Source: W.S. Zapotoczny., The 110th holds in the Ardennes
Report of Operations of the 110th Infantry Combat Team, 16-18 December 1944, Fuller, H. E., 1944, (Harrisburg: 28th Infantry Division Archives),
The 110th Infantry Combat Team was holding a front of a little more than fifteen miles along the Our River, Luxembourg, facing the Siegfried Line on 15 December. The Regiment, with the rest of the 28th Division, had taken over this sector from the 8th Division on 17-18 November. The 28th Division had been in hard fighting in Germany, southeast of Aachen, and needed rest and replacements. The 110th received about 65 percent of officers and enlisted men after coming to Luxembourg. The regiment was training and assimilating these replacements, while at the same time holding this long portion of the front. The regimental sector was being held by only two battalions, while one was kept in a division reserve on a training status. Four company strong points, generally along the north-south highway that ran through the sector and roughly one mile west of the Our River. Each battalion had one rifle company in reserve, which Company also organized a strong point of the village it garrisoned. The largest of the front line strong points was Hosingen, which was garrisoned by Company ‘K’, part of Company ‘M’, one platoon of Anti-tank Company, and Company ‘B’, Engineers. Each strong point sent from three to five out guards to the high ground overlooking the Our River in order that the entire valley of the Our River could be kept under fire and under surveillance. Besides these out guards, the reserves patrolled actively day and night in the intervals between the out guards. This dominated our side of the Our River. But, due to the great distance between strong points, very dangerous in our lines existed. This plan of defense, however, was what was ordered by the Commanding General, 28th Division, Major General Norman D. Cota.
For five days prior to the German attack on 16 December, our patrols and OP’s had noted unusual activity across the Our River in the Siegfried line, and had constantly reported this to Division HQ. I personally discussed this with General Cota. He, however, displayed no particular interest in it, and gave me the impression that he did not expect anything stronger than a raid, probably in battalion strength. Four days prior to the enemy attack, Lieutenant General Troy E. Middleton, Commanding General, VIII Corps, visited my command post and had lunch with me. I pointed out to him my concern about such an over extended front and particularly to the fact that the main Dasburg-Bastogne road ran through the middle of my sector. This road appeared to me the most likely axis of attack, should one come. General Middleton did not seem at all concerned about it. In fact, he expressed the opinion that if an attack were launched against the 28th Division, it would fall either in the sector of the 109th or 112th Infantry. The 110th sector was also pitifully weak in artillery, supported by only four batteries of artillery (the 109th Field Artillery Battalion) and one company of the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion.
I attempted to gain information on the enemy activity in the Siegfried Line during daylight hours by the use of the artillery ‘Cub’ plane, but due to their restriction to operate only to the west of the ‘Red Ball’ Highway [Skyline Drive] (our main logistics route); little information was secured by this method. I saw no friendly reconnaissance planes operating over our sector, nor did any information or clue come from higher headquarters of the impending attack. It is my belief that if our aerial reconnaissance had been active, it surely would have discovered the German troop concentration opposite our front.
During the day of 15 December and the night of 15-16 December, our out guards, observation posts and patrols, encountered no Germans in our sector west of the Our River. A raiding force of Company ‘B’, supported by our battery of artillery, on the afternoon of 15 December destroyed some haystacks along the road about 500 yards west of Dasburg which had been occupied by the enemy as an observation post, but no Germans were in them at the time of the raid.
On 15 December, Headquarters 110th Infantry was in a hotel in Clervaux, where the command post of the 109th Field Artillery Battalion was also located. The 1st Battalion Headquarters was at Urspelt and the Battalion Headquarters at Consthum. The 2nd Battalion Headquarters, which was in division reserve, was at Donnange. From left to right, the strong points were as follows: Strong Point ‘A’ at Heinerscheid; Strong Point ‘B’ at Marnach; Strong Point at Hosingen; Strong Point ‘I’ at Weiler. Company strong points in battalion reserve were Strong Point ‘C’ at Munshausen, where the Cannon Company was also located, and Strong Point L at Holzthum. The battalion Antitank platoons of the 1st and 3rd Battalions and the Antitank Company were distributed along the front in support of the above mentioned strong points.
An indication of the lack of knowledge of the impending attack by the high command is the fact that on 15 December Headquarters VIII Corps ordered all regimental and battalion commanders of the 28th Division to attend an all-day firing demonstration on 17 December at a point over 50 miles in the rear of our front. This would have taken from the front line units every commander of major units.
The enemy attack began at 0545 on 16 December, with the heaviest concentration of artillery fired by the Germans I have witnessed since D-Day The shelling extended over the entire line, and command posts received particularly heavy shelling. I was awakened at my command post at Clervaux at 0545 by the crash of large caliber shells in the town. These proved to have been fired by nebelwerfers. I was unable to reach a single battalion by telephone. Telephone communication with Division Headquarters was also out. I feel sure now that all of these lines were not cut by shell fire, but was cut by enemy agents before the artillery preparation started. I could reach the 1st Battalion Command Post, the 109th Field Artillery Battalion batteries, and Cannon Company only by radio. Since I could not communicate with the 3rd Battalion Command Post at Consthum, I immediately dispatched the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Strickler, to that unit, with instructions for him to remain with it and supervise the defense of our right flank. He went to the CP of the battalion via Wiltz, where he stopped at Division Headquarters and made a report of the limited information we had at Regimental Headquarters at that time. I filed a message to General Cota to be sent by the SCR193 radio set with us. This message, however, was not cleared to Division Headquarters until about 0900.
By daylight I knew from reports from the out guards of Company ‘B’ that the enemy was crossing the Our River at Dasburg. This was suspected beforehand, and two batteries of the 109th Field Artillery Battalion and Cannon Company were already shelling this crossing and the road from Dasburg to Dorschisch. This fire proved very destructive to the enemy, as we learned later. This fire, however, did not stop the enemy infantry, which swarmed across the river and moved on Strong Point B at Marnach, and into the gap between Strong Point ‘S’ and Strong Point ‘K’ at Hosingen. Soon after daylight, these two strong points were heavily engaged with the enemy
By 0900 telephone communications were re-established with Division Headquarters, and through that switchboard I was able to talk with the commander, 3rd Bn. He reported that German infantry in force had crossed the river in front of his front at two points, and that both his Strong Points ‘K’ and ‘I’ were heavily engaged, but were still intact.
About 0930 a call for help with infantry support was received at Regimental Headquarters from Battery ‘C’, 109th to Field Artillery at Bockholtz, whose position was being heavily attacked by German infantry. Before any reserves could be moved to the relief of this battery, the battery command post reported that the Germans had overrun the gun position, captured the guns and were in possession of most of the village of Bockholtz. The personnel of the battery, however, were still fighting in the town with their individual weapons. I requested a platoon from the 707th Tank Battalion be sent from Drauffelt to the relief of Battery ‘C’. This was done and the enemy driven off and the guns recaptured. The battery was then displaced farther to the rear; from that position it again rendered fire support. At my request for our battalion in division reserve, the Commanding General gave me a company of medium tanks (only two platoons) of the Tank Battalion. The company reported at Clervaux about 1000, and the two platoons of it were used immediately in conjunction with Company ‘C’ to counterattack from Munshausen to relieve Strong Point ‘B’ at Marnach, which by this time was virtually surrounded. Company ‘C’ moved over from Munshausen toward Marnach, but before they could make a rendezvous with the tanks, was heavily engaged with Germans along the Munshausen-Marnach road. In this fighting, the commander of Company ‘C’, Captain Copeland, was mortally wounded.
During the morning of 16 December Lieutenant Carson, Commander of Company ‘B’ was badly wounded. Captain Burns, Executive Officer of 1st Battalion, then went to Marnach and took command of the strong point. During the afternoon Captain Burns succeeded in effecting a rendezvous between Company ‘C’ and the tanks, and a counterattack was launched to relieve the situation at Marnach. This counterattack was temporarily successful, and one platoon of tanks was dispatched along the Marnach-Hosingen road to Hosingen to aid the garrison there. This tank platoon destroyed large numbers of the enemy infantry, especially at Dorschied and succeeded in reaching Hosingen, where it remained. The other platoon of tanks was ordered to remain at Marnach to assist in the defense of that strong point, but without orders from either Regimental Headquarters or 1st Battalion Headquarters returned to its base at Drauffelt. It was stopped, however, as passed through Munshausen, and was directed to remain there for the night. Before the end of the day 16 December, Cannon Company at Munshausen was fighting to hold their gun positions against enemy infantry, which had reached that point. For that reason, Company ‘C’ was ordered to return to Munshausen, where they succeeded in driving back the enemy, thus retaining Cannon Company’s gun positions intact.
Because of the threat against Clervaux from the direction of Munshausen, late in the day of 16 December I again requested the use of the 2nd Battalion, 110th Infantry, in division reserve. This was denied. I then obtained authority to employ the some 300 officers and enlisted men on furlough to Clervaux, which was the division leave center. This authority was granted and ammunition was delivered by the S-4, 110th Infantry, to Clervaux for these men. They were armed only with rifles and carbines, but they constituted the only reserve available to me. This group of men was organized into platoons, and a provisional company was formed with Lieutenant Johnson, 110th Infantry, placed in command. This force was placed in a defensive position astride the Clervaux-Marnach road on the eastern edge of Clervaux. To give this force some machine gun support, a platoon of heavy machine guns from Company ‘D’ was moved to this same defensive position. The Antitank Platoon, also of the 2nd Battalion, was added to this force later in the night.
Reports from the 3rd Battalion throughout the day were most disheartening. By the end of the day, Strong Point ‘K’ at Hosingen was completely surrounded. The same situation existed at Strong Point ‘I’ at Weiler. Company ‘I’ had lost a platoon that was defending a detached post along the Weiler-Holzthum road. A counterattack by Company ‘L’ from Holzthum was stopped at the crossroads east of Holzthum, where late in the afternoon German tanks were thrown in. The antitank platoon at Merscheid was surrounded at the end of the day, 16 December, but was still fighting.
Darkness, 16 December, found all reserves of the 110th Infantry, inducing the men on furlough in Clervaux, committed to action. I called the Chief of Staff, 28th Division, about 2000 and advised him of the situation, particularly to the growing pressure along the Dasburg-Clervaux road, and asked again for the use of the 2nd Battalion, 110th Infantry. This was denied.
Shell fire on Clervaux increased noticeably toward dark, 16 December, and by 2100, men of Headquarters Company, 110th Infantry, were fighting Germans in the western end of Clervaux. This made it necessary to move the regimental aid station to the railway station in the eastern end of town. Great difficulty was encountered in evacuating wounded on 16 December, even from the troops not surrounded, because of personnel of Company ‘B’, 103rd Medical Battalion, would not stay on the job, but all rushed to the rear every lime the ambulances left with wounded. The conduct of Company ‘B’, 103rd Medical Battalion was disgraceful throughout this operation.
About 2130 on 16 December, General Cota called me on the phone and told me he was considering releasing to me the 2nd Battalion, 110th Infantry, and asked me what I planned to do with it. I told him that I would counterattack with it, with the purpose of relieving the surrounded garrison at Marnach. If the attack was successful, I told him I intended to continue the attack astride the Marnach-Hosingen road to relieve the situation at Hosingen. General Cota approved this plan and released to me the 2nd Battalion, 110th Infantry less Company G, which company he ordered to Wiltz as command post guard for Division Headquarters. I called the commander, 2nd Battalion, at Donnange immediately, and ordered him to start his battalion marching at midnight to an assembly area on the reverse side of the ridge immediately behind Clervaux. With the S-3 Section, I prepared an order for attack by this battalion at daylight,
17 December, from a line of departure along the ridge immediately east of Clervaux. This order was in writing, the objectives shown on overlays, etc. The order was delivered to Lieutenant Colonel Henbest, Commander, 2nd Battalion, before he left Donnange. I arranged for this counterattack to be supported by the one platoon of tanks then available to me, and by Cannon Company, 110th Infantry, and two batteries (‘A’ and ‘B’) of the 109th Field Artillery Battalion. After this order had been issued, the Chief of Staff, 28th Division, Colonel Gibney, phoned to tell me that General Cota had ordered a company of tanks of the 707th Tank Battalion, then with the Infantry on the left, to support the attack of the 2nd Battalion, 110th Infantry, by attacking from Heinerscheid astride the Heinerscheid-Marnach road (Skyline Drive). The attack by this light tank company, he said, would begin from Heinerscheid at 0800 on 17 December. This order necessitated a delay in the attack by 2nd Battalion, 110th Infantry, since I had planned the attack for 0700. The time of attack, therefore, was delayed to 0800 to comply with instructions from the Chief of Staff.
After learning I was to get the support of a light tank Company coming from our left flank via Heinerscheid, I decided not to move the platoon of medium tanks at Munshausen to Clervaux in order to have them physically present with the 2nd Battalion prior to the attack, since these tanks would have to detour via Drauffelt to get there; but instead I decided to have this platoon, accompanied by a rifle platoon of Company ‘C’ (at Munshausen), attack Marnach from the southwest via the Munshausen-Marnach road. The Battalion was in position to attack at daylight, and began its fire preparations when the enemy, with about a regiment of strength, began an attack on Clervaux. Therefore, instead of advancing, the 2nd Battalion had a difficult time holding the ridge, which was to be its line of departure. I had no communication whatsoever with the light tank company which was to arrive at Heinerscheid at 0800. I learned through the commander, 1st Battalion (from Company ‘A’) that these tanks did arrive at Heinerscheid at 0800, and proceeded through that town toward Marnach, drawing very heavy enemy fire from enemy artillery and self-propelled guns located along the Heinerscheid-Marnach road.
In the hope of regaining the initiative in the attack, I ordered the tank platoon at Munshausen, together with the rifle platoon of Company ‘C’, to carry out the original plan. This force did reach Marnach about 0830, and killed a large number of the enemy. The tank platoon leader radioed his Company commander at my headquarters upon reaching Marnach that he could not contact any of our infantry there and the rifle platoon which had ridden with him was suffering along the Marnach Clervaux road. This was done, and it had a disastrous effect upon the enemy, killing a large number and causing them to begin a retreat on that flank, back in the direction of Marnach. This tank platoon, and about one-half of the rifle platoon that started with it, fought its way through the attacking Germans to Clervaux. As soon as the hostile withdrawal along the Clervaux-Marnach road was noted, I ordered Lieutenant Colonel Henbest to attack with the 2nd Battalion at once. This was done and the right company made good progress for about an hour, advancing about 1,500 yards. The left company, Company F, however, encountered heavy resistance and made little progress on the right (Company ‘G’ was still guarding Division Headquarters at Wiltz).
I learned from the commander, 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Paul, about 0930 that eleven of the sixteen light tanks which had begun the attack from Heinerscheid had been knocked out by enemy fire, and the remaining five had reached his headquarters at Urspelt and had taken refuge there in a ravine. About 1030 approximately thirty enemy tanks coming through Marnach from the east attacked along the Marnach-Clervaux road toward Clervaux. These tanks, accompanied by infantry, drove Company ‘E’ back to the ridge from which it had started its attack. I immediately ordered the tank platoon in Clervaux to support Company ‘E’. These tanks moved out, but all except one of them were quickly knocked out by the German tanks. The enemy tanks and infantry accompanying them were checked; however, at the little stream which crosses the Clervaux-Marnach road about one kilometer east of Clervaux. The one remaining American tank, from a position defilade at various points, continued to fire on the German tanks, greatly delaying their crossing of the stream. Two 57-mm guns of the 2nd Battalion, in position near the road junction of the eastern edge of Clervaux, also did good work against these German tanks until both guns were knocked out about noon.
About 1100 the commander, 1st Battalion, reported that Strong Point ‘A’ at Heinerscheid was entirely cut off and was being heavily attacked on all sides. His command post at Urspelt was also attacked from the east. He was defending it with command post personnel, the five light tanks, and two 3-inch guns of the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion. This condition caused me great concern about Battery ‘A’, 109th Field Artillery Battalion, at Hupperdange, because with Strong Point ‘A’ surrounded, this battery had no infantry protection whatever. Before this battery could be withdrawn to the rear, the battery commander reported that his position was being attacked by German infantry and that their battery executive officer had been killed. A few minutes later after learning of this situation, a company of sixteen tanks of the 9th Armoured Division arrived at Clervaux and were placed at my disposition. I placed one platoon of five of these tanks at the disposal of Lieutenant Colonel Paul, commander, 1st Battalion, to be used for the relief of Battery ‘A’ at Hupperdange and for driving into Heinerscheid for the relief of Strong Point ‘A’. The rest of this tank company was placed at the disposal of the commander, 2nd Battalion, to help defend the ridge east of Clervaux against the renewed attack by tanks and infantry from the direction of Marnach and Munshausen.
The commander, 1st Battalion, had no infantry reserves to send with the tanks to Hupperdange and Heinerscheid, other than a patrol consisting of Lieutenant Kasarian (S-1), Lieutenant Beaucar (Motor Officer), Lieutenant Miller (Antitank Officer) and five enlisted soldiers of Battalion Headquarters Company. This patrol proceeded, riding on the tanks, to Hupperdange, where they found the gun positions of Battery ‘A’ under small arms fire, but they found no personnel of the battery in Hupperdange. No German infantry had yet reached the gun positions, and this patrol was able to move two of the howitzers back to 1st Battalion Headquarters at Urspelt, where they attempted to use them for direct fire on the enemy attacking that place. Their guns were soon knocked out by fire of German tanks and self-propelled guns.
During the forenoon of 17 December the fighting on the right of the regimental sector, on the front of 3rd Battalion, was very heavy. While Strong Point K at Hosingen continued to hold out, efforts to contact by radio the surrounding Strong Point ‘I’ in Weiler were unsuccessful after noon of 17 December. This strong point obviously was wiped out, as also was the one at Merscheid. Also by noon the plight of Cannon Company, and Company ‘C’ (less one platoon) at Munshausen was growing desperate. Both tanks and infantry had infiltrated in strength between Munshausen and Clervaux, cutting telephone communications with that strong point. I still did have limited radio contact with Captain Wardeh, commander, Cannon Company. By noon also, the regiment was in a desperate plight for lack of artillery support. Battery ‘A’, 109th FA, Battalion, was lost; Battery ‘C’, 109th Field Artillery Battalion had lost one gun; and Cannon Company, 110th Infantry, was running low on ammunition. I could call on the support of only three batteries, only two of which could fire on the front of our most hard pressed sector (our left).
I outlined this situation by phone both to the Chief of Staff and to General Cota. I asked for more artillery support, more tanks, and a battalion of armored infantry, which I learned was digging in about five kilometers in the rear of us on the Clervaux-Bastogne road. General Cota told me he could send me a battery of self-propelled guns, but that was all for the present. He repeated orders to me to, ‘Hold at all cost and give up no ground.’ I asked that the self-propelled guns report to me in Clervaux immediately, since twelve Tiger tanks had already reached the high ground southeast of town and were firing direct fire on us in the town from their positions. Our situation in Clervaux was growing more desperate hour by hour. Headquarters Company, 110 Infantry, and the Provisional Company of men on furlough had been fighting German infantry in the western part of the town all morning. At one time the Germans had reached a point within 200 yards of the Regimental Command Post before they were driven back. By 1300 Headquarters Company and most of the Provisional Company were surrounded in the western end of town and were fighting desperately to hold the chateau where Headquarters Company was billeted. After that, the only protection the Regimental Command Post had was about one-half a platoon of Company ‘C’ (which had come in that morning with the tanks), and a few military police and one antitank gun. Firing throughout the afternoon between the Command Post guard and the Germans who were trying to take the Command Post was continuous. Early in the afternoon the situation in the regiment became a hopeless one. The 3rd Battalion had lost all the right half of its sector with the wiping out of Strong Point ‘I’ and was fighting with Company ‘L’, the antitank platoon, and Battalion Headquarters Company in Holzthum and Consthum.
The commander, 3rd Battalion, MAJ Milton, phoned me several times during the afternoon, asking for authority to withdraw what men he had in Holzthum and Consthum along the Consthum-Wiltz road toward Wiltz. I told him that Division Headquarters was fully aware of his predicament as well as what we were up against at Clervaux, but the orders remained ‘to hold.’ About 1500 I received a telephone call from the commander, 1st Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Paul that his headquarters was completely surrounded at Urspelt, and he asked that I send him relief. There was no relief to send. All companies of the 2nd Battalion were heavily engaged along the ridge east of Clervaux. I therefore ordered Lieutenant Colonel Paul to take the tanks he had and fight his way to the left of the 2nd Battalion and consolidate what troops he had when he got there on the left of the Bn. I ordered him to hold the road junction between Clervaux and Urspelt at all costs. I reported this situation to Division, but got no encouragement from them. About 1500 the battery of self-propelled guns reported to me in Clervaux and I placed them under the control of Lieutenant Colonel Ewing, commander, 109th Field Artillery Battalion, whose command post was with mine. I told him to use them to knock out the German tanks on the high ground overlooking Clervaux. The twelve German tanks, in plain view, were pointed out to the battery commander of these self-propelled guns. He moved his battery onto the ridge east of Clervaux about 1530, but about an hour later I saw them withdrawing from Clervaux at a high rate of speed. In fact, so great was their haste to withdraw that one gun was over tuned and abandoned on a curve while coming down the ridge. I informed Lieutenant Colonel Ewing of what I had seen, and he dispatched an officer to bring the guns back, but those self-propelled guns were never seen again by us in Clervaux.
About 1600 I learned through a radio message from the commander, Cannon Company, that the strong point at Munshausen was being attacked from two sides (east and north) by infantry and tanks. The Regimental S-4 Major Stover, called me about the same time to tell me that German patrols had reached Wicherdong (where Service Company was located) and he was having a hard time keeping from losing his trucks, I notified the Chief of Staff of their situation and he directed me to have Service Company withdrawn to Wiltz. This made the situation more desperate because we were unable now to supply even that part of the regiment which was not completely surrounded.
In an attempt to relieve Cannon Company at Munshausen, I gathered together five tanks at Clervaux and dispatched them to Munshausen via Dreuffelt, where I instructed the platoon leader to pick up as much 105-mm howitzer ammunitions as he could carry and deliver it to Cannon Company in Munshausen. I notified Captain Warden that the tanks were on their way to him with more ammunition and he was to ‘hold on.’ The platoon leader of this tank platoon had no enthusiasm for the task assigned to him. He dallied in Dreuffelt until before leaving that town. He reported by radio about 2000 that when he had reached Munshausen the town was burning and that it had been captured by Germans. This was a false report. His tanks did reach the edge of town in Munshausen, and two officers of the garrison were trying to guide them in when the tanks were fired upon by the Germans. Instead of coming ahead, these tanks fled to Dreuffelt again. I ordered them by radio to return to Munshausen, but they did not carry out the order. By dark 17 December I was unable any longer to reach the 3rd Battalion either by phone or radio; however, the Chief of Staff, 28 Division, insisted that he knew that they were still holding out at Holzthum and Consthum.
About dark, 17 December, Lieutenant Colonel Paul reported to me by phone that he and a few men of his Battalion Headquarters Company had fought their through to the 2nd Battalion and that he was at 2nd Battalion Headquarters. I told him to stay there and to look personally after the defense of the perimeter of that important road junction on the left of the 2nd Battalion line, placing everything he could lay his hands on to defend it. He told me, however, that he had few men left, that he had lost radio contact with Strong Point’ A’, and that he of the opinion it had been wiped out. He was unable to state, also, whether or not any of the garrison at Strong Point ‘B’ at Marnach was still fighting.
After talking to Lieutenant Colonel Paul, I asked him to put the commander, 2nd Battalion, on the phone. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, who had rejoined the regiment from the hospital the day before, answered. He told me he thought the 2nd Battalion could hold the ridge during the night. I told him to strengthen his open left flank as much as possible and to send Lieutenant Colonel Henbest to me at the Regimental Command Post. Soon after I talked to Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, I heard very heavy firing all along the front. I called his Command Post and was unable to get either Hughes or Henbest on the phone. I did talk to Captain Reardon, commander, Company ‘H’, who told me that the Germans had renewed their attack but that the battalion was holding well. But from the volume of fire and the roar of tanks, which could be clearly heard approaching, I was of the opinion that it would only be a short time before the battalion was either over-run or encircled. About 1930 Lieutenant Colonel Hughes called me to tell me that a large number of German tanks were attacking, and that six of them had already passed his command post heading for my command post, which was about one thousand yards in the rear of him. I immediately called Division Headquarters to acquaint them of the situation.
After some delay I got the Chief of Staff, Colonel Gibney, on the phone. I told him of the hopeless situation that existed and recommended that I be permitted to withdraw what I could and try to defend along the high ground west of the Clervaux River and block the Dasburg-Bastogne Road as long as possible from that position. He was very angry over the suggestion and told me that my orders were positively to ‘defend in place’ and give up no ground that we now held. I asked him to let me talk to General Cota about it, and he told me that General Cota was at his dinner and could not be reached on the phone. While I was still talking to Colonel Gibney over the phone, one of the staff officers dashed into the room to tell me that six German tanks were approaching the command post along the main street of Clervaux. I told Colonel Gibney that since he was transmitting to me the general’s orders; I had no alternative but to obey them and to ‘fight in place.’ I reminded him that I was in the same predicament that Colonel Travis found himself at the Alamo and that ‘we will never surrender nor retreat.’ While we were still talking, one of the German tanks fired three rounds of cannon shells into the S-1 office in the room beneath me. This fire came from a range of about fifteen yards, the tank being in the street in front of the command post. The Chief of Staff heard those explosions and asked what they were. I told him. I asked him to send Company ‘G’ to Eselborn by truck immediately I told him that I would have it met there and guided by a staff officer to the place I intended to employ it. The Chief of Staff started to say something more, but I told him that I had no more time for talk and rang off. I asked the operator for Headquarters, 2nd Battalion. While he was trying to get this connection, a blast of machine gun fire came from below through the window of the room I was in, knocking plaster off the ceiling over my head. I heard more tanks firing outside, and then I was unable to get anything more out of the phone. I left the room and saw Major Yeager (S-3) in the corridor. He was very excited and expressed the opinion that we were trapped in the building. I told him I was going to try to get out some way and that I intended to reconstitute as much of the regiment as possible at Eselborn, where the Chief of Staff was forwarding Company ‘G’ by truck. The firing of the Germans put out all the lights in the building, but outside they kept the area quite bright by sending up flares from the tanks. I could hear Germans yelling in the room on the first floor. I ran up the stairs to the third floor to my room to get my carbine and trench coat. When I entered my room I noted that there were ten men in already. I found my carbine and trench coat and was asking questions to learn who was in the room when a projectile of some kind, probably one of our own bazooka shells fired at the enemy tanks by the command post guard, came through a window and exploded, wounding five of those in the room. One of them was Lieutenant Kasarian, the commander of Company ‘C’ rifle platoon, which had ridden into Clervaux on the tanks that morning. He was perhaps fatally wounded. I assisted him to my bed and covered him up with my blankets. One of the other men was lying on the floor near the bed. He had been hit badly in the face, and he said he was blind in both eyes. It was too dark to see his wounds, but I bandaged his eyes with my first aid bandage. Others in the room not wounded gave first aid to the rest of the wounded. I think all the wounded, except the Company ‘C’ commander, were enlisted men. About the time I finished bandaging the man I was working on, one of the enlisted men of the Military Police Platoon came into my room calling my name in a whisper. I answered, and he told me he had found a way to get out of the building if I wanted ‘to take the chance.’ I told him I did and asked if anyone else in the room wanted to go. Several answered ‘Yes’ including the blinded man I had been bandaging. In fact he was holding lightly to my hand. I told him to hang on to my belt and come along. The military policemen guided us to a window from which a narrow steel ladder reached to the cliff, which was immediately in the rear of the hotel, spanning a gap of about fifteen feet. As soon as a flare died down a little, I went out on the ladder, holding the blinded man by the hand, and helped him across. Reaching the cliff, we found that steps had been cut in the earth, and we climbed to the top. I was very tired when I got to the top of the cliff, so we lay down there to rest. There was a lot of firing by the Germans down in the street below us. As we waited there, about ten or twelve more came out of the hotel via the ladder. One of these was Lieutenant Kasarian of Company ‘C’. I had my compass and I ordered the group to follow me in a march on Eselborn, about one kilometer away. We were in single file and had to lie down frequently when flares went up over us. We made the trip cross-country, mostly through very thick woods. Upon arrival at Eselborn, I discovered that I was the only officer remaining with the group. I went immediately to the former command post of Company F, where I knew there was a telephone to the former Headquarters, 2nd Battalion, at Donnange. I hoped to contact Division Headquarters by phone there. The phone, however, was dead. By the light of an oil lamp in Company ‘F’s Command Post, I re-bandaged the eyes of the man I had assisted in reaching that point. His eyes were in bad shape from small particles of the shell or from plaster, I could not tell which. His face was also badly lacerated. I left this man and one other wounded man who had accompanied us at Company ‘F’s Command Post with one man (without any arms whatsoever) to look after them, and I ordered the other seven men to accompany me.
We searched the town for Company ‘G’, but this unit had not arrived. During this search I found Captain Rose, S-1, 1st Battalion and Lieutenant Wright, S-3,3rd Battalion and five enlisted men. I formed this group into a combat patrol with the intentions of returning to the 2nd Battalion east of Clervaux. I left two unarmed men posted in the town to wait for Company ‘G’ with instructions for the commander, Company ‘G’, to dig in across the Eselborn-Clervaux road.
I proceeded with this patrol along the Eselborn-Clervaux road, and had reached a point about five hundred yards from the edge of Clervaux, when we heard tanks approaching us from Clervaux. I ordered the patrol into the woods along the right side of the road. The approaching tanks, which no doubts were German, turned north along the main Clervaux-Bastogne highway. We, however, waited about thirty minutes to see if any German infantry which might have been accompanying the tanks had turned up the road we had been following. None came by, so I began to collect the patrol again to move on. I could find none of them in the woods except Lieutenant Wright and one enlisted man. We three proceeded down the road very cautiously toward the road junction just north of Clervaux. When we had almost reached this road junction we heard more tanks approaching. We ducked into the woods again and lay on a ledge of rock about fifteen feet from the road. These tanks, eight in all, were German Tiger tanks. They passed us and continued on toward Eselborn. We waited about thirty minutes to see if any infantry were following, and when none arrived we moved out again. We found the road junction held by German troops and were fired on. It was here we lost the enlisted man with us. The chance of reaching the 2nd Battalion then looked hopeless to me, so Lieutenant Wright and I turned back toward Eselborn.
We moved very cautiously and upon arriving at that village we discovered that some German tanks were still there. We skirted around to the west side of the town and waited until daylight, hoping to see some sign of Company G, but no friendly troops were in the vicinity. We then moved cautiously westward, attempting to reach the junction of the main Bastogne road just west of Eselborn. We eventually encountered about fifty American troops, mainly members of the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion, who were hemmed up on a narrow wood road with several vehicles. An officer with this group informed me that the Germans had blocked the road in the direction he was heading (north) and he was trying to turn his column around to head south. As near as I can determine (since I had no map with me), this group was located east of Donnange. After about two hours of hard work, during which a turn-around had to be constructed for the vehicles, they were turned around and I joined this group and we headed south. We had gone only about a mile when we encountered small arms fire and then tank fire. I noted German infantry trying to encircle us, so I ordered the trucks and equipment destroyed. This was accomplished by shooting holes in the gas tanks and setting the vehicles on fire. Having fired the vehicles, I ordered the group, which by now was a platoon of some forty or forty-five men, to withdraw to a small hill about four hundred yards away, where we dug in for defense against the German infantry and tanks. We remained in this position until dark, fighting off efforts of the German armored infantry to close in on us. We killed many of the enemy and kept him at a distance of about three hundred yards from us. We lost twelve or fifteen men, mostly from tank fire.
During the afternoon we had heard firing of what sounded like an American battery of 105’s about three or four miles to the west of us. Some of the shells of this battery had passed over our heads going east. A check of the ammunition at dark revealed that it was virtually exhausted. I ordered the group to break up into five man patrols and attempt to infiltrate to the west, marching on an azimuth that would lead to American artillery we had heard. I believe that our entire group who were able to walk successfully evacuated the hill we were on. The patrol with which I left, consisting of Lieutenant David Wright, 110th Infantry, and three men of the Tank Destroyer Battalion, had gone westward about one mile when we encountered a large force of German infantry (about five hundred) moving into the woods through which we were passing. We were soon surrounded in the darkness by this enemy force, and although a group of them came within ten yards of where we were hidden, we remained quiet. The Germans kept milling around us, obviously using the woods as an assembly area. Suddenly, one of the enlisted men in our patrol jumped up from the ground and started yelling Kamarad (friend). He told me later that the reason he did it was to that he saw a German pointing a rifle at him. In the melee which followed, during which the rest of the patrol made a break to get out, I was hit in the back of the head and knocked unconscious. When I came to, I felt a burning sensation in my stomach, where I had been bayoneted slightly. The wound, however, was not deep, but that, coupled with the blow I had received to my head, made me quite weak and nauseated. I sat up in the snow and noted five German soldiers standing near me. One of them came to me and kicked me several times and kept repeating, ‘March!’ I staggered up and was marched out of the woods to a nearby road, and thence to the headquarters of a German infantry battalion. There they learned I was a colonel and immediately sent me by motor transportation to the headquarters of the 2nd Panzer Division at Bockholtz, Luxembourg.