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Battle of Malmedy

Battle of Malmedy
 
On December 17, 1944, 7 Officers and 20 Enlisted Men from Battalion Headquarters, 8 Enlisted Men from Company “A”, 4 Officers and 152 Enlisted men from Company “B”, 2 Officers and 48 Enlisted Men from Company “C” were in the town of Malmedy, Belgium along with Ordnance, Military Police, Evacuation Hospital Units, and other units of the U.S. Army.  Information was received from Colonel H. W. Anderson of the 1111th Engineer Combat Group revealing that there had been an enemy breakthrough in force in the vicinity of Butgenbach, 20 kilometers east of Malmedy.  This organization was given orders by Colonel Anderson to prepare to defend the city of Malmedy.
 
At 1030 hours one company of the 7th Armored Division entered the town of Malmedy and remained for 30 minutes, at the completion of which they moved out to the west on N-32 towards Stavelot, Belgium.  As a result of this incident all other units in town moved out in panic with the exception of the Military Government Detachment, the 962nd Engineer Maintenance Company, the 629th Engineer Light Equipment Company and the elements of the 291st Engineer Combat Battalion.
 
At 13 hours, as a result of patrols, the enemy was known to be within 1 ½ miles in the strength of 68 armored vehicles east of the town on N-32.  The 291st Battalion by this time had completed the defense of the city by means of road blocks.
 
At 1430 hours a patrol consisting of the Battalion Commander and 2 Enlisted Men returned with 4 Enlisted Men from a Field Artillery Observation Battalion Unit (The 285th) that had met the enemy at the Junction of N-32 and N-23 just east of Malmedy (Baugnez crossroads).  Upon interrogation of these men a severe atrocity was revealed.  The German column (Kampfgruppe Peiper) had captured this battery and proceeded to fire on the captives with machine guns and small arms killing and wounding these men in cold blood.  Some of these men had finally made their escape to tell their story.  Despite this atrocity and the fact that the enemy was in strength and attack might come at any time, the members of the 291st Battalion remained at their posts to defend to the last man.  The attack did not occur, however, and at 2200 hours infantry support arrived to reinforce the road-blocks established.
 
A study of maps revealed that should the enemy by-pass Malmedy; their next striking point would be on a secondary road coming from the south into Stavelot.  A squad of soldiers from “C” Company of the 291st Battalion was dispatched to establish a road-block on this secondary road using 20 mines and one bazooka.  At 1900 hours the enemy made a thrust at these road-blocks with three Mark IV Tanks, however, the first tank was knocked out by the mines and the enemy retired leaving one man of the squad dead (Pfc Lorenzo Liparulo) and one wounded.  During the night, 17 to 18 December a Company from the 526th Armored Infantry Battalion arrived to reinforce this road-block.
 
On December 18 the road-blocks and area about the city of Malmedy were further organized locally and in depth by the 120th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division.  Elements of Company “B” and Company “C” further strengthened the defenses as established by the 120th Infantry by moving beyond the outpost line to place demolitions on three bridges west of Malmedy despite enemy fire.
 
 
Three bridges were blown by means of demolitions and extensive mine fields were laid in coordination with the infantry.
 
On December 21 the enemy made a strong attack in the area west of the railroad on the edge of Malmedy.  During this attack Private Wiley Holbrook was killed, Private Joseph Spires wounded, and Private William Mitchell missing in action.  Private Consiglio of Company “B” manned a 30 Caliber machine gun and accounted for heavy enemy infantry.  During this attack the road-block at the railroad bypass on the west of Malmedy was subjected to heavy fire, however, the mortars of Company “B” and Company “A” remained at their posts and returned fire until the enemy was beaten back.
 
Source: Appendix N° 1, After Action Reports – December 1944.N.A.R.A.
By Colonel David E. PERGRIN

Commanding Officer

291st Combat Engineer

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium