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US Army

Activity of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Bn During the Bulge

Activity of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Bn During the Bulge

Document N.A.R.A. 1945
The 30th Infantry Division was holding down an extended front, from Schaufenberg to Wurselen, Germany.  A strong counterattack could be expected against the entire length of it.  Rumors began to permeate through the lines, too, of a Sixth SS Panzer Army which was being formed East of the Roer.
A 3” Gun from 823rd TD Bn in October 1944 in Germany
On 16 December 1944, two flight of FW 190’s passed over Hoengen without creating too much suspicion.  During the night the Luftwaffe displayed its greatest strength in months.  Bombs were dropped at frequent intervals all over the area.  Roads were strafed.  There was an evident attempt to sever communications and supply routes.  The following morning, word came through that von Rundstedt had pierce the American lines in the Ardennes, and that the enemy had made considerable progress in a full scale counter offensive.
To reinforce the V Corps, and to help seal the gap that had been torn in the U.S. front, the 30th Infantry Division, and the 823rdrd Tank Destroyer Battalion, were relieved from attachment to the XII Corps, Ninth U.S. Army, and attached to the V Corps, First U.S. Army.  Within five hours after this emergency transfer had taken place, all units, under Battalion control, were on the march.
The convoy weaved it way South, through Aachen, Germany, to the vicinity of Eupen, Belgium.  It was a cold, dark night.  No one knows what to anticipate. The Germans helped light the road with flares.  Their aircraft hovered constantly overhead.  American ack ack, which had for long been silent at night, opened up a furious assault against all attempts to intercept the convoy.  But, a new apparition also streaked through the sky omitting a raucous, unfamiliar sound. It was the new enemy weapons – a robot bomb – V-1.
Upon arriving at its destination, the entire Battalion was attached to the second Battalion, 119th Infantry Regiment.  Direct fire positions were assumed at once.  They were changed later in the night, and Company “C” was attached to the 117th Regimental Combat Team which had been ordered to move on to Malmedy, Belgium.  At 100 hours, 18 December 1944, Company “A” was attached to the 119th Regimental Combat Team, and proceeded in the direction of Stoumont.  Company “B”, with the 120th Regimental Combat Team, took up a position on the Southern outskirts of Stavelot.
The situation was extremely fluid.  A thick blanket of snow covered the entire area. It was bitter cold.  The enemy was utilizing captured American equipment and clothing. Paratroopers were dropped behind the lines to add to the uncertainty, and the confusion.  Higher headquarters reported that Malmedy had been taken by the Germans; and, friendly aircraft bombed the town for three consecutive days.  The only casualties were the occupying American troops, and the hapless civilians.  The enemy failed to make any further progress in this direction once the 117th Infantry Regiment, and Company “C” of the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, had arrived upon the scene.
When the enemy tried to break through, East and West of Stavelot, on the afternoon of 18 December 1944, Company “C” accounted for three Mark V’s, two personnel carriers, from eight to ten Mark VI’s hit and probably destroyed, and an additional Mark V listed as probable.  An enemy one-quarter ton truck and halftrack were also demolished.
In order to centralize control of the sector, the Battalion was assigned control over some light tanks and wreckers of the 7th Armored Division.  Before daylight of 19 December 1944, German armor was heard maneuvering outside of Stoumont.  In the darkness and fog there was practically no visibility.  The infantry refused to grant permission for the firing of flares.  As the pressure increased the foot soldiers were forced to withdraw, and the TD gunners found themselves outflanked.  Small arms and machine gun fire became intense.  One Mark VI was knocked out by an “A” Company gun; and, the foe (enemy) was halt off for some time. However, all of the guns were finally neutralized with most of the personnel getting away to the North of Stoumont.  Company “A”’s first and third platoons then withdrew to Remouchamps, Belgium, for reorganization while the second platoon remained in position North of the town.  Company “C” continued killing Germans, and destroying their equipment East of Stavelot.  Five Mark VI’s, one halftrack SP75, and a weapons carrier were among the booty.
On 20 December 1944, the 30th Infantry Division along with the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion were transferred to the XVIII Corps Airborne.  Elements of the 31st Tank Battalion serving with the 823rd Tank Destroyer were released from this assignment to return to their own organization.  The defense became stabilized and held fast.  A light German counterattack in the early hours of 21 December 1944, was repulsed with the destruction of a Mark VI, and a quarter-ton truck full of soldiery.  At 0600 hours, enemy infantry attacked in greater strength, with substantial tank support, between the boundaries of the 117th and the 120th Infantry Regiments.
It was impossible to see the foe (enemy) because of the fog and meager light.  When some of the infantry units had to withdraw, the second platoon of Company “B” put all of their guns out of commission, and took up positions from which they could fight the enemy with small arms.  Later in the day, several of the guns were reoccupied and placed back into operation against the foe (enemy).  Battalion Command Post and rear echelon personnel fought with the infantry and helped man defensive weapons.  The third platoon of Company “C” alone knocked out a Mark VI, a Sherman tank and an M-10 that the Germans had captured and were using, and two other tanks which were either Mark V’s or Mark VI’s.  Company “B” accounted for two more after knocking off a corner of a building in order to expose the hidden armor.  One of the latter was a German Tiger Tank that had been camouflaged to resemble an M-10.
The “A” Company, Second platoon and the First Reconnaissance Platoon, led by 1st Lieutenant Joe H. Bruton Jr, were recognized for their heroic defense of the sector with the Presidential Unit Citation.  It was the second such award won by the Company “A” Platoon.
On 22 December 1944, the 30th Infantry Division and the 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion were relieved from attachment with the First United States Army, and re-assigned to the Ninth Army.  They remained in action, however, with the First Army.
The anti-tank defenses were strengthened materially by the arrival of two AAA Battalions, the 110th and the 143rd.  These units comprised thirty-two 90mm guns, as well as innumerable 40mm Bofors, quad 50’s, and other weapons.  The 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion was detailed the responsibility for planning and placing these gun positions.  Three Mark V’s, and an enemy aircraft, fell victim to their prowess in short order.
The German threat to the North flank of the line had now been obviated.  It was securely held.  Company “A” formed a roadblock East of Stoumont, and also helped to protect the Stoumont-La Gleize highway from the North and the South.  It cooperated with Task Force Harrison (3rd Armored Division) in the sensational re-capture of both towns.  When La Gleize was re-taken, Captain Crissinger and eight Company “A” enlisted men were freed.  Three 3 inch guns, two halftracks, a quarter ton and a one and one-half ton truck were also recovered.  150 armored vehicles, in all, were captured in the bold maneuver which also released many of the personnel that had been seized by the enemy in the initial stages of its last supreme effort to stave off the inevitability of defeat.
In the center of “The Bulge” von Rundstedt’s drive had made considerable progress, almost reaching Liege, Belgium, to the North, and the Meuse River, to the West.  But the flanks held. And, unable to extend its front, the German strategy failed.  It now began to fall backward as the terrific toll of his men and armor expended the force of the blow.  Christmas, 1944, was a rather quiescent period on the Western Front.  The day was clear but bitter cold.  An excellent turkey dinner helped ease the rigors of the tactical situation. American aircraft continued to bomb too close – and often mistook their objectives.  The men feared our own planes as much as they did the enemy.
Concern was also caused by the robot bombs that scared through the air with increasing regularity.  Malmedy was on the direct route of the missile’s objective. Aimed to hit Liege, Belgium, they occasionally fell short with a deafening detonation that shook the earth for miles around.  Although the enemy foot troops had been routed artillery shelling remained heavy throughout the sector.
Toward the end of the year the threat had almost dissipated itself.  “The Bulge” began to shrink.  The Battalion took some time out for reorganization and re-equipment.  Reconnaissance Company was organized with Captain Curtis as its commanding officer.  The two AAA Battalions were released from TD control.  More M-10’s were acquired by the Battalion, and it was now almost completely self-propelled.
The advent of the New Year witnessed the last large scale attempt of the Luftwaffe to hamper the mounting American counter offensive.  Now, our own artillery began to take up the challenge. 155mm howitzers maintained a steady stream of fire upon the enemy from nearby positions.  On 8 January 1945, Company “C”, 772nd Tank Destroyer Battalion, was attached to the 823rd Tank Destroyer for employment in the sector held by the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  The unit assumed responsibility for the sector of the 424th Infantry Regiment, on 9 January 1945, and completed reorganization of its anti-tank defenses in the Division zone.  Sporadic shelling was received without damage.  The following few days were spent in consolidating positions, regrouping, and maintaining an active defense.
In order to get into position for renewal of the attack, Company “B” deployed one platoon in the vicinity of Waimes, and, another, near Thirimont. Company “A” third platoon was used for direct fire support.  Assisting to repulse a strong enemy counterattack from Thirimont – to the West – Company “B” first platoon destroyed a Mark IV tank.
The attack gained momentum on 15 January 1945, when the entire 30th Infantry Division jumped off from its Line of Departure South of Malmedy with the mission of seizing and holding the high ground West of St Vith, and gaining contact with friendly troops on the West flank.  The operation was conducted under most hazardous conditions.  The terrain was rough and heavily wooded.  Snow covered the roads and concealed the mines which the enemy had planted.  A tenacious enemy held on grimly.  Among the defenders of Thirimont was the seasoned 3rd Paratroop Division.
The first platoon of “B” Company led the way. It fired every round in its possession during the frenzied assault, reduced all resistance in the town, and was credited with killing about 800 of the enemy.  Scores surrendered to the infantry.  Three more Mark IV’s were put out of action.  Lieutenant Malcomsen was killed in action by a sniper as he personally led his M-10’s into the attack.  The “C” Company third platoon knocked out an additional Mark IV, during the attack on Rott, when Corporal Harvey B. Flammer fired at opposing gun flashes on the distant side of the ridge.
With these strong points attained, the 30th Division pushed on to its final objectives, clearing all of the approaches into St Vith, so that friendly armor could come in and take possession of the town.
The 823rd Tank Destroyer Battalion, along with the 30th Infantry Division, were then granted a short respite.  They were relieved from the line, and the 823rd withdrew to position in Bihain, Regne and Fraiture, to begin a very welcome period of rest, maintenance, and reorganization.  Despite inclement weather which developed into near-blizzard proportions the men were grateful for the opportunity of cleaning up and obtaining some relaxation.
Released from attachment to the XVIII Corps Airborne, on 2 February 1945, the Battalion once more reverted to XII Corps control.  Back to Aachen, Germany, went the troops – out of the frigid and mountainous Ardennes to the more flat and level country of the Cologne Plain.
Source:Document N.A.R.A. 1945
Lt Col Sidney DETTMER

Commanding Officer

823rd Tank Destroyer



Battle of the Bulge,