Go to Index

Bastogne

The Ardennes

General Von Rundstedt's final attempt to wrest a German victory was embodied in his "winter offensive" in the Ardennes Mountains. He drove his armor through the lightly held First Army lines under cover of fog, sleet, snow and bitter cold, forming a deep wedge between the Allied Armies and threatening their main supply base at Antwerp. The key to wrecking the German plans, to pinch the breakthrough by flank attacks from both North and South, was quickly forseen and acted upon by Supreme Headquarters, resulting in The Battle of the Bulge.

The 101st Airborne Division, with attached troops, moved into Bastogne and took up defensive positions to hold this vital hub of intersecting highways from the German breakthrough. They were the rock against which the wave of German might rolled — they were surrounded, besieged and battered by attacks while the Germans spread further westward, northward a'nd southward.

The 4th Armored Division, battered and under strength from its campaign in the Saar, was alerted and received it's orders to move from its rest areas in Alsace-Lorraine east of Nancy to the vicinity of Arlon, and reopen the route to Bastogne from the south.

On the morning of the 19th of December, the Battalion left Languimberg, France and with Combat Command Reserve moved northward through Morhange, Font a Mousson, Chambley, Briey, Aumetz and Longwy, to Aubange, Belgium. As we moved into this assembly area in the dark, the friendly Belgium people aided in housing the men. While we did not assume firing positions, it was a reassurance to the people that the German horde would not sweep back through their towns. The following day the Fourth Armored Division was placed in the III Corps, and the Battalion moved a few miles to Bebange, Belgium.

On the 21st of December, we moved again to a position a few hundred yards southwest of Arlon and covered three roadblocks consisting of trees prepared for demolition by Corps and Communication Zone engineers. The lack of definite in­formation of the situation of the German offensive had made the troops in this area very jittery. These troops had already blown up several bridges and were preparing to blow several others until stopped by various officers in the Battalion who were on forward reconnaissance.

The plan for the 22nd of December was for Combat Command "A" to attack north on the Arlon-Bastogne highway on-Combat Command "B"s right with Combat Command Reserve following Combat Command "A". Early in the morning the column halted to bridge an enormous crater blown in the road which had been reported by us the day before. In the afternoon the 51st Armored Infantry attacked Martelange. Major Parker and Captain Franks went in to the center of town with the point. The enemy force in the town was small but progress was halted as the bridge over the Sure river had been previously blown. The battalion displaced to the vicinity of Shadeck to be available for reinforcing fire to the 66th in Combat Command "A".

In order to protect Combat Command "A"s right flank, Combat Command Reserve was ordered to attack and seize Bigonville, which was expected to be lightly held. The 94th displaced to Perle, Luxembourg the morning of the 23rd to support this attack. The 177th Field Artillery Battalion (155 howitzers) was to reinforce our fire. Bigonville wa's a natural fortress situated on a hill which dominated the surrounding country and protected by steep slopes on all sides except for a narrow wooded saddle on the south. Due to the difficulties of moving tanks on icy hills, the attack was launched late in the day by Combat Command Reserve with two companies of the 37th Tank Battalion and two companies of the 53rd Armored Infantry under cover of preparatory fire's of the 94th and 177th.

The attack bogged down as the tanks ran into a mine field which disabled several tank's including that of our observer, Lt. Guild. This was our last tank but fortunately no crew members were hurt and the tank was repairable. Contrary to expectations, Bigonville was heavily defended with what was estimated to be a battalion of the 5th Parachute Division dug-in in the woods and on the slope's of the hill and supported by some armor, including one Sherman tank and two assaiult 'guns which were knocked out 'by the 37th. The enemy mortars were extremely heavy. Captain Temple, while acting as liaison officer and observing the battle, was wounded by their fire. That night the fight continued, the 94th firing supporting and interdictory missions on Bigonville and Arsdorf where troublesome enemy artillery was thought to be located. Under cover of darkness Mr. Wathen and his tank recovery crew dragged Lt. Guild's tank to the safety of a patch of woods where they repaired it the next day.

The following day, Christmas Eve, the attack was pushed on against a stubborn defense, and Bigonville fell. Mopping-up went on into the night. Over 400 priso­ners were taken and 100 enemy dead were counted. In the divisional picture the situation could not be called bright. Combat Command "B" on the left flank had received a worsting in a counter attack at Chaumont; Combat Command "A" had obtained its bridgehead at Martelange but was progressing slowly against road block's, abatti and stubborn resistance; Combat Command Reserve had just taken Bigonville after forty-eight hours continuous assault in a bitter fight.

In this situation Combat Command Reserve, which consisted of the 37th Tank Battalion hardly half-strength, the 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion about two-thirds strength, the 94th Armored Field Artillery Battalion with "C" Battery of the 177th Field Artillery attached, a troop of cavalry and two platoons of tank destroyers, received startling and audacious orders: it was to be relieved at Bigon­ville by midnight by elements of the 26th Infantry Division, execute a thirty mile night march to the left flank of the division and attack in the morning to relieve Combat Command "B" 's open left flank. At one o'clock in the morning of a bright moonlit night, bitterly cold, over ice covered roads, exhausted from three days' hard fight, with the bombers' flares and bombs and a-nswering antiaircraft fire lighting the northern sky like a tremendous fireworks display, Combat Command Reserve moved out through Perle, Habay la Neuve, L'eglise and Neuf Chateau to Massul closing in it's new position before daylight. The plans were worked out on arrival to attack in the morning northeast on the main road through Vaux les Rosieres, Petites Rosieres, outpost lightly to the north and west of these towns and continue east to the towns of Nives and Cobreville, by-passing Sure and then continue east to Remoiville. The attack jumped off as scheduled with complete success and surprise. The first two towns fell in a matter of minutes, Nives and town, Abe was testing the enemy reactions by pushing A/37 and C/53 northwest along the ridge, which was southeast and overlooked Assenois. They drew fire, but practically no armor-piercing. The left flank was secure. Abe decided the time opportune to deliver an attack on Assenois and attempt to open the road to the 101st. B/37 and B/53 were to be left holding the high ground at Clochimont, which left C/37, comprising four medium tanks with 75 millimeter high explosive shells expended and low on 30 caliber machine gun ammunition, and about 150 men strong, to make the assault. To insure the success of such a venture with so light a force, a tremendous artillery preparation was planned. The fires of "A" and ' C" Batteries of the 94th were placed on the edge of the woods northwest and northeast of Assenois where anti-tank guns were suspected, to be fired continuously through the attack. "B" of the 94th was to be placed on the southern edge of town, another suspected anti-tank position, to be lifted as our attack progressed to the center of town and later to be lifted entirely. "C" Battery of the 177th was placed on the center of town and was to be lifted to the northern edge of town when our troops entered the town. In addition, through Division Artillery, two 105 howitzer battalions and one 155 howitzer battalion were each to fire ten yolleys on the center of town. Lt. Chamberlin, infantry forward observer, was to accompany the attack and lift the fire's. Lt. Billy Wood, cub pilot-observer, was in the air overlooking the action. The stage set, the column smashed into the town. The peep in which Lt. Chamberlin was riding received a direct hit killing the driver, Pfc. Draper J. Charles, and throwing Lt. Chamberlin into a ditch. The tanks charged down the narrow street in the middle of the barrage, as the ground pitched and houses spilled into the street, and Lt. Billy Wood called for the fire to be lifted. As the smoke cleared, C/37 was rushing through the woods north of Assenois to make first contact with the 101st. A/53 and later B/53 were mopping up the town which accounted for 500 of the enemy in killed and captured, seventeen antitank guns and prime movers, and two batteries of 105 howitzers. The barrage had paid off, our casualties were negligible. Two anti-tank guns in the woods and one on the southern edge of town were knocked out by our fire.

Meanwhile the Germans had strewn the road north of town with mines and bazookamen, behind the tanks of C^J. Captain Dwight, S-3 of the 37th, led some of the 53rd Infantry, which had been delayed in the mop-up of Assenois, to rejoin C/37. They fought hand to hand all the way, killing bazookamen and machine-pistol men, and throwing the mines off the road. That night, Lt. Frank Kutah, hobbling on a leg stiffened with a bullet wound, led his company, "A" of the 53rd, in clearing the woods on both sides of the road. The siege was broken. Two hundred ambulances and supply trucks escorted by D-37th moved into the town in the early morning. That morning. Major Franks and Lt. Truitt, with parties, met Captain Cooke, liaison officer with the 37th tank battalion, in Bastogne, and selected positions in the southeast edge of the city. The fight was still going on along the route with Combat Command "B" cleaning up the woods and houses a few hundred yards to the east of the road. "C" Battery of the 94th and "C" Battery of the 177th, led by Lt. Colonel Parker, were a short time behind Major Franks, and the remainder of the Battalion followed as soon as the first two bat­teries were in position ready to fire.

Air observed missions were fired during the rest of the day on targets on the south-west flank. That night, the 27th of December, enemy bombers bombed and strafed the city. In the clear, cold night sky, the enemy crossmarkings were clearly visible as they made their passes at rooftop height. Numerous fires were started among the buildings and crowded vehicles in the center of town, but the 94th fortunately escaped casualties. The next day was quiet for Combat Command "R". Combat Command "B" and Combat Command "A" were still progres­sing slowly to the east of our supply route, while the 9th Armored Division and the advance parties of the 11th Armored Division were progressing slowly on the west. The battalion commanders of the 37th, 53rd, and 94th met that day and resolved that, contrary to past standing orders, another German air attack would be met with antiaircraft fire by every available weapon. The other troops in the city also agreed to this policy, but there were no attacks that night.

The 29th of December was another quiet day for Combat Command "R". About an hour after dark, around seven o'clock, the Jerry bombers came in on another rooftop straffing and bombing raid and were met with a hail of antiaircraft fire from the combat command. This raid was followed by another of greater strength a half hour later causing numerous fires in the town. A few minutes later, a third raid of mixed high explosive and fragmentation bombs was received, which effectively covered the 94th position area. A string of five bombs straddled "A" Battery, killing Sgt. Charles Kosiorowski and wounding Corporal Robert J. Schuetter and Private First Class John A. Engelhardt who were evacuated, and lightly wounding Technician Fourth Grade Charles A. Yetkosky and Corporal John H. Stieber. In the same raid T/5 William Beck of Headquarters Battery, Pfc. John Ciccoline, and T/4 William Eppele, both of Service Battery, all of whom were manning machine guns, were also wounded. After this attack, Lt. Colonel Parker ordered the ammunition and gas trucks to leave the town and find a bivouac near Remiohampagne or Remoiville.

These vehicles had barely cleared the area, shortly after ten o'clock, when the worst bombing of all was received. Whole blocks of buildings crumpled into the streets. In the shambles of broken houses, men of the 101st Airborne and 53rd Armored Infantry Battalion were buried alive. In the glare of the numerous burning buildings and vehicles, men of the 94th assisted in digging out their comrades and helping them to their aid station which was across the street from the broken buildings. That was not to be all, — the Jerries struck again shortly before dawn. No casualties.

That morning, December 30th, the corridor rocked from the crushing attack of three divisions including one Panzer Division on the eastern flank and heavy armored attacks on the west. "B" Battery, which was on the southeast flank, rearranged its gun positions, outposting them, and camouflaging them with sheets, in readiness to repel the attack, which was defeated by our tanks a few hundred yards away. The battalion fired all day around the compass expending 1063 rounds, repelling the enemy threats as they materialized. Lt. Billy Wood and Lt. Harley Merrick, our cub observers, were continuously on patrol, despite the bitter cold and antiaircraft fire, bringing fire to bear on the enemy concentrations they observed. S/Sgt. Herman L. Orsbon of "A" Battery, the holder of the Silver Star for gallantry in Normandy and recommended for battlefield commission, was killed in the 'battery position by an enemy shell. That afternoon, on Division Artillery order, the 94th withdrew by battery to positions south of Clochimont, a relief to everyone to be removed from the Bastogne bull's eye of the German airforce.

Enroute to Bastogne, Combat Command "R" took over 1000 prisoners. Lt. Me Grew and the "C" Battery observer crew took seventeen P.W.'s, Lt. Johnson and the "A" Battery observer crew had taken eight, Lt. Guild, tank observer, surprised two in a foxhole while on reconnaissance, all in addition to the fourteen taken at Sure. In blood, sweat and human energy expended in the direct support of Combat Command "R" which opened the first corridor into Bastogne in four days fighting and help it open for four more, every member of the 94th had earned his share of the right to wear the distinguished unit badge later awarded the division by President Roosevelt for this action. General Patton sent the following letter of commendation to the division:

"1. The outstanding celerity of your movement and the unremitting vicious and skillful manner in which you- pushed the attack, terminating at the e'nd of four day's and nights of incessant battle in the relief of BASTOGNE, consitute onp. of the finest chapters in the glorious history of the U S Army.

2. You and the officers and men of your command are hereby highly com­mended for a superior performance."

The last day of the year 1944 ended with our firing at tanks and artillery in front of the 35th Division. We hit one tank. The rounds expended for that day were 1,329. New Year's Day was spent about the same way, firing TOT's to support the 35th. The 2nd of January we were placed in Combat Command "A", as was the 53rd Infantry. The mission of the Combat Command was, at this time, to hold the Arlon-Bastogne highway in its exposed northern sector.

We stayed in the vicinity of Clochimont until the ninth and this entire period was cold and foggy. One very small building was all that was available to the entire battalion for its fire direction center. The remainder of the personnel were in pup tents that were practically covered with driving snow the entire period. There was little rest for all concerned, as sleep was difficult in the extreme cold, and an exceedingly high number of rou-nds were fired day and night to repel counter-attacks hurled daily at the forces that had broken the main back of the German's Ardennes push and had already begun to reduce its size and strength. Between December 30th and January 6th, the Division Artillery fired a total of 24,483 rounds of 105 howitzer in the area immediately surrounding the small town of Lutrebois on the eastern flank.

On the 9th, the 94th moved to Savy, nothwest of Bastogne, under harrassing artillery fire, to support an attack the following day of the 101st Airborne, 4th Armored and Sixth Armored Division, to drive a wedge northeast into the bulge. After the attack jumped off on the 10th, it was called off by higher headquarters and the division received its orders to go into assembly areas in Luxembourg as Third Army reserve. The 94th billetted in the vicinity of Frisange, Luxembourg, the llth of January.

On the 12th of January, while the division rested, the battalion moved on short notice through the Luxembourg capital to firing positions around Wecker, near the Moselle River on the Luxembourg-Germany frontier. The 94th and 66th Field Artillery Battalions were detached from the division by XII Corps and the 94th was placed under the 177th Field Artillery Group commanded by Lt. Colonel Ellery, with the mission of reinforcing the 255th Field Artillery and support the 2nd Cavalry Group. The front was merely a series of outposts along the high ground facing the Moselle, and very little enemy activity was visible although patrolling was active by both sides. Outposts and observation posts were established by our observers and manned continually during this period of cold and snow. Due to shortage of officer's, one observation post was manned by T/Sgt. Isaac Levy and a pickup crew from Headquarters Battery. We fired a few observed problems but generally the missions were harrassrng and interdiction ' on the towns of Tellerick, Lawern and Lemmels and other places where we knew the Germans were present.

On the 18th the battalion executive and battery commanders reconnoitered routes and made billeting arrangements in preparation for the move to Rume-lange. Meanwhile the battalion fired preparations as a diversion for the divisions to our 'north who were attacking to the north with no artillery fire. The 22nd Field Artillery completed arrangements for our relief.

Lt. Harley Merrick, air observer, who joined us as a Staff Sergeant pilot on the desert and was commissioned as we embarked for overseas, was transferred to the Division Artillery air section. He had been with the battalion all through combat and had earned the admiration of all its members by his brilliant, daring and untiring efforts m directing our artillery fire. Famous for his adaptability to all types of situations, Lt. Merrick was particularly noted for his ability to fly with the stick between his knees, field glasses in one hand, map in the other, while he spotted and fired upon a multiplicity of targets.

The move to Rumelange through Luxembourg, Bettembaing and Kayl was executed on the 19th by battery serials, as each was relieved by a battery of the 22nd Field Artillery Battalion. The city of Rumelange, located in the large mining area of the Duchy of Luxembourg, will long be remembered by the officers and men of the 94th. A good percentage of the population spoke English and the battalion was billeted and received in their friendly modern homes with a welcome marked by its genuineness. Passes were issued to Paris but the quota was hard to fill as men were unwilling to leave Rumelange. The town theater was used for movies, and beer, which was plentiful, was supplemented by champagne and wine which were uncovered in the Moselle valley. Attendance at battery messes dwindled as the people did everything possible to feed and entertain the men. Working hours were spent in maintenance of vehicles and weapons, engines were pulled in the town square, the slaughterhouse was used as a shop by battalion motor maintenance. As the snow continued, our vehicles were repainted white in preparation for our next operation. A portable ordnance shop assisted in the technical repairs necessary on our equipment. We replaced four gun tubes which were chipping and wearing out, the result of more than 50,000 rounds fired by the battalion since its arrival m France.

The battalion, less Service Battery, which remained at Rumelange, moved to a division assembly area in the vicinity of Laurentzweiler, Luxembourg on the 23rd and remained there until the 29th. The mission was to assist either the 4th or 5th Infantry Division in the event of an attack by the Second Panzers. Assembly areas were picked, position areas surveyed and counterattack plans worked out but the battalion remained billeted at Laurentzweiter as no emergency arose-On the 3rd of February, the battalion moved by battery serial to positions around Biwer and Wecker, Luxembourg, where they relieved the 66th Field Artillery taking over the existing communications and installations.

The mission was to reinforce fires on call from the 76th Division Artillery. Six days were spent at- this position with practically no firing other than registrations. The weather broke and thawing began, causing "A" Battery to make a short displacement to escape being flooded out.

The sectors were changed, the 76th Division moved north and the front of the 2nd Cavalry Group was extended. The battalion moved to the vicinity of Herborn, two towns north of Biwer, on the 5th of February with the mission of reinforcing the fires of the 775th Field Artillery. They were in support of the 42nd Cavalry, a squadron of the 2nd Cavalry Group. An extended period of heavy firing began, lasting until the 21st of February, during which the battalion fired over 8,500 rounds. Targets were enemy pillboxes, gun batteries, harrassing and interdiction on towns, diversionary preparations and vehicular traffic. Missions were received from our own observers, one of whom was 1st Sgt. Murphy of Headquarters Battery, from the Corps Serenade net, and from the pilots of our battalion and of the 775th Field Artillery. Eleven round's of counter battery were received in the battalion area, resulting in "A" and "B" Batteries moving to more favorable positions.

During this period of rest and comparative inactivity on a stable front, the Third Army was reshuffling its divisions and forcing bridgeheads across the Our River, preparatory to grinding through the Siegfried Line. The Fourth Armored Division was held in readiness to be turned loose when a sufficient breech had been made in these fortifications.

Go to Index