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US Army

Ardennes Campaign with 505th P.I.R.

Ardennes Campaign with 505th P.I.R.
As a squad leader in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division I was stationed in a French Army Barracks at Camp Suippes, Suippes Marne France.  We were quite comfortable and would have been content to sit out the rest of the war there.  The night of December 17-18, 1944 sometime after lights out, we were awakened out of a doze by Lieutenant Vande Vegt, Executive Officer of “I” Company.  We thought he was either drunk or had lost his mind.  He was sounding off about the Germans had broken through, and we were to move out before daylight.  By the time we were fully awake, we realized he was neither drunk nor kidding. 
We were up and dressed with half an hour.  Everyone got their combat gear together including un-authorized ordnance, mine being a Colt 45 I kept near my heart in combat.  (While in Naples, Italy I had a shoulder holster made, that worn under a jacket was practically undetectable.)  I slipped it under a blanket on my bunk.  One of the new men saw me hide it and asked if he could see it, I nodded yes.  Before I could stop him, he pulled the slide back popping a round in the chamber and pulled the trigger.  The bullet went thru my combat pants, the woolen O.D. pants beneath, but not thru my long-johns.  No harm done except it got Vande Vegt back in there.  Someone told him it was a fire cracker.  I did tell the shooter, that if he survived the operation, we had a date on our return.  My initial reaction to being endangered in combat or otherwise was fear, followed by violent anger.
We were issued “K” rations for two days, one fragmentation grenade and a bandoleer of ammunition.  We were assured we would get more before contacting the enemy.  We had no mortar or machine gun ammo and a bandoleer wouldn’t last a rifleman very long in a good fire-fight.
We loaded into semi-trailers and headed for Belgium.  This was early morning of 18 December.  It was a very cold ride; the semi-trailers had sides about four feet high with nothing covering the top.  Packed in like the proverbial sardine, we survived the ride.  We arrived at Werbomont, Belgium early morning 19 December.  We were issued more ammo and “K” rations prior to moving out to contact the enemy.  My Regiment commanded by Colonel William E. Ekman moved into Trois-Ponts.  We contacted some engineers who had remained in the town.  We drew occasional fire, but no major German forces had moved through.
The situation to the south towards Vielsalm was vague.  Reconnaissance was pushed in that direction.  By 16 hours, 20 December, Division contact had been established with the 1st SS Panzer Division at Cheneux.  Shortly before dark on 20 December the Regiments were in line left to right 504-505-508 Parachute infantry Regiments and the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment with one Battalion of the 325th in Division reserve.
At Trois-Ponts and extending down to Grand-Halleux, determined and well planned attacks with increasing strength were being repulsed on the thinly held line of the 505th Regiment.  Further south the 508th and 325th had no contact with the enemy.  By 21 December, the situation in the St Vith area was critical.  The town being attacked from several directions and there seemed little prospect of preventing it from being cut off.  On this date, only the narrow neck of land from Vielsalm to Salmchateau, held by the 82nd Airborne Division connected the St Vith forces with the remaining forces of the U.S., First Army.  Its retention would be decisive.
The 505 was having a very hard time with the remainder of the 1st SS Panzer Division.  The 505 had initially sent a covering force east of the Salm River in the vicinity of Trois-Ponts.  By sheer force of numbers this small force was driven to the river line where it held.  Being very much overextended the Regiment managed to hold.  By estimating the point of the German main effort, and moving all available infantry to that point beating off the attack.  This process was repeated day and night until the German attacks waned in their intensity.  The Division front at this time was 25,000 yards.  Riflemen were spread one to two hundred yards apart.
On 21 December, XVIII Airborne Corps commander Ridgway had instructed General Gavin 82nd Airborne Commanding Officer to make a reconnaissance of the Division area with a view of withdrawing after extricating the St Vith forces.  This would allow.
Source:Document received from William T Dunfee and dated October 10, 1985

By Sgt William T DUNFEE

  May.23, 2005


Company "I"

505th P.I.R.

82nd Airborne Division


Battle of the Bulge,