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Key Bastogne Defense Came in first two days.

Key Bastogne Defense Came in First Two Days.

 
The three combat commands of the 9th Armored Division were in widely separated locations when the Germans attacked on December 16, 1944. As a result, all three were engaged with different German forces and none were under their division control.
 
Combat Command “R” (C.C.R.), commanded by Colonel Joseph Gilbreth, of Columbus, Georgia, had the roughest assignment of the three commands and perhaps of any command in the Battle of the Bulge. Combat Command “R” stood fast and slugged it out against the overwhelming might of the German panzers smashing toward Bastogne. Had it not been for Combat Command “R”, the Nazis would have captured Bastogne before the arrival by truck of the 101st Airborne Division and arrival of Combat Command “B” of the 10th Armored Division.
 
The 9th Armored Division was on the SECRET list and, consequently, its actions were not being reported. The SECRET classification was not removed until January 5, 1945, after the action at Bastogne. Consequently, the 101st Airborne received the credit for the defense and the highly publicized “Nuts” reply by the acting 101st commander to the German demand for surrender.
 
Small CCR task forces from the 2nd Tank Battalion and the 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion took up positions on the road leading to Bastogne from the east. Their missions were to block the road at all costs and they did so with considerable loss of men and equipment. Many held their position even though wounded and when German tanks rolled around and through them and when the German infantry infiltrated their positions in the darkness.
 
There was no front line. Artillerymen, tankers and engineers fought as doughboys. The 2nd Tank Battalion encountered elements of nine German divisions. The 73rd Armored Field Artillery fought its way out of a trap and continued to keep its guns in action.
 
Three Battalion Commanders Killed
 
Casualties were heavy. All three of the battalion commanders were lost. CCR was credited with delaying the enemy for 36 to 48 hours east of Bastogne after which its surviving troops managed to fall back into Bastogne. These CCR troops were then employed as a mobile reserve force known as Team SNAFU.
 
Task Force SNAFU became a potent force in the ensuing defense battles. It was organized chiefly as a trouble shooter for the 101st Airborne, operating under a 10 minutes alert, speeding to defend area threatened by German attacks. Bolstered by Armor, SNAFU proved to be an asset in the 101st Airborne defense of Bastogne until it was relieved by an element of the Third Army.
 
CCR was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its action in defending Bastogne, the highest award a unit can receive for combat action.
 
Because of the secrecy order on the 9th Armored Division, and the wide separation of its three commands, and the fact the combats commands were not under their division control and faced different attacking German armies, the division did not receive the public attention it deserved. However, commendations came from two Army commander—General Courtney H Hodges and General George S. Patton, Jr. and also from three corps commanders and four divisions commanders.
 
It was not until 55 years later that the Cold War ended and German records were obtained that the other two combat commands were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
 
Presidential Unit Citation for C.C.A. 9th Armored Division:
http://www.battleofthebulgememories.be/stories26/32-battle-of-the-bulge-us-army/129-presidential-unit-citation-cca-9th-armored-division.html 
 
Presidential Unit Citation for C.C.B. 9th Armored Division:
http://www.battleofthebulgememories.be/stories26/32-battle-of-the-bulge-us-army/131-presidential-unit-citation-ccb-9th-armored-division.html
 
Source: Bulge Bugle, May 2005
1st Lt Robert J PETERSON
2nd Platoon
"B" Company
27th Armored Infantry Bn
9th Armored Division
Campaigns
 
Battle of the Bulge
Belgium