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US Army

German Breakthrough V Corps Sector

German Breakthrough V Corps Sector
 
The 2nd Battalion was about 1000 yards north of “heart-break corner” (Walherscheid, Germany, crossroad) on the 17th of December after attacking through the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 9th Infantry.  While in holding positions here after organizing the positions, the battalion received orders to move to the south and defend the towns of Rocherath-Krinkelt from enemy attack.  The move to the south started at about 1830 hours on the 17th of December, and the battalion moved south along the main road into the towns named.  “E” Company formed the rear guard for the move to the south.  After repelling an enemy counterattack of about company in strength with mortar and artillery fire, contact with the enemy was broken easily and the whole battalion was covered in its withdrawal. 
 
The order of withdrawal was “F”, “G”, and “E” Companies with a platoon from “E” forming the rear guard.  “G” Company was then employed in the defense of a road block along the route of withdrawal.  This block had been constructed by the engineers.  “G” Company with some tank destroyers in support assumed positions along the MSR (Main Supply Route) on the east and west sides of the road. 
 
At about 2200 hours, “F” Company moved into an assembly area at the crossroad (95.5-06.2) where heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire fell on the company.  “F” Company remained in this position at the crossroad with both of its left and right flanks cutting the main supply route. 
 
“E” Company continued south along the MSG and set up a defense between the MSR and the road on its right flank.  Captain Farrell returned to the “G” Company road block at about 2015 hours, to relieve “G” Company from that mission and to place it in a perimeter defensive position around the Regimental CP.  “G” Company moved out from the road block in a column of twos behind Captain Farrell on one side of the road, and Captain Joseph E. Skaggs, the “G” Company commander, on the other.  Along the route of advance, the column passed the “C” Company position and a voice from the “C” Company area yelled, “Get the hell out of there or be cut to ribbons.”  No second warning was required and the men hit the ditches on both sides of the road.  Farrell and Skaggs made a quick reconnaissance and determining that the route was not safe to travel set off with “G” Company following across country to a RJ (Road junction) just north of Regiment.  Here there was a fight in the dark with a force of enemy of unknown strength.  The enemy infantry was driven off and the company set up a defense around the regimental command post. 
 
Company “G” remained in this perimeter defense during the night of 17/18 December, during which time small groups of the enemy got through to the CP and were disposed of there.  The following morning, “G” Company was ordered to aid in the relief of the 1st Battalion CP to the south and to clean out the area to the south and west of it. 
 
The plan that was evolved was that one platoon from “G” Company would move down each of the two NE-SW roads leading from the Regimental CP to the 1st Battalion.  Three tanks were to assist each of the two infantry platoons and a light machine gun section was to cover the ground between the two.  At 0800 hours, “G” Company started out on its assigned mission and had moved part of the way down the road when, at 0830 hours, the mission was canceled and the company again set up a defense around the Regimental CP.  When Captain Farrell returned to regiment he found that an armored threat in the “E” Company vicinity was appearing to endanger the Regimental CP. 
 
Farrell went to “E” Company at about 1030 hours to find that the company had been forced to fall back from its original area to new positions.  Shortly after Captain Farrell arrived at the “E” Company area the company commander, Captain Allen A. McElroy, was wounded and evacuated.  Captain Farrell assumed command of “E” Company on the spot. 
 
There were no anti-tank weapons in “E” Company.  The AT guns with the company had been knocked out by the enemy earlier and the T/E bazookas either didn’t work or were knocked out.  This placed “E” Company in a precarious position from the standpoint of withstanding enemy armored attack.  As soon as the threat that had been imminent when Captain Farrell went forward abated, he had “E” Company reorganize and occupy a line forward of the one they had fallen back to.  They remained in these positions until about 1600 hours.  The US tanks in the vicinity were battling it out with the enemy armor.  The tankers the enemy was employing behaved liked crazy men, sitting in the open on the decks of the tanks while the US infantry shot them off with rifle fire almost at will.  Except for occasional gaps, the smoke from buildings coupled with the fog that was on the ground obscured the enemy, but there was enough visibility to aid the defenders in sniping enemy that appeared over their sights. 
 
At about 1600 hours, acting on a hunch, and on the knowledge that the enemy had time to locate the defense to the last inch, Captain Farrell pulled his men under the cover of dusk to the positions.  He picked up a part of a platoon from “L” Company and part from “B” Company of the 38th Infantry and with some stragglers from the 23rd Infantry, put them in position on the left flank of “E” Company to aid in the defense.  The entire group began digging in at once. 
 
At about 2100 hours, on the 18th December, Captain Farrell received a report that enemy tanks were active in the front of the company positions and being about 100 yards from the US troops, were too close for the effective safe use of artillery.  The reported tanks came into the area from which Captain Farrell had but recently displaced his men and overran the ground, churning the entire area into a sea of mud with their tracks.  Apparently to survey the results of this maneuver the enemy tanks turned on their spotlights and shone them in the area they had churned up.  The spotlights lighted the new positions of the company and its attachments, and the tanks started toward the new area.  They overran the platoon of “B” Company that has already been described and a part of the “E” Company platoon that was on the left flank.  Captain Farrell called the Battalion CP, telling them that he had no way of stopping the enemy tanks and that he would “wave them on” in the CP direction for disposal there, Colonel Norris at the CP said that he too, had nothing with which to stop the tanks and that he would wave them on back to Regiment.  The enemy tanks went through the “E” Company positions and fortunately, instead of continuing toward the US rear, they turned to their left (southwest) and went back toward the German lines.  There were no more armored attacks that night. 
 
The next morning at daylight an estimated platoon of enemy infantry attempted to get through the American lines.  The “E” Riflemen held their fire until the troops were within 50 or 75 yards of the company, and then opened up with everything at hand.  Most of the enemies were casualties the rest of them fled. 
 
At about 1630 hours on the 18th of December, “G” Company exception of one platoon that was left attached to the First Battalion, set up around the crossroad where the 2nd Battalion, CP was located.  The positions occupied by “G” Company faced to the west and were designated to repel attacks from that direction.  This company had no activity until about 0500 hours on the 19th of December when an infantry attack was launched by the enemy from the northeast.  “F” and “G” Companies’ right beat off this enemy attack.  The Germans then re-formed and attacked again, this time along the west side of the road running through the company.  The enemy apparently thought they were attacking the rear of “F” Company, but instead, hit the front of “G” Company.  The Company men waited until the enemy was within 15 or 20 yards of the company positions and opened up with a deadly valley of fire.  About 40 enemy dead were counted in the front of the company. 
 
“F” Company had moved south to positions on the east of the Battalion CP when the withdrawal from Wahlerscheid was effected.  The company set up defenses on the east of the crossroad and held there until late on the evening of 18 December at the time that “E” Company was moving to retake the crossroad to the east of the battalion CP that had been relinquished to enemy by “B” and Service Companies the night before.  This attempt took place at the time that the 9th Infantry’s elements were being driven back from their vigorously defended positions.  The nature of the terrain eliminated the possibility of an attack on the enemy’s flanks and “F” Company was forced to launch a frontal attack again him.  “F” Company caught Hell.  The enemy came in before “F” got set, attacking with tanks and an estimated two battalions of infantry before “F” Company could prepare to beat them off.  The positions that “F” Company had reached when the enemy attack struck them were not suitable for the defense and “F” Company was forced back a hedgerow at a time to its originally held position.  “F” Company suffered considerably in casualties as the result of this engagement. 
 
The order to withdraw was received by Captain Farrell at 1725 hours on the 19th of December.  The order called for the withdrawal to begin at 1730 hours, Captain Farrell arrived at his Company CP to get the already delayed withdrawal started. 
 
The retrograde movement was a masterpiece executed as it was under continuous enemy fire.  The companies pulled out in the order in which they, were emplaced from north to south, “G” Company started the move, followed by “F” and “E” Companies in turn.  The orders had included a prohibition of the use by the company commanders of the world, “withdrawal.”  The men were told that they were to move to previously prepared positions on better ground; that the interval between men was to be carefully observed, and that under no circumstance way any man to move faster than ak.  The instructions further covered the possibility of anyone’s becoming lost and instructions were given as the course to follow in such a case. 
 
The withdrawal to the prepared positions was accomplished in a very orderly way.  Some 200 to 300 rounds of nebelwerfer fire landed in the general area, but the Battalion came out unscathed. 
 
The prepared positions to which the men moved were not full-depth holes.  That had not been the plan.  Captain Farrell said, that from a tactical standpoint, the location of the defensive positions was the best he had ever seen.  Captain Farrell said that the most prevalent reaction of the men to the mass withdrawal was one of chagrin.  They felt that as the Rocherath-Krinkelt positions were organized, they could be held indefinitely. 
 
The weather during the battle was as bad an enemy as the Germans.  It was wet and cold, bitterly cold.  The men fought for three nights without blankets and some of them didn’t even have overcoats. 
 
When they weren’t digging, the men spent the whole of the first night after the withdrawal warming and rubbing their feet.  The snow during the whole of the fight was two to eight inches in depth which added to the extreme discomfort of the troops.  The only concession that could be made to the weather was the rotation of the men into warm (comparatively) houses so that at least, they might have something to which to look forward. 
 
Francis H Phelps, Jr
Captain, F.A., HQ 
Source: Bulge Bugle August 2005

Submitted by William L. DUDAS

Company "G"

38th Infantry Regiment

2nd Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium