETO, did interview a large number of officers and men from these regiments when they were released from German prisons. First Army conducted Inspector General investigations of the actions of the 106th Division, the 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 106th Reconnaissance Troop, and the 14th Cavalry Group. Most of the records of the 14th Cavalry Group were destroyed but the commanding officer, Col. Mark Devine, provided the author with some personal papers. The VIII Corps after action report and G-2 and G-3 journals are very useful for the relations between corps and division. Participants in this battle made special reports for the Advanced Infantry Officers Course No. 1 (Maj. William P. Moon, Maj. J. C. Hollinger, and Capt. Alan W. Jones, Jr.) See also, the 275th Armored Field Artillery Battalion journal and S-2 report. Col. R. Ernest Dupuy has written a very good semiofficial history entitled, St. Vith: Lion in the Way, the 106th Infantry Division in World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1949). Dupuy's work has been heavily drawn on, but the reader will find several points at which Dupuy and the present account differ. The German manuscripts are very detailed and useful; see particularly MSS # B-026, Effects of Ardennes Offensive on Army Group G (SS Generaloberst Waffen-SS Paul Hauser); B-688 (incorporating B-734), 8th Volks Grenadier Division, 1 September 1944-45 January 1945 (Lt. Col. Dietrich Moll); A-924 (Kraemer); B-333, LXVI Corps, October-23 December 1944 (General der Artillerie Walter Lucht).