Munshausen and the Battle of the Bulge

Source: W.S.  Zapotoczny., The 110th holds in the Ardennes

28th Division in the Ardennes

After the campaign in the Hürtgenforrest the 28th left to occupy a quiet sector 40 miles to the  southwest, receiving the order to defend a sector 25 miles in width. The division moved by truck and closed into the fresh sector by 22 November. The quiet sector was located just to the east of the Belgian town of Bastogne. As units tallied up their losses, the tremendous cost in lives became obvious. Division combat casualties totaled 6,184, a figure that exceeded the sum strength of any rifle company inside the division. Losses included 614 killed, 2,605 wounded, 855 missing, 245 captured, and 1,865 non-battle casualties; over 750 of the non-battle casualties were from trench foot alone. The fighting became among the costliest division operations of the war. To complicate things, the leadership for the rifle units continued to soak up terrible losses. Officer losses alone totaled 249 outside of an assigned officer strength of 828—roughly one officer in three.

December found the 28th still recovering while defending a 25 mile front alongside the Luxembourg-German border. Its assigned frontage was so great that units manned a few strong points rather than a continuous line of resistance. These strong points typically controlled critical road networks within the sector; they were generally built throughout the small villages and towns scattered through the entire sector. This positioning allowed units to rotate soldiers into shelters for rest, minimizing experience of the cruel winter conditions. Soldiers also continued to rotate to divisional and corps rest centers further to the rear. Red Cross club mobiles and doughnut wagons made their visits, and a full schedule of USO shows and dances helped raise morale.

The 110th Regiment in the middle was occupying a frontage of some fifteen miles. It was this regiment that received the heaviest blow with the German assault. The regiment, sitting astride one of the leading routes to Bastogne, received orders to hold at any expense; they did just that.

Elements of German Forces that attacked the 110th Infantry Regiment

Fifth Panzer Army – 47th Panzer Corps

  • 26th Volks Grenadier Division
  • 2nd Panzer Division
  • 130th Panzer Lehr Division

58th Panzer Corps

  • 560th Volks Grenadier Division
  • 116th Panzer Division

Seventh Army

  • Fifth Parachute Division

110th Regimental Combat Team locations

Regimental Headquarters (Clervaux)

110th Elements:

1st Battalion

  • ‘A’ Company (Heinerscheid)
  • ‘B’ Company (Marnach)
  • ‘C’ Company (Munshausen)
  • ‘D’ Company (Grindhausen)

2nd Battalion

All elements (Donnange) 2nd Battalion was the divisional reserve. Normally the divisional reserve concisted of a whole regiment!

3rd Battalion

  • ‘K’ Company (Hosingen)
  • ‘I’ Company (Weiler)
  • ‘L’ Company (Holzthum)
  • ‘M’ Company (Consthum)

109 the Field Artillery Battalion:

‘A’ Battery (Hupperdange vicinity)

‘B’ Battery (Reuler)

‘C’ Battery (Bockholz)

HQ 109th Field Artillery Battalion (Consthum)

Service Battery (Wiltz)

103rd Combat Engineers:

‘B’ Company (Hosingen)

447th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Supporting the 109 Field Artillery Battalion Automatic Weapons Battalion (Consthum, Bockholtz, Reuler, Hupperdange)

630th Tank Destroyer Battalion:

‘B’ Company (Marnach-Clervaux vicinity)

Munshausen in the Battle of the Bulge

On the left of the regimental zone, the 1st Battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Donald Paul) held the intersection of the Skyline Drive and the Dasburg-Bastogne main highway at Marnach, employing Company ‘B’ and a platoon from the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion. To the southwest, Company ‘C’ and the regimental cannon company were deployed in and around Munshausen, guarding the side road which cut cross-country from Marnach to Drauffelt. Company ‘A’, at Heinerscheid, was on the extreme left flank of the 110th and so lay outside the path of the XLVII Panzer Corps attack, as did Company ‘D’ at Grindhausen.

In the 1st Battalion zone to the north the advance detachments of the 2nd Panzer Division moved straight for Marnach, attempting with one quick blow to clear the Americans obstructing the through road from Dasburg to Clervaux. While the German engineers laboured at the Dasburg site to bring their heavy tank bridging equipment down to the river, the 28th Panzer Engineer Battalion and the 2nd Battalion, 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, crossed the Our River in rubber boats and moved west through the predawn darkness. The advance was delayed somewhat when the grenadiers marched into an American mine field, but by 8 a.m. the leading Germans had reached Marnach. Company ‘B’ and a platoon of the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion were well entrenched there and gave the Germans a warm reception, although themselves under fire from batteries east of the Our River. Minus his heavy weapons, the enemy failed to knock the Marnach garrison out of the way, but an hour later Company ‘B’ radioed that three hundred Germans were northwest and southwest of Marnach. The 1st Battalion commander had already ordered Company ‘A’, located three miles farther north on the Skyline Drive at Heinerscheid, to send a patrol south and make contact with Company ‘B’. In midmorning Paul ordered Company ‘C’ to march north from Munshausen, leaving the cannon company there, and counterattack the Germans in the Company ‘B’ area.

In the 1st Battalion sector, late in the afternoon, two tank platoons arrived in Munshausen to support Company ‘C’, already on its way north to relieve Company ‘B’ in Marnach. Company ‘C’ had been driven off the road, and the tanks, missing the infantry entirely, rolled into Marnach. One tank platoon remained there to bolster the defence, while the other turned back to the south, picked up Company ‘C’, and, on orders, returned with the infantry to Munshausen.

At 9 p.m., therefore, General Cota turned the reserve rifle battalion back to the 110th Infantry, minus Company G which was moved to Wiltz to defend the division command post, and agreed with Colonel Fuller’s proposal that the battalion be used in an attack eastward to restore American control at Marnach. At the same time the light tank company in the 112th area was alerted by division headquarters for an attack south along the Skyline Drive, also directed toward Marnach, as soon as daylight came. To complete the concentration against the enemy in or around Marnach, Colonel Fuller ordered the medium tank platoon in Munshausen to attack to the northeast with a rifle platoon from Company ‘C’. When Fuller heard of the light tanks, he ordered Colonel Henbest to delay the 2nd Battalion attack next morning until the incoming tank detachment was ready to attack on the Skyline Drive.

The southern prong of the three-pronged counterattack to shut off the German armoured drive moving through Marnach toward Clervaux also was outgunned and outnumbered but did reach Marnach, only to report that no friendly infantry could be found. About 10 a.m. the small tank-infantry team was allowed to return to its original position at Munshausen, and Fuller then ordered the tank platoon to fight its way to Clervaux and help defend the town. These two attacks from west and south had made no headway but were not too costly.

Of the 1st Battalion, only a part of Company ‘C’ retained its organization. It had held on at Munshausen, with the 110th Cannon Company and a section of tank destroyers, all through the 17th. The riflemen and cannoneers made a fight of it, barricading the village streets with overturned trucks, fighting from house to house. After the Germans captured the howitzers, a bazooka team of a company officer and a sergeant held the enemy tanks at bay, destroying two which ventured into the village. Before daybreak on 18 December the survivors, now only a handful, started west.

On the road between Munshausen and Marnach, they were intercepted by about 100 to 150 German infantrymen. A short but sharp fight ensued, after which the 2nd Reconnaissance Platoon and the gun crews from the 630th were forced to fall back to Munshausen and take up positions with Cannon Company, 110th Infantry Still other gun sections from Company ‘B’, 630th, moved to prepared positions in Hupperdange and Urspelt. Later in the day, two guns attempted to move to the vicinity of Reuler but they too were driven back by German infantry. Other German forces overran the two guns emplaced at Hupperdange earlier in the day. The next morning, a counterattacking force made up of crews from the lost guns and infantrymen from Company ‘A’ recovered one of the 105s and the ammunition for both of them.

Hoping to clear away the American forces obstructing the main road from Dasburg to Clervaux, the advance detachments of the 2nd Panzer Division struck hard at Marnach.

On the road between Munshausen and Marnach, they were intercepted by about 100 to 150 German infantrymen. A short but sharp fight ensued, after which the 2nd Reconnaissance Platoon and the gun crews from the 630th were forced to fall back to Munshausen and take up positions with Cannon Company, 110th Infantry Still other gun sections from Company ‘B’, 630th, moved to prepared positions in Hupperdange and Urspelt. Later in the day, two guns attempted to move to the vicinity of Reuler but they too were driven back by German infantry. Other German forces overran the two guns emplaced at Hupperdange earlier in the day. The next morning, a counterattacking force made up of crews from the lost guns and infantrymen from Company ‘A’ recovered one of the 105s and the ammunition for both of them.

A few miles to the south of Marnach, the village of Munshausen was garrisoned by Company ‘C’, with Cannon Company, 110th Infantry, deployed in defensive positions around it. They too were first roused by the opening German artillery barrage. German infantry units did not bother them at first, however, but appeared to be concentrating on Marnach. Observing that sizeable German forces were attacking Company ‘B’ in Marnach, Cannon Company gunners immediately adjusted fire on the attacking enemy forces. It is not known just how many of the enemy were hit, but as Cannon Company Commander, Captain Irving D. Warden, remarked later, ‘A lot more Germans went in those woods than came out.’

German patrols very early worked their way behind Cannon Company and between that unit and Battery ‘C’. As a result, several small skirmishes were fought around Munshausen, but by the end of the day, Cannon Company still held its positions and still had communications with Regimental Headquarters at Clervaux.

It was apparently an attempt, on the part of the Germans, to clear the Skyline Drive in that area.

At 10.43 a.m., Colonel Paul ordered Company ‘C’ to leave the defense of Munshausen to Cannon Company and to march north and counterattack the German formations converging on Marnach. There, the 304th Panzer Grenadier Regiment’s 2nd Battalion was still attempting to knock out Marnach and, in fact, had pushed past the village en route to Clervaux.

Company ‘C’s advance north toward Marnach produced no more results that the Company ‘A’ patrol. The original plan called for Company ‘C’ to move along the main road toward ‘B’ Company’s positions in Marnach, stopping just short of the village, so that final plans could be coordinated with Captain Burns, the new commander of B Company At 11.20 a.m., Captain Carrol Copeland of Company ‘C’ radioed that they were at the edge of the woods about 1,000 yards from Marnach, but that they were receiving extremely heavy small arms fire. He also reported that the tanks from Company ‘A’, 707th Tank Battalion, which were to lend added support to Company ‘C’s efforts, had not arrived. The Marnach garrison, meanwhile, could do nothing but fight on with every means available, hoping they could hold out until help arrived.

At 11 a.m., Colonel Fuller, back at the regimental command post in Clervaux, ordered one platoon of Company ‘A’, 707th, to Marnach to support Company ‘B’, 110th, and another to Munshausen to support the Company ‘C’ attack. Colonel Paul had other ideas; he wanted two platoons of tanks to proceed from Munshausen to Marnach. The tank platoons were to work in conjunction with Company ‘C’ in clearing the enemy out of Company ‘B’s area at Marnach. The tanks and Company ‘C’ were then to continue on south, clearing out all enemy resistance along the road to Hosingen. He hoped they would be able to recapture Hosingen, not realizing then that it was still in American hands.

Colonel Paul’s plan was selected, and preparations were made to put it into operation. Meanwhile, Company ‘A’ radioed at 1.15 p.m. that it had been hit by enemy attacks from the south and east, but had been able to beat them off with the aid of supporting fire from the 109th Field Artillery The two platoons of tanks from Company ‘A’, 707th had arrived by that time and immediately roared off down the Munshausen-Marnach road to support Company ‘C’ in its attack.

Confusion, it seemed, still controlled the battlefield. Captain Copeland, ‘C’ Company’s commander, had been wounded when the company was driven off the road by intense small arms fire. The 2nd Platoon had taken up positions in some woods about 400 yards to the left of the road while the rest of the Company attempted to approach Marnach cross-country. Consequently, when the tankers arrived on the scene they rolled straight on through Marnach, missing the Company ‘C’ troops completely. Captain Burns of Company ‘B’ kept one platoon of tanks in Marnach to aid in its defense. The other platoon was ordered to go back the way it came, locate Company ‘C’, and return to Munshausen with the infantrymen. The tank platoon finally located Company ‘C’ at about 4 p.m. but was subjected to a heavy concentration of artillery fire while the infantrymen were being loaded for the return trip to Munshausen.

Meanwhile, orders concerning those 707th units supporting the 1st Battalion had been changed again. At 3 p.m., Colonel Paul ordered Company ‘A’s 3rd Platoon in Marnach to attack south on Highway N16 in the direction of Hosingen. It was this tank platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Robert A. Payne that fought its way into Hosingen about 4 p.m. Company ‘A’s 1st Platoon in Munshausen was ordered to remain there and to outpost the town in conjunction with Cannon Company, 110th. Efforts to resupply and re-service the 1st and 3rd platoons were unsuccessful. The 2nd Platoon, which had arrived in Clervaux around 2 p.m. that afternoon, was held there as a mobile reserve on Colonel Fuller’s orders. At 6.15 p.m., Company ‘B’ at Marnach, left with no tank support, radioed that half-tracks could be heard moving toward the village. No further contact with Company ‘B’ could be made after that time.

For additional support, Fuller ordered the 1st Platoon of Company ‘A’, 707th, then in Munshausen, and a rifle platoon from Company ‘C’ to attack north eastward toward Marnach at the same time.

Fuller’s plans, however, were more than matched by von Manteuffel’s, but the latter had more resources with which to implement his. Even as Fuller was making plans for a counterattack with his 2nd Battalion, the German 2nd Panzer Division with 26th Volks Grenadier Division were preparing for their own dawn assault. Already, Manteuffel’s plans were behind schedule and he was determined that he would have Clervaux by noon of the 17th at the latest.

The 630th’s guns at Eschweiler had been overrun and destroyed about 3.30 p.m. on the 18th after destroying one Mark V tank and killing or wounding about fifty-three Germans. Earlier, the gun crews defending Derenbach had managed to haul one gun back to Wiltz by around 11 a.m. and joined in the defense of that town. Another gun that remained in Derenbach was overrun about 4 p.m., as was one gun positioned at Munshausen. Even with all these losses, by the time the enemy attack reached Wiltz at around 9 p.m. of the 18th, there were still six guns present representing the 630th. After being overrun, individual and groups of men, not captured, tried to escape through the forests to the west.

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