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My Job On December 24, 1944

My Job On December 24, 1944

 
After all these years, my mind grows dim, and my eyesight is nearly gone.   One has aptly said, "On the day of battle, truth walks stark naked, but on the next day, it takes on a dress rehearsal."
 
I had been in the 3rd Armored Division since activation 15 April 1941.  All of my service was in the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment.  General Maurice Rose commanded the 3rd Armored Division, and Colonel Robert L. Howze commanded the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment during the period of the Battle of the Bulge.  I was Executive Officer of the regiment and therefore, also of the Combat Command "R".  This Combat Command did not have a Combat Command headquarters and thus the Headquarters of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment had to double as the Headquarters of Combat Command "R".
 
Colonel Howze gave the orders.  He called upon me to see about some of the execution -- especially if it were not going satisfactorily.  I was to do what he told me to do -- or what I thought he would want me to do -- in an emergency.  Several emergencies developed.  One emergency was the Battle of the Belgian Bulge.
 
Having moved back from Germany to Hotton and Soy, Belgium on 19 December 1944, CCR Headquarters was established at Soy in a small hotel.  General Rose had only one-third of his division.  The balance was off under other commands.  Therefore, CCR was the bulk of what he had and he was in charge of the area in and around Soy, Hotton, Amonines, etc.  As a result, he was around CCR Headquarters often and was breathing down Col. Howze's neck.  Our orders were: "This area must be held at all cost and cleared of the enemy."   We faced some powerful troops including SS troops.
 
On 24 December 1944, we were in dire circumstances.  We had our Rear Headquarters and Headquarters Company at Hotton.  They were calling for help.  Captain John C. Anderson was commanding the company.  The 509th Parachute Battalion was sent to our relief and helped some.  We were relieved to hear that the 75th Infantry Division was assigned to come and help us.
 

The 75th Infantry Division could not have come at a better time for us, but not at a worse time for it.  The division had only been on the continent since early December 1944.  The 289th and 290th Regimental Combat Teams arrived late in the day -- I believe on 24 December.  The personnel were tired, seared and lacked information on the actual situation.  Frankly, we were uncertain of the enemy and their intentions.  With the enemy wearing some of our uniforms and using our vehicles, it was very difficult to know who to shoot.

 

I remember the commander was much disturbed about going into combat that night and under those circumstances.  However, Colonel Howze said, "Sorry, but it must be done."

 

As the action progressed, I remember that a gap developed between the 289th Regimental Combat Team and the 290th Regimental Combat Team.  Some SS troops infiltrated that area creating much concern.  A tragic incident occurred when a company of 290th Regimental Combat Team (I think) was wiped out.

 

With the help of 75th Division the German attack was stopped here, and but for the Grace of God, this operation would have failed.  Without the guts and determination of men like John Anderson and Jack Warden, the end could have well been different.

 

I must add the fact that the civilians had a terrible time.  They had to put up with death, deprivation and destruction from both us and the Germans.  Particularly at Hotton, they were in a precarious position both sides wanted the bridge.

 
Source: Statement dated 23 January 1995 and received from A. Roxburgh (75th Infantry Division)
Lt Col Carlton P. RUSSELL

36th Armored Infantry

Regiment

3rd Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium