December 16th, 1944 (SATURDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: Aircraft carrier HMS Colossus commissioned.
Frigate HMS Whitesand Bay launched.
USAAF Ninth Air Force fighters escort RAF aircraft, fly night patrols and intercept missions, and support U.S. First Army elements in the Ardennes in as Field Marshall Gerd von Rundstedt, Commander in Chief West, begins an allout counteroffensive, and the XII and XX Corps at Saarlautern the bridgehead and in Saint-Avold-Saarbrucken area where news of the Ardennes counteroffensive cancels the XII Corps plans for an assault on the Westwall.
FRANCE: Paris: There is no news here of the expected arrival of Major Glenn Miller, who took off from England yesterday in freezing rain in the plane of a US Army colonel. His band has been ordered to Paris by General Eisenhower. All other Channel flights were grounded. His band, due to give its first concert here on 21 December, still does not know that he is missing. In six months in England, his American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force gave 71 concerts, mostly at US air bases, with Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore among guest artists.
Miller had taken the place of his manager, Lieutenant Don Haynes on the flight from Twinwood Farm airfield (Bedfordshire, England), to Paris, to arrange for the band's appearance. Flight Officer John Morgan piloted the Noorduyn UC-64 Norseman with Miller and Lieutenant Colonel Norman F. Baessell aboard.
At a former French Army barracks in Mourmelon, France, members of Battery B, 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion heard of the German attack in the Ardennes on the Armed Forces Network. They thought that the soldiers in that area would stop the German attack. Earlier that day they had turned in their steel helmets to be repainted. (William Jay Stone)
NETHERLANDS: In the British Second Army area, XXX Corps begins concentrating in the Nijmegen area for a drive on Krefeld, scheduled to begin on 12 January.
BELGIUM: Antwerp: A V2 rocket hit the Rex Cinema in the Avenue de Keyser at 3.20 pm today, killing 567 people including 296 Allied servicemen. They were part of a capacity audience of 1,200 watching the popular Buffalo Bill. There was a flash, then the balcony and ceiling collapsed and the screen tumbled forward. The Germans have switched the main weight of the V2 attacks from London to Antwerp because of the Ardennes offensive. Three weeks ago a V2 killed 157 people. Today's rocket came from Enschede in the Netherlands, just 130 miles away.
A German winter offensive begins on the Western Front. The Germans have gathered, in secret, 24 divisions - 10 of them armoured. Dietrich's 6th SS Panzer Army and Manteuffel's 5th Panzer Army have attacked between Monschau and Trier. The German forces intend to retake Antwerp and split the British and American armies. Hitler hopes this will force a political split between the Allies. The defending Allied units are 6 divisions of the V and VIII Corps. This is the same Ardennes area chosen for the 1940 offensive. Bad weather interferes with Allied air operations. Additionally, the surprise effect creates an initial German advantage.
The Germans refer to this as the Ardennes Offensive, while the Allies will call it The Battle of the Bulge.
The offensive was known to the Germans as 'Wacht am Rhein' ('Watch on the Rhine') in the preparation phase, and 'Herbstnebel' ('Autumn Mist') once the attack was launched on Dec.16,1944. (Russ Folsom)
At 5.30am as the GIs were rousing themselves for another uneventful day in the wooded snow-covered hills of the Ardennes, the stillness was shattered by the thundering roar of an artillery barrage. When the bombardment ended after an hour, the first of 20 German divisions emerged from the freezing fog to launch an attack which has stunned the Allies.
The offensive under the overall command of Field Marshal von Rundstedt, is designed to hit the Americans in the lightly-defended Ardennes and recapture the strategically-vital port of Antwerp. The seven armoured divisions of General Dietrich's 6th and General von Manteuffel's 5th Panzer Armies are leading the attack, but there are also four infantry divisions of General Brandenberger's Seventh Army. The immediate result has been confusion and panic in the American lines. This 60-mile sector of the 500-mile front is held by just six US divisions, 83,000 men, with 420 tanks. Crashing down on them is a formidable enemy force of 250,000 men and 950 tanks.
If Dietrich succeeds in his aim of seizing the Meuse bridges south of Liege and reaching Antwerp, he would cut off Mongomery's 21st Army Group from the bulk of the American armies.
Tonight, despite their early success, the Germans have been held up by the Americans in the north at Malmedy and in the south along the Luxemburg frontier. But the road to the key town of Bastogne lies open.
Much of the surprise is attributable to the stringent security measures which the Germans have taken to conceal their intentions. Besides surprise, there are other factors in their favour.
Morale among the attacking troops is higher than for some time: during the first 12 days of December only four German soldiers deserted to the Allies along the entire western front. Bad weather, including persistent fog, also means that the Allies are unable to use their overwhelming air power, and the tactics of deep penetrating armoured spearheads is causing confusion in the US lines. This is aggravated by SS Lieutenant-Colonel Otto Skorzeny's men, who have infiltrated in US uniforms. Continuing success depends upon maintaining momentum.
The wet ground conditions and close terrain are already causing mobility problems, and German fuel stocks are limited. The Germans must therefore rely on quickly capturing US fuel dumps. Above all, they must hope that the fog will continue; otherwise the Allied air forces will have a field day.
A part of the German 5th Panzer Army, XLVII Panzer Corps consisted of the 26th Volks Grenadier Division, the 2nd Panzer Division and Panzer Lehr Division. Initially the corps planned to cross the Our River, seize crossings over the Clerf River, then take Bastogne, a critical communications center in the corps zone, with the 26th VG Division while the panzer divisions raced for the Meuse River. On the left the corps plan called for the 26th VG Division to open the way for Panzer Lehr while on the right 2nd Panzer would force its own opening in the US lines. The corps plan called for both attacking divisions to reach the Clerf River, four miles from the Our, by nightfall on the first day of the attack.
The American defenders in the XLVII Corps zone were the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 110th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division. The 1st Battalion defended the northern portion of the regimental sector while the 3rd Battalion defended in the south. The 109th Field Artillery Battalion was in direct support of the 110th Infantry. The two Infantry battalions defended a sector of 10 miles and at no place could a continuous line of defence be mounted. The battalions had established village strongpoints, each manned in about rifle company strength. The 2nd Battalion of the 110th was the division reserve. The stage was set for a German Panzer Corps to attack a regiment of United States Infantry.
HOUR MESSAGE RECEIVED AT 106th’s CP
01:10 Commanding Officer (CO), 14th Cavalry Group (Cav Gp): ‘Troop C, 18th 18th Cav in Weckerath, sent out a patrol under the command of Lt. Max L. Crawford just after midnight. The small hamlet of Allmuthen was full of Germans, but the small patrol managed to get away after a brief fire fight. On their way back to Afst they ran into another enemy force of more then thirty well-armed infantrymen, marching west. Lt. Crawford says they’ve never encountered so many enemy in his area.’
01:40 CO, 424th Infantry Regiment (424th Inf.): ‘Heavy mortar fire is falling on Company K west of Heckhuscheid.’
05:13 S-3 (Operations Officer) 14th Cav Gp: ‘Troop A, 18th Cav reports they observed two red flares east of Roth.’ 05:15 S-3, 14th Cav Gp: ‘I am receiving heavy artillery fire on all —Repeat— all my forward units and my Command Post (CP). No damage reports have come in yet and I’ll advise you as soon as info is available. What’s going on? This is a hell of a lot of artillery for a Ghost Front.’
05:28 CO, 423d Inf.: ‘Have received heavy artillery fire on my forward units and Command Post (CP). No ground attack at this time, but all our wire communications to front line units are knocked out. I’ve sent out teams to attempt to restore commo immediately.’
0532 S-3, 423d Inf. Regt: ‘We’re receiving another bunch of artillery fire in our sector. We haven’t seen this much activity since we’ve been here. My S-2 (Intel officer) has been listening in on the division net and tells me others are getting hit. Please keep us advised on what’s going on.’’
0545 S-3, 14 Cav Gp: ‘We are receiving all types of artillery, mortar and rocket fire on our forward positions. Lasting about 15 minutes, the CP of the 18th Cav in Manderfeld received approximately 100 rounds of medium and heavy arty fire. No report of ground attacks so —Break— The 2d Platoon, Troop C 18 Cav (2/C/18) in Krewinkel, reports a large enemy column approaching his position. Apparently the enemy doesn’t know his unit is there and Lt. Farrens is holding fire until they get within twenty yards.’ (By announcing —Break— the sender is saying he hasn’t finished, but is changing the subject.)
0550 S-3, 424th Inf. : ‘CO of Company K at Heckhuscheid, reports enemy troops under cover of arty, are approaching his position. Visibility is poor and the size of the enemy element not known at this time, but Company K is hitting them with arty and direct fire weapons.’
0600 S-3, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Large enemy force is attacking Troop A in Roth and Kobscheid and Troop C in Krewinkel. The enemy troops are pushing hard and both Troops are engaging with all their weapons at this time. Lt. Farrens, Platoon Leader of 3/C/18 in Krewinkel reports they’re killing a lot of Germans. ’
0602 S-3, 423d Inf. : ‘Most of enemy arty has shifted to the rear, but front line units still getting hit. Our wire communication is still out, but the radios are working well. No report of ground attacks yet but —Break— AT Company at Bleialf reports receiving small arms fire from attacking force, size unknown. Will keep you informed.’
0603 Corps Information Message: ‘All —Repeat— all units along Corps front are receiving heavy enemy arty fire. Rounds are falling as far back as Clervaux. Communications with forward units are seriously disrupted. Capt. Conlin, the CO of Company B, 291st Eng. Bn. in Malmedy, reports receiving arty from enemy railroad guns. All units will make every effort to maintain communications with this headquarters.’
0604 Lt.Col. Riggs, CO, 81st Eng. Bn.: ‘At Schönberg, nine km east of St. Vith, my Hqs and Service Company and Company B have been under enemy arty fire since 0530. Company A in Auw, reports the same, but says that most of the fires have shifted to the rear. Company A has no casualties and will continue with their normal missions when possible. Lt. Coughlin ’s 1st Platoon will go to 422d’s headquarters in Schlausenbach and Lt. Woerner’s 3d Platoon will go to the area of 3d Bn. 422d Inf.’
0610 CO 14th Cav Gp: ‘Enemy troops are in many locations in the Losheim Gap and are attacking Krewinkel, Afst and Roth. My scattered forces are fighting for their lives, and it appears the main enemy attack is continuing to the west —Repeat— main attack is continuing to the west!’
0632 Corps Info Message: ‘Enemy aircraft are attacking key airfields, headquarters and Lines of Communications (LOCs = roads, rail, etc.). Enemy ground units are using searchlights, "bouncing" the light off clouds to provide artificial moonlight. North of the 106th ID, the 99th ID is under heavy attack. A patrol the 99th sent to gain contact with the 14th Cav Gp, reported the Losheim Gap was overrun with enemy troops. That was the last report from the patrol and it appears they were killed or captured.’
0700 S-3, 14th Cav Gp; ‘Outnumbered ten to one, Troops A and C have repulsed repeated enemy attacks and the enemy has pulled back. This is a pause only and the enemy is regrouping to continue the attack. I have no report of casualties at this time.’ "Front lines still intact; things well in hand."
0730 CO, 423d Inf.: ‘Enemy advancing on Bleialf is threatening to cut off Troop B, 18th Cav and I —Break— Enemy is now in Bleialf —Repeat— enemy are in Bleialf now! They wiped out one of my platoons defending there and I urgently need permission to use my 2d Bn. so I can launch a counterattack. I fully understand that 2/423 is part of the division reserve, but the Bleialf situation is serious and is a threat to the division’s defence. Have alerted Service Company and Cannon Company to move to the support of Bleialf. I’ll try and do my best with what I have, but if we want to kick those people out, I need my 2d Bn. released to me now!’
0804 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘After brutal fighting, Lt. Farrens, the platoon leader of 2/C/18 in Krewinkel has again successfully defended the town and the enemy has withdrawn. As they withdrew, one German yelled in
English: "Take a ten minute break. We’ll be back." Lt. Farrens yelled
back: "We’ll be waiting for you, you son of a bitch. " The platoon has two friendly WIA (wounded in action) and estimated enemy losses are 375. ’
0807 CO, 423d Inf.: ‘Troop B, 18th Cav (B/18) are under heavy attack and are being pushed back by enemy tanks and infantry. There is a serious threat to his flank and he is in danger of being cut off.’
0808 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Lt. Mills, the executive officer (XO) of Troop C, drove through a hail of fire to deliver ammo to Krewinkel. The supplies were delivered, but shortly after his gallant drive, Lt. Mills was killed by enemy small arms' fire.’
0830 Radio Transmission overheard by 106th ID Commo Platoon: ‘Conversation between the Executive Officer (XO), 2d Bn. 394th Inf. and the Intelligence Officer (S-2), of the 394th: ‘Reference your recent Intel. report that said the Germans, have only two horse drawn artillery pieces opposite us. Well, just want you to know that,’ "they sure worked those horses to death."
0840 CO, 424th Inf.: ‘The following is a brief summery of actions in 424th sector. Commencing at 0530 hours, heavy arty fire fell through out the area seriously damaging our communications. Enemy infiltrated just below Heckhuscheid, struck Company K and fought their way into the village of Heckhuscheid. Company L was penetrated and their company CP attacked. Company L was pushed back, but we will counterattack soon. Enemy attacked 112th Inf. to our south and pushed back friendlies there, but we caught Jerry on the flank and inflicted heavy casualties. I’ve plugged the gap, but my 2d Bn. is getting tied-up in the fight down there. Most dangerous situation is on my left and I am not certain of the situation with the 106th ID Recon. Troop. Their silence is ominous and I am very concerned that Cannon Company could be hit from flank and rear. No firm count on friendly casualties yet, but I will have figures shortly and —Break— Cannon Company reports they are receiving some small arms fire from the direction of Grosslangenfeld and are also under very heavy pressure from their front. Urgently request my 1st Bn. currently in division reserve at Steinebrück, be released to my control immediately. I want to send them in to the line before Cannon Company gets whipsawed from front and rear.’
0841 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘After a heavy arty preparation, enemy infantry launched a determined attack on Lt. Crawford’s platoon in Afst. Despite the enemy’s superior numbers and fire power, 1/C/18 inflected heavy casualties on the enemy and forced them to withdraw. They’re holding their position, but without reinforcements, time’s not on their side.’
0900 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Enemy is in Kobscheid and Troop A, 18th Cav is now cutoff and unable to withdraw. Situation is critical and deteriorating.’
0907 CO, 424th Inf.: ‘ I am committing Company I to counterattack and regain the sector of Company L, 3d Bn.’
0915 S-3, 14th Cav Gp: ‘All positions of Troops A and C, 18th Cav are now totally encircled by the enemy and they —Break— Enemy has started a general attack on the scattered positions occupied by Company A, 820th Tank Destroyer (TD) Bn. The 820th is very vulnerable to infantry attack and I don’t have high hopes for their survival.’
0936 G-3, 106th ID to CO, 423d Inf.: ‘Reference your message of 0935
hours: Permission is granted to use B/81 Eng. as infantry.’
0940 CO, 423d Inf.: ‘I’ve just started a counterattack to retake Bleialf. I am attacking with Service and Cannon Companies and will throw in Company B, 81st Eng. when I can. Enemy is in town in strength and heavy fighting, house-to-house, will be necessary kick them out.’
0945 Corps Info Message: ‘Lt. Bouck’s Intelligence and Reconnaissance
(IandR) Platoon of the 394th Inf. in position just northwest of Lanzerath, is under attack by an enemy Airborne Battalion, coming out of the town. The eighteen man IandR Platoon has driven off repeated attacks--so far. The enemy apparently didn’t know the platoon was there and just marched up the road and were slaughtered by the IandR platoon. Lt. Bouck reports seeing a hell of a lot of Germans attacking to the southwest, out of Losheim. —Break— Buchholz Station, was again attacked, but after heavy fighting the enemy withdrew.’ The German preparatory fires had begun at 0530 but were ineffective because of overhead cover on the holes occupied by the soldiers of the platoon. Soon after, members of a battalion of the German 9th Regiment of the 3rd Parachute Division appeared crossing an open field in front of the IandR platoon which fired on them and drove them back.
0950 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Company A, 820th TD Bn. at Berterath, Merlschied and Lanzerath, have suffered sever losses in men and equipment. Only three of their towed AT guns were saved and the survivors are trying to make it back to Manderfeld. Complete details not available at this time, but it’s safe to say that A/820th is no longer a coherent fighting force.’
1000 S-3, 423d Inf.: ‘Heavy house-to-house fighting continues in Bleialf. I’ve lost contact with B/18th Cav and don’t know what’s going on over there.’
1002 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Communications with Roth and Kobscheid is almost zero and we can only contact them on a hit or miss basis. The last report said that both were under very heavy ground attack and enemy troops were headed for Auw.’
1005 Lt.Col. Thomas J. Riggs, Jr. CO, 81st Eng. Bn.: ‘Due to the tactical situation, I’ve not been able to keep track of the activities of my units working with the forward regiments. The information I have is late and I can’t vouch for its accuracy,
1008 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Troop A, 18th Cav in Roth and Kobscheid is surrounded and cut-off. Anti-Aircraft units of the 413th AA Bn. are also cut-off in Roth.’
1010 CO, 424th Inf.: ‘Situation is all but lost in the Cannon Company sector. The 106th ID Recon Troop has definitely been overrun and wiped out .........................
1030 CO, 423d Inf.: ‘I’ve received a report from B/18th Cav that they’re very low on ammo and will try another resupply run, but the odds are not good. I don’t believe anything less then a full counterattack has any hope of getting through to them. I don’t want to jump the gun, but I have my staff working on a series of what-if plans for B Troop. Troop B won’t be any use to us if they don’t have ammo or if they’re cut off.’
1045 CO, 424th Inf.: ‘During the heavy fighting in the cannon company area, Lt. Crawford Wheeler and his unit were engaging enemy tanks that were about to overrun the company. Telling his men; "Well, somebody’s got to stay here and do the job. From now on the rest of you are on your own," he picked up a Bazooka, stepped out in the open and engaged the tanks head on. Covering his men’s withdrawal, Lt. Wheeler was killed by direct tank fire.’
1100 CO, 424th Inf.: ‘Early in the fighting, Sgt. Rocco P. DeFelice of the AT Company was knocked unconscious by a shell burst during an enemy attack. He returned to his gun, was wounded again, but directed the fires that destroyed two enemy tanks. Sgt. Risk, took over a gun by himself, loading, aiming and firing and destroyed one enemy tank. Not to be outdone by the NCOs, Pvt. G. E. Thomas, used his Bazooka to destroy an enemy tank at point blank range. Thanks to men like these we’ve given Jerry a bloody nose down south, but the Krauts aren’t going away.’
1145 G-3, 106th ID, to CO, 424th Inf.: ‘Effective immediately, the CG is releasing 1st Bn. 424th Inf. from division reserve and returning them to your control.’
1200 CO, 422th Inf.: ‘The 589th and the 592d FA Battalions are both under arty and ground —Repeat— ground attack. The artillerymen are defending their guns and holding, but obviously they can’t provide much fire support if they have to defend their firing positions from ground attacks.’
1200 Germans appear in front of the IandR platoon of the 394th IR carrying a white flag and requesting that they be allowed to remove their wounded. Lt. Bouck agrees.
1210 CG of VIII Corps (Gen. Middleton), to Gen. Jones: ‘Combat Command B (CCB), 9th Armored Division (AD), is currently at Faymonville 12 miles north of St. Vith. They’re all yours as of now and if more help is needed, let me know.’
1216 CO, 422d Inf.: ‘It’s now been confirmed that after heavy fighting against enemy infantry and Tiger tanks, A/81st Eng. evacuated Auw. Sgt. Edward S. Withee, covered the withdrawal of A/81 and was last seen engaging enemy tanks with his submachine gun. I will attempt to put together a force that I can use to launch a counterattack to seize Auw.’
1222 S-3, CCB 9th AD to G-3, 106th ID: ‘Reference your message of 1215 hours, the current Troop List for maneuver units is as follows; 27th Armored Inf. Bn. (AIB); the 14th Tank Bn.; the 16th Armored Field Arty.
(AFA) Bn. (105-mm); Troop D, 89th Cavalry Recon. Squadron (plus one platoon from Troop E and Troop F). Supporting units are; Company B, 9th Armored Eng. Bn.; Company A, 811 Tank Destroyer Bn., Self Propelled (SP) and Battery B, 482 AA, Automatic Weapons, Bn. (SP)’
1300 CO, 422d Inf.: ‘I have formed a Task Force consisting of Company L, Cannon Company and part of the AT Company. The Task force is attacking now to capture Auw. Those are my last uncommitted troops. If they can’t do the job, I don’t have anything else to send.’
1315 CO, 2d Bn. 423d Inf.: ‘I’ve reached Schönberg and as ordered, my battalion is digging in to secure the roads leading north and south from town.’
1316 G-3, 106th ID to G-3, VIII Corps: ‘Due to the tactical situation, the 106th ID no longer has the capability to maintain physical contact with the 99th ID, or V Corps.’
1330 CO, 422th Inf.: ‘My counterattack force ran into the enemy at Auw and are making slow progress against strong resistance. —Break— Enemy infantry supported by Assault Guns are firing on the 589th and 592d FA Battalions!’
1400 CO, 14th Cav Gp; ‘The following radio transmission was monitored, between Capt. Stanley Porche, CO, Troop A, 18th Cav at Roth and Lt. Herdrich, in Kobscheid: "We’re moving back! Your friends to the south, are moving back too. It’s up to you whether you withdraw on foot or in vehicles. I advise you to go on foot." I don’t have any more details as we have --Wait!’
1403 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Just received report from A/18 Cav in Roth, that the enemy is inside the village with tanks and infantry. Troop CO’s last transmission was, "Tiger tank 75 yards from CP, belting us with direct fire."
1432 Lt.Col. John P. Brewster, CO, 333d Corps Arty Group : ‘With your concurrence, I plan to withdraw all VIII Corps arty units to the west side of the Our River.’
1434 Gen. McMahon, CO, 106th ID Artillery to CO, 333d Arty Gp: ‘Reference your message of 1432 hours. I understand your concern, but this division will hold! Urgently request that you not withdraw all your assets to the west of the Our River. ..........
1437 CO, 333d Corps Arty Gp to Gen. McMahon: ‘Based on your assurances, I will leave at least one battery per battalion on the east side of the river. As you know my units are very scattered and timely commo is difficult. The major part of Corps artillery is out here and neither the Corps nor your division can afford to take any more chances with their safety. Request you keep me informed of the situation so that my units do not run into the same problems.’
1600 Corps Info Message: ‘The IandR Platoon of the 394th Inf. near Lanzerath, has defeated repeated and determined enemy attacks on their position. Attacking in wave after wave, initially with little arty support, the enemy has suffered severe losses, but show no indication of calling off their attacks. The platoon has many wounded and is nearly out of ammo. A German called on Lt. Bouck to surrender, but one of Bouck ’s men chased him away with rifle fire. Germans infiltrating under cover of the dusk, are taking his fox holes one by one, but the platoon continues to fight back. Lt. Bouck, wounded in the leg, has been ordered to hold his position (and wished a happy 21st birthday). The 394th cannot reinforce the platoon and their brave defence can’t last much longer.’
Bouck had told his runner Private Tsakanikas to take whatever men wanted to withdraw and move out. Tsakanikas refuses. At dusk the Germans advance against the flank of the platoon's position and are soon in among its foxholes. Tsakanikas is wounded in the head and Bouck in the leg and are taken prisoner.
1604 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘When I asked Capt. Reppa, CO of Troop A, 32d Cav to come back for a meeting, he said that it was impossible as the road has been cut by the enemy and all roads, are literally packed with withdrawing U.S. elements.’
1805 CO, 106th ID Artillery [DIVARTY] to COs of the 589th and 592th FA: ‘You will —Repeat— will break contact with the enemy and begin displacing as soon as possible. The 589th will go into position three miles south of Schönberg and the 592d will displace to St. Vith.’
1915 CO, 2d Bn. 423d Inf.: "Enemy shelling Schönberg heavily. Cavalry have withdrawn and are mining the road 50 yards north of Andler. Enemy have completely taken Auw. The 275th Armored Field Artillery has also withdrawn. Am patrolling in three directions and will have more information at 2000. "
1930 CO, 423d Inf.: ‘Situation is not the best, but we’re still holding. Denied my 2d Bn. I have no reserves and B Troop, 18th Cav is bottled up in Winterscheid. My right flank--and maybe my left, are up in the air and I’ve lost contact with 424th. Again, we are holding and we will continue to improve our present positions.’
2000 Corps Info. Message: ‘Enemy attacking 110th Inf. Regt. just east of Clervaux. Men on Rest and Relaxation (RandR), are being organized for defence of the town. Enemy arty is falling on Clervaux.’
2001 COs of 589th and 592d FA: ‘Both commanders acknowledge previous orders to break contact and displace as soon as possible.’
2003 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘Just received a message from Capt. Reppa, the CO of Troop A, 32d Cav. Everyone has withdrawn and he’s in danger of being cut off. He’s not received any information on positions of the rest of the 32d Cav. Unless he hears more from me, he plans to move to Honsfeld (four km northwest of Lanzerath) by 2200 hours.’
2015 Corps Info Message: ‘For the past several hours, we have not received any reports from Lt. Bouck or his IandR Platoon and Air Observation reports enemy forces now occupy his position. Believe all are KIA, or captured. The last resistance in the Losheim Gap, has ended. ’
2047 CG, 106th ID to his Staff: ‘I have decided to call and suggest to the CG, VIII Corps, that I withdraw my forward regiments.’
2100 XO, CCB 7th AD to Gen. Clarke: ‘We’ve just got a hard copy from First Army of the movement plans for the 7th AD. The division will be using two routes of march: an east route through Aachen, Eupen, Malmedy and Recht.
2130 First Army Hqs. to Gen. Middleton the CG, VIII Corps : ‘The west column of the 7th AD will begin arriving at St. Vith at 0700, 17 Dec. The entire division will be there by 1900 hours, 17 Dec.’
2143 CG, 106th ID Phone conversation with CG, VIII Corps: ‘Maj. Spieler overhears Gen. Jones explain the situation to Gen. Middleton and discuss the advisability of withdrawing the forward units. The phone connection is very poor and contact is broken several times during the conversation. When the phone call ends, Gen. Jones says: "Well that’s it. Middleton says we should leave them."
2220 CG, VIII Corps, Phone call to CG, 106th ID: ‘Realize your situation and I am sending you the 7th Armored Division. Combat Command B of the 7th AD will be at St. Vith by 0700 hours on the 17th. The rest of the 7th AD will be there shortly after CCB gets there.’
2230 CO, 14th Cav Gp: ‘The units of the 18th Cav are as per my message of 1728 hours. Estimated enemy casualties for 16 Dec. are 600 KIA and 1,200 WIA. These figures do not include casualties caused by U.S. arty after 1200 hours. Known friendly casualties for the 18th Cav are at least two officers KIA, twenty enlisted men and NCOs are WIA. Twenty officers, 134 soldiers are missing in action. The last figures include all personnel at Roth and Kobscheid. I’ve not heard from them for several hours and assume that they’ve been overrun.’
2240 Corps Info Message: ‘Enemy has crossed the Our River in the 28th ID sector and most U.S. units are cut-off and isolated. Clerf and Marnach are still in friendly hands, but the situation is changing rapidly.’
2300 12th Army Group, Periodic Intelligence report, 2300 hours, 16 Dec.: "The sudden attacks and seemingly overpowering array of six enemy divisions . . . should not be misinterpreted. The quality of divisions involved, the piecemeal efforts . . . and the apparent lack of long-range objectives . . . seem to limit the enemy threat . . . the day ’s events cannot be regarded as a major long-term threat."
2315 CO, 592d FA Bn.: ‘The battalion is moving, except for one gun section and several vehicles of Battery A destroyed by enemy direct fire. The Battery Commander, Capt. Genero M. Mondragon, refused to leave his wounded and was either killed or captured.’
2332 Intelligence Report # 6, 106th ID: "Cloudy period, drizzle tonight, breaks in clouds at mid-day, shower late in afternoon, visibility poor in fog, becoming three miles in mid-morning, winds South/Southwest 13 MPH, max temp 42 degrees, min temp 38 degrees."
2333 Annex # 1, to Intel. Report # 6: ‘Fifty eight, enemy prisoners were interrogated. They were members of: the 62d Volksgrenadier Div; the 116th Panzer Div; and the 18th Volksgrenadier Div.’
2334 Annex # 2, to Intel. Report # 6: Supplementary Interrogation
Report: "of CO, 2d Bn. 183d Inf. Regt., 62d VG Div., prisoner considers the attack a failure since the losses of the Germans were extremely heavy and most objectives were not reached."
2335 Annex # 3, to Intel. Report # 6.: Translation of Captured Document
"Soldiers of the West Front! Your great hour has arrived. Large attacking armies have started against the Anglo-Americans. I do not have to tell you anything more than that. You feel it yourself. We gamble everything! You carry with you the holy obligation to give everything to achieve things beyond human possibilities for, Our Fatherland and Our Fuhrer! Signed, VonRunstedt, G in C West, General Field Marshall."
Intel. Report # 6, 106th ID: "The enemy can pinch off Schnee Eifel area by employing one VG division plus armor in the 14th Cav Gp, sector and one VG division plus armor in the 423d Inf. sector at any time."
2345 CO, 423d Inf.: ‘Commo is terrible and I can only make contact with you on a hit-or-miss basis. I don’t have contact with 422 or 424. I’ve used my reserves but I will continue to hold my positions until I receive orders from you telling me differently! What is the situation of the 28th Div on our right?’
2346 G-3, 106th ID to CO, 423d Inf.: The 28th ID is still holding.’
2350 Corps Info. Message: ‘The following was announced over radio
"Our troops are again on the march. We shall present the Fuhrer with Antwerp by Christmas."
(William L. Howard)
At 0530 XLVII Corps began a 30 minute preparation which was not as effective as desired in that it stopped while the infantry was still well short of the American positions. Because his wire was shot out by the German preparation, Colonel Harvey Fuller, commander of the 110th, could not reach either of his battalions; Field Artillery radios, however, continued to function. However, first word of the German attack reached Colonel Fuller's headquarters at 0615. He was able to get a warning message to division headquarters by about 0900.
As the morning passed German strength west of the Our River increased. Despite this, in many places, soldiers of the 110th Infantry held their positions in the towns and villages. Several counter attacks were executed by elements of the 110th Infantry and the attached 707th Tank Battalion. The skillful defence, both position and mobile, slowed the German attack. In no place did it reach the objectives set for the first day.
The 28th Infantry Division had suffered 6,184 casualties in the Hurtgen Forest during the period 2-15 November. If we consider that the rifle companies of the division had taken 90% of those casualties then on average each had taken more than 200 casualties or more than 100% of their strength.
The soldiers who had become casualties had been replaced by soldiers delivered by the much maligned United States Army replacement system. These replacements were soldiers good enough to seriously delay the German XLVII Panzer Corps and to keep it from reaching its first day objectives. These American soldiers were the products of a replacement system that has been unfavorably compared to the German system. It appears that the system performed effectively and delivered courageous soldiers to units where they performed their duty skillfully as they had been trained to do in the United States. Generalmajor Heinz Kokott, commander of the 26th VG Division, described the situation at the end of 16 December. In no Army are the actions described by General Kokott performed by unskilled soldiers.
"At the end of the first day of the attack, the objectives contemplated by the Army and aimed for by the troops were reached nowhere. East of the Clerf River, the slopes of which should actually have been reached by the initial tank spearheads, American elements still put up a desperate battle, less for space but for time.! The lines of the 28th US Division had been pierced, their positions and strong points had been routed, the enemy had suffered heavy and bloody losses and had to give up tanks, equipment, weapons and prisoners - but what had not been expected to such an extent was the fact that the remnants of the beaten units did not give up the battle. They stayed put and continued to block the road. Fighting a delaying battle - supported by armored and other motor vehicles. Individual groups time and again confronted the assault detachments of the attacking units at dominating heights, at defiles, on both sides of gullies and on forest paths; they let the attacking parties run into their fire, engaged them in a fire duel, made evading movements with great skill and speed and then conducted unexpected counterthrusts into flanks and rear. The characteristic of the terrain presented many opportunities for a mobile, skilled and flexible opponent.
"This day had shown that, after the forward enemy positions had been smashed and a breakthrough had been made into the depth of the defence zone, a forward march - even by the infantry - would be out of the question. The infantry actually would have to "fight" its way forward. Time and again the attacker was faced with the alternative: Either to crack down the enemy by a tedious system of fire duels or else to by-pass him in wide arcs in steep, difficult and muddy terrain. Both methods would absorb much time, the former more blood, the latter incredible physical hardships.
"Decisive for the first day of fighting - and in some sense also of influence for the further developments - was the stubborn defence of Hosingen which blocked the most important road and which made difficult and rendered impossible all concentrated efforts for supply."
The German Army had underestimated its opponent. (Jay Stone)
(Contributions also from Will O'Neil)
GERMANY: U-2535, U-2536 launched.
AUSTRIA: USAAF Fifteenth Air Force B-24 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses hit the following targets: 150 bomb the Main marshalling yard (M/Y) at Innsbruck, 19 bomb the Hermann Göring benzine oil plant at Linz and 20 bomb targets of opportunity.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA: USAAF Fifteenth Air Force B-24 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses attack the following targets: 301 bomb a synthetic oil plant at Brux, 111 hit the Skoda armament plant at Pilsen and 20 others attack targets of opportunity. P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs escort the bombers.
ITALY: Faenza falls to units of the British V Corps.
British Field Marshal Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander becomes Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater (AFHQ), replacing Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson, who becomes head of British Joint Staff Mission in Washington, D.C., succeeding the late Field Marshal John Dill. U.S. Lieutenant General Mark Clark assumes command of the Allied Armies in Italy, redesignated the 15th Army Group, and is replaced as head of U.S. Fifth Army by Lieutenant General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.
In the British Eighth Army area, the Pol II Corps continues to clear the region east of the Senio River on the left flank of the army. In the V Corps area, the Indian 43d Brigade, operating with the New Zealand 2d Division and with the specific purpose of clearing Faenza, does so with ease. The New Zealand 2d Division reaches the Senio River and the Indian 10th Division takes Pergola.
Bad weather grounds USAAF Twelfth Air Force medium bombers. XXII Tactical Air Command fighter-bombers hit occupied buildings and guns in the battle zone south of Bologna, continue attacks on the Brenner rail line effecting 16 rail cuts, hit and set aflame three vessels in La Spezia drydock, and blast several railroad bridges north of the battle area.
YUGOSLAVIA: Fifty one RAF bombers of No. 205 (Heavy Bomber) Group attack tactical targets at Matesevo.
GREECE: British General Scobie publishes the text of the Caserta agreement. This document, signed on 26 September, has the promise of the communists to work with the established government.
INDIAN OCEAN: British naval aircraft attack Japanese oil installations at Belawan-Deli on Sumatra.
CHINA: Learning from Brigadier General Frank Dorn, the U.S. adviser to ALPHA forces, that the Chinese 57th Army is refusing to move to defend Kunming, Major General Robert B. McClure, Chief of Staff US Forces US China Theater of Operations, protests to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and part of the army is flown to the Kunming area. Few of the Chinese forces are in place as planned to stop the Japanese short of Kunming. The Chinese Communist leader Chou En-lai terminates negotiations between Nationalist and Communist Chinese.
BURMA: During the British offensive, the 33 Mountain Battery, Indian Artillery, in which Havildar Umrao Singh is a field-gun detachment commander, is subjected to a sustained bombardment from Japanese 75mm guns and heavy mortars for one and a half hours, immediately before their gun positions are attacked by two companies of Japanese infantry. Twice wounded by grenades during the first assault, Singh fought off the enemy with the detachment's Bren light-machinegun while directing the rifle fire of the gun crew.
The second Japanese attack killed all the crew other than two members and himself, but was nevertheless beaten off. When the third assault came only a few rounds of small-arms ammunition remained and this was quickly used. With his last shot gone Singh seized a “gun bearer” — a heavy crowbar-like rod used for turning the gun trail — and closed with the attacking Japanese. He led the two surviving gun-crew members in hand-to-hand fighting until they were overwhelmed. He was seen to strike down three enemy infantrymen before falling under a rain of blows to the head.
Six hours later, after a counter-attack recovered the battery position, Singh was found unconscious beside his field-gun and almost unrecognisable from head wounds. Ten Japanese dead lay around him. (VC) (Daniel Ross)
In the Northern Combat Area Command (NCAC) area, the U.S. 124th Cavalry Regiment (Special) moves forward from the Myitkyina area toward Bhamo to join in the action.
In the British Fourteenth Army's IV Corps area, Pinlebu and Banmauk fall to the Indian 19th Division. From Banmauk, a patrol reaches Indaw and makes contact with the British 36th Division, NCAC.
Four USAAF Tenth Air Force P-47 Thunderbolts support U.S. ground forces near Tonkwa while locomotives, storage areas, buildings, personnel, and areas of Japanese activity are attacked at Se-eng, Nanponpon, Kangon, Winghsa, Inywa, Molo, and Mabein. .
COMMONWEALTH OF THE PHILIPPINES: US forces mount air strikes against Japanese air fields on various islands in response to Japanese air strikes on US shipping. The US landing force on Mindoro consolidates the perimeter while construction on the air field continues.
Tacloban: MacArthur is promoted to a five-star general.
The 7,000 ton Japanese freighter SS Oryoku Maru is being used to transport some 1,619 American POWs, mostly officers, to Japan. Marched through the streets of Manila from the Bilibid POW Camp to Pier 7 for boarding, the prisoners are crammed into the holds, standing room only. Also on board are around 700 civilians plus 100 crew and 30 Japanese guards. Already overloaded, the SS Oryoku Maru then takes on about 1,000 Japanese seamen, survivors of ships sunk in Manila Harbor. She is spotted on her next day out at sea by USN planes from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-19) and attacked. Oryoku Maru sails into Subic Bay and is run aground to prevent her sinking. The attack continues over a period of two days in which 286 US soldiers are killed. The survivors, numbering 925, who are forced to swim ashore, are then transported by truck and train to San Fernando and thence to other ships, SS Enoura Maru and SS Brazil Maru. The SS Brazil Maru, which also carrie s a cargo of 12,000 bags of sugar, sails for Japan on 14 January 1945. Conditions on board are indescribable, hundreds dying on the way from the cold, lack of air and water. On arrival at Moji, Japan, two weeks later, only 475 are alive. Of these, 161 die within the first month ashore. Of the original 1,619 Americans on board the SS Oryoku Maru, around 300 had died. In a period of just over six weeks American submarines had killed over 4,000 Allied POWs.
On Leyte, the airfield in Tanauan area becomes operational. In the U.S. Sixth Army's XXIV Corps area, the 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, starts eastward along the Talisayan River bank toward the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division. While the 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division, takes Cogon and clears that area, the 307th Infantry Regiment pushes toward Valencia, reaching San Jose.
On Luzon, the USN Third Fleet continues air attacks and in the evening starts eastward to refuel. In three days of continuous patrol, TF 38 aircraft have destroyed an estimated 208 Japanese aircraft on the ground and 72 in the air; U.S. losses are 27 to the Japanese and 38 in operational accidents.
On Mindoro during this and the next few days, action is limited to patrolling in the beachhead area and organizing defenses about the airfield perimeter. The Japanese continue air attacks on shipping but the USN Seventh Fleet detachments sail for Leyte.
Major operations of the USAAF Far East Air Forces include B-24 Liberator strikes on Padada Airfield on Mindanao Island and Puerto Princesa Airfield on Palawan Island. B-25 Mitchells, A-20 Havocs, and fighter-bombers attack airfields and targets of opportunity in the central Philippine Islands
VOLCANO ISLANDS: During the night of 16/17 December, three USAAF Seventh Air Force B-24 Liberators from Guam and Saipan fly individual snooper strikes against Iwo Jima.
U.S.A.: "Don't Fence Me In" by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters reaches Number 1 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in the U.S. The song is from the motion picture "Hollywood Canteen" starring Bette Davis, John Garfield, Joan Leslie, Dane Clark plus Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Barbara Stanwyck, Eddie Cantor, Jack Carson, Eleanor Parker and Alexis Smith. This song, which debuted on the charts on 25 November 1944, was charted for 21 weeks, was Number 1 for 8 weeks and was ranked Number 3 for the year 1944.
Washington: George C. Marshall is promoted to the rank of General of the Army.
Heavy cruiser USS Cambridge laid down.
Submarine USS Torsk commissioned.
Minesweeper USS Tercel launched.
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