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The "Thunderbolts" in Belgium in the Battle of the Bulge

The "Thunderbolts" in Belgium,

in the Battle of the Bulge

The outbreak of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest on December 16, 1944 found the 11th Armored Division in transit between England and France.  Having embarked from Southampton on December 15, 1944 for the French coast, the entire Division did not reach Cherbourg until December 17, 1944 -- at which time it was assigned to head south and to contain the enemy in the area of St. Nazaire and Lorient. 

Into the Fray 

But due to the effects of von Rundstedt's German Counter-Offensive in the Ardennes, the Division was ordered to halt its southern movement on December 20, 1944, and to turn north towards Reims.  The Division immediately moved toward the Meuse River, with orders to defend a 30-mile sector from Givet to Sedan in the capacity of a mobile reserve. 
 
The Division arrived at the combat zone on December 23, 1944 after a break-neck march of 500 miles, and was immediately assigned to the VIII Corps of General Patton's Third Army.  The Division subsequently moved to the vicinity of the southern border of Belgium. 

The Chenogne Rechrival Valley Engagement 

The Division crossed into Belgium on December 29, 1944, and made its way north to the vicinity of Neufchateau.  On December 30, 1944, the Division attacked north-east from Neufchateau toward Houffalize against strong opposition from the German 15th Panzer Grenadier Division (of the famed Afrika Corps).  The Division then engaged the German 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division and the elite Remer Brigade as it fought through the towns of Chenogne and Acul on December 31, 1944, Rechrival on January 1, 1945, and Senonchamps on January 2, 1945. 
 
By these actions, the 11th Armored Division successfully defended the Neufchateau Highway in the face of fierce enemy combat -- thus saving this vital link with the besieged city of Bastogne and preventing the supply lines to Bastogne from being cut off by the German Army. 

In Reserve 

From January 3, 1945, the division maintained roadblocks and patrols in the areas which it had liberated, reconnoitered for tank and infantry positions in enemy-controlled territory, and rendered support to the 87th Infantry Division, the 17th Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division. 

The Bertogne-Houffalize Engagement 

 On January 13, 1945, the Division began its second offensive against the German Army in Belgium.  The Division attacked north against the 130th Panzer "Lehr" Division, the 9th Panzer Division, and the 26th Volksgrenadier Division, and enveloped Bertogne.  The Division then attacked Velleroux on January 15, 1945 against fierce opposition from the 27th Volksgrenadier Division.
 
On January 16, 1945, the 11th Armored Division stormed Velleroux, and made the historic juncture with the First Army at Houffalize.  This action effectively halted the German Army by containing the "Bulge" that the Germans had created in the Allied lines in the Ardennes Forest on December 16, 1944. 
 
The Division then assumed responsibility for the Hardigny - Bourcy line on January 18, 1945.  It continued its advance through Belgium in the wake of German withdrawals from January 20, 1945, until it crossed the Belgian border into northern Luxembourg on January 22, 1945. 
 
Due to their lightening-fast march across France into Belgium to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, the men of the 11th Armored Division earned the name "Patton's Thunderbolts".  True to their nickname, the men of the Division thundered across the Ardennes section of Belgium -- striking down the enemy, liberating the Belgian people, and leaving the restoration of democracy in their wake. 
 
 
Patrick J. Kearney (11th Armored Division) with the Juncture Monument at Place de Janvier 45 in Houffalize, Belgium, May 26, 1995.
Photo Copyright © 1995, 2005 Patrick J. Kearney. All rights reserved. 
 
 Belgian plaque commemorating the link-up of the 11th Armored Division (Third U.S. Army) with the 2nd Armored and 84th Infantry Divisions (First U. S. Army) on the Juncture Monument at Place de Janvier 45 in Houffalize, Belgium, May 26, 1995.

Photo Copyright © 1995, 2005 Patrick J. Kearney.  All rights reserved.

 
 
 11th Armored Division Association plaque on the Juncture Monument at Place de Janvier 45 in Houffalize, Belgium, May 26, 1995.

Photo Copyright © 1995, 2005 Patrick J. Kearney. All rights reserved.

Source: Patrick J. Kearney, May 14, 1999 
 
Patrick J. KEARNEY

"A" Company

55th Armored Infantry Battalion

11th Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium