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US Army

Battle of the Bulge with the 84th Infantry Division

 

 Battle of the Bulge
with the 84th Infantry Division

From 3 to 16 January 1945

 
If we did nothing else in the Ardennes, we destroyed the myth that the woods and hills of that historically famous battle region are "impenetrable". 
 
The Germans began the demonstration in 1940 but their feat was too one-sided to be convincing.  They proved it was possible for an army to go through the Ardennes but they did not prove it was possible to fight through it.  They met real opposition only twice and both times it was a fight of a few hours in clearings within the forest.  Above all, the Germans carefully chose the very best time of the year, in May, as if to emphasize those special conditions were necessary. 
 
In January 1945, however, we had to fight for practically every hill, wood, village and road, in the very worst time of the year, on ice as slick as grease and in snow waist-high, against skillful and stubborn opposition.  The classic, offensive campaign of the Ardennes has been fought and we fought it.  Nothing that happened in 1940 (or 1914) can be compared to it. 
 
The terrain in the Ardennes is like a jigsaw puzzle.  Somehow all of it fits together but somehow all of it can be taken apart and the pieces fall into the oddest shapes.  Each hill and wood is like a separate compartment and tactically each one becomes a distinct problem.  In this rolling country, there is commanding high ground in almost every mile so that an overnight withdrawal from one hill of defense to the next is relatively easy.  The villages and fragments of villages - the toughest "village" to take in our offensive had a single house - are invariably astride the roads and inevitably become enemy strong points.  The woods might have been planned by a master strategist to hold pockets of resistance.  A continuous offensive or defensive line is impossible.  Strong points and pockets of resistance are everything.  That is why the battle had such a cut-up, piecemeal character.  
 
The German Bulge was hit from three sides.  The third Army came up from the south, from Bastogne.  The First Army came down from the north, from both sides of Manhay.  A British Corps attacked from the west, from Marche.  To get the whole story, then, at least three large phases have to be covered.  The main effort, however, was made by the First Army, from the north.  The Third Army's progress was aided by the pressure the first Army exerted from the north.  The British were stalled at the most difficult stage of the drive.  
 
In the first Army's sector, four divisions were involved - the 84th and 83rd Infantry Divisions and the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions.  In its conception, the action was an armor-infantry job - the 84th Infantry Division was teamed with the 2nd Armored, the 83rd with the 3rd Armored.  But the main effort was assigned to the 2nd Armored and 84th Infantry Divisions - both La Roche and Houffalize were in their zone of advance (see map). 
 
This offensive from the north was launched between two rivers, the Ourthe and the Salm.  By retaking the ground between these two rivers as far as Houffalize, we would hammer a huge wedge through two-thirds of the Bulge.  The area between the Ourthe and the Salm was cut almost exactly in half by the road which ran from Manhay to Houffalize (for convenience, it will be called the Houffalize road).  This road was the boundary between the 2nd Armored - 84th Infantry team and the 3rd Armored - 83rd Infantry team, with the first of these teams on the west near the Ourthe, the second on the east near the Salm. 
 
We - the 2nd Armored Division and the 84th Infantry Division - were attacking on a front about nine miles wide.  The first series of enemy strong points were strung out just below the road from Hotton to Manhay.  These strong points were Trinal - Magoster, Amonines - Lamormenil - Freyneux - Odeigne, less than fifty houses in the largest place.  Our objective was Houffalize, about 16 miles to the southeast.  The Third Army, in order to get Houffalize from the bottom of the Bulge, had about half as far to go.  Our zone between the Ourthe River and the Houffalize road was cut in half by a small stream, the Aisne.  As a result, at least in the first six days, there were two distinct sectors and the 2nd Armored Division started the attack with two combat commands abreast - Combat Command "A" extending from the Ourthe to the Aisne, Combat Command "B" from the Aisne to the Houffalize road.  In turn each combat command was made up of three task forces.  The set-up was complicated, evidence that the terrain was complicated. 
 
Although our ultimate objective was Houffalize, a midway objective was the road from La Roche to the vital intersection with the Houffalize Road (we will call this other road the La Roche Road).  The decisive phase of the battle was fought out above the La Roche Road in the first week of our attack.  By getting to La Roche and especially to the all-important intersection, we would deprive the enemy of the only two good roads which he could use to salvage his force in the Bulge.  The mouth of his Bulge would be reduced to the danger point at La Roche to disaster at Houffalize.  The only division in the entire drive which I was able to watch at close range was the 84th Infantry Division, but it happened to be placed at the very center of the main effort.  One of its regiments drove down to La Roche and another to Houffalize.  And there is something else that must be emphasized.  Although originally planned as armored offensive, with the infantry in support, the battle of the Ardennes Bulge quickly became an infantry attack primarily, with the armor used only as the ground permitted. 
 
To that extend, this may be a contribution to the story which is not only typical of the rest but which also traces the line of the main thrust.  D-day was 3 January 1945. H-hour was 0830.  The 2nd Armored Division, to which our 335th Infantry was temporarily attached, attacked to the southeast.  The enemy was surprised. Some prisoners were captured asleep.  Until noon, we forged ahead steadily.  The enemy's outpost line was broken through without much difficulty.  The enemy's front was held by three divisions: the 2nd SS Panzer Division on the right near the Ourthe; the 560th Volksgrenadier Division in the center; and the 12th Volksgrenadier Division on the left near the Houffalize Road.  But that morning, in a more important way, our luck ran out.  It snowed.  Sleet and rain fell in spasms. 
 
From early morning the roads were icy.  The temperature shot down till the ground was like steel.  Tank treads slipped and slid as if the tanks were drunk.  Every time a tank skidded, a column was held up.  Sometimes the tanks skidded just far enough to block the road.  Trinal was easy.  We went in by 0930.  By noon, however, resistance was more highly organized and effective.  Magoster was harder to crack.  After our tanks were held up at several points by enemy bazookas and antitank guns, we were able to move in and pass through.  The main objective that day was Devantave were a cluster of woods and a hill.  The tanks could not get through the woods and our infantry had to push ahead.  We got through the woods safely and one company stepped out to cross the hill.  Eighty-eights were waiting for them.  Eighty-eights and rockets and mortars swept the hill and crashed into the woods.  We had to pull back.  Light tanks were used to evacuate the wounded; nothing else was possible in the snow.  
 
At 1500, we again tried to take Devantave but again we could not get over the hill.  We withdrew for the night east of Magoster.  Farther west that day, it was the same.  One company went into Beffe but had to withdraw at night to high ground above the village.  Only on the left flank, between the Aisne and the Houffalize Road, was our progress easier.  By night, we cleaned out the woods above Odeigne.  There was no resistance.  In general, then, the result of the first day's fighting was inconclusive.  We had advanced from 1.500 to 2.000 yards, but the enemy's strong points at Beffe and Devantave had frustrated us.  It was clear that the enemy was making his main defensive effort on our right flank, between the Ourthe and the Aisne, and his heaviest opposition was reserved for the right sector of the right flank, the hills, woods and villages nearest the Ourthe.  This showed that La Roche was the German commander's most sensitive point.  It was still snowing. That was more important than anything else.  The roads were bad enough.  Icy roads were almost impossible.  
 
The hills and woods were formidable obstacles.  Knee-deep snow on the hills and wood threatened to give us more trouble than anything the enemy could muster.  For four days, we tugged and pulled around Beffe and Devantave.   They were the hardest four days the men in this action had ever spent and most of them were veterans of many actions.  Then we began to cash in.  The problem of Beffe was typical.  It was not so much that the enemy had left strong forces in Beffe itself.  It was rather that he was able to pour a deadly fire into Beffe from very favorable positions - from the Consy ridge, about one thousand yards to the southeast, from the Moulin de Bardonive, about one thousand yards to the south west, and from the direction of Rendeux Bas, a tiny village on the other side of the Ourthe in the British sector.  His trump card was direct and observed fire.  Although much of the heaviest fighting went on for Beffe itself, the basic problem of this phase of the attack was really the Consy ridge.  The capture of Beffe was also typical. 
 
On 4 January 1945 the village was subjected to an intense artillery bombardment.  At 1105, Company "B", 335th Infantry, began to move in.  Meanwhile, company "C" 335th Infantry, retook Magoster and continued on to Beffe.  By 1400, both companies made contact at the southern edge of Beffe and dug in.  The village was practically deserted.  In effect, after holding us up for a day at Beffe, the enemy was content to give it up, only to fall back to another easily defended position a thousand yards behind.  From the first, then, his objective was not so much to hold on to any particular piece of ground at all cost as to delay us and extort the highest possible price for our gains.  Devantave was another deserted village.  After our first right flank, we organized another attempt, this time from Amonines on the left. 
 
At dawn 6 January 1945, Company "I", 335th Infantry, followed by medium tanks, and Company "K", 335th Infantry followed by light tanks, jumped off.  By 0930, the tanks had reached the edge of Devantave.  At 1100, Company "I" moved into the western half, Company "K" the eastern half.  Resistance inside the village was light.  By 1210, occupation was complete.  With the capture of Magoster, Beffe and Devantave, a deep hole was driven in the crust of the enemy's defensive position on the right flank of our zone.  The stage was set for an attack on his most troublesome position, Consy, the "village" with a single house.  Meanwhile, we were still progressing easily on our left flank between the Aisne and the Houffalize Road. 
 
The 3rd Battalion, 333rd Infantry, went into action on the second day, 4 January 1945.  Company "K" was sent into Lamormenil, Company "L" into Freyneux and Company "I" into the woods west of Lamormenil.  All three were taken without difficulty.  Tanks went into the village before the infantry.  At nightfall, 5 January 1945, Company "C" and the 1st Platoon of Company "D", 333rd Infantry, plus one battalion of a tank battalion, moved out of Le Batty to Odeigne.  They met enemy small-arms fire but not artillery.  The village was completely taken by 1300 the next day, 6 January 1945.  We did not suffer a single casualty.  
 
By the time we took Devantave, it was clear that the original plan which gave the infantry a supporting role was not working out.  The terrain and the weather were against it and they won.  The victory of the elements gave the Infantry the main job.  The Ardennes is neither roadless nor rich in roads.  A British source has estimated that 13 separate first-class roads cross the Ardennes from Germany to France.  There are perhaps three secondary roads for every first-class one and numerous trails.  But so many pass through long stretches of woods, so many teeter on the edge of cliffs and wind up and down and around the inescapable hills.  In May, too, the possibilities of resistance in the Ardennes would be immense. 
 
In January, in snow that keeps piling up from the ankle to the knee, from the knee to the waist, only a little effort is necessary to turn possibilities into realities.  All vehicles have to stick to roads to get anywhere, only more often than not they cannot stick to roads because they are constantly sliding off.  The next best thing is to proceed slowly and carefully but then your vehicles may miss the jump-off by hours and the infantry has gone off alone.  Is it curious that a terrain that is considered too tough for a tank is never considered too tough for a Doughboy?  As a result of the problems which arose in the first four days for the armor, after Devantave was taken, more clearly defined zones for the armor and the infantry began to emerge.  
 
From Devantave, the 2nd Armored Division, with the 335th Infantry still attached, veered off more sharply to the southeast to get to Samree through Dochamps, while the 84th Infantry Division assumed responsibility for the drive southward to La Roche and for the La Roche Road as far as Samree.  One thing stood out again.  When nothing else moved, the Doughboys moved and they moved long and often.  And what was it like for them?  It took a good two hours to get through the frozen crust of earth.  It took two or three hours more to get down as far as three feet.  Not only was digging a foxhole a job in which a whole day's energies could be consumed, but it was practically impossible to dig a really good foxhole at least five feet deep.  The weather continued to get colder and colder until it went well below freezing and stayed there.  This meant there was only one thing worse than not sleeping - and that was sleeping.  The quickest way to freeze is to lie still.  Men went to sleep in overcoats - when they had them - and woke up encased in icy boards.  It was practically impossible to bring up supplies and rations in anything but half-tracks.  Water congealed in canteens.  Frostbite was as dangerous as all the Krauts and their guns put together.  The Doughboys who went into Devantave fought 96 hours without a break and they were not through by a long shot.  We took Consy the way we took most of the strong points - by going around it. 
 
When we took Devantave on 6 January 1945, we outflanked Consy on the left.  Then we sent two battalions into the woods west of Consy and the enemy was squeezed out in the middle.  He did not choose to hold even this commanding position at Consy at all cost.  By 7 January 1945, Consy was virtually cleaned out through the woods on the right flank were not completely safe for another two days. 
 
 
The Aisne River split the 2nd Armored - 84th Infantry Division team into two combat teams.  Each team drove triple spears at Houffalize to meet the Third Army coming up from Bastogne.  
 
The turning point of the entire action probably came on 7 January 1945, not where we had to fight the hardest but where progress was still relatively easy. 
 
On the left flank, after we took Odeigne on 6 January 1945, the 2nd Battalion, 333rd Infantry, was sent out the next day to capture the vital crossroads where the La Roche Road and the Houffalize Road meet.  The weather was miserable.  A snowstorm whipped up during the attack.  Nevertheless, by 0930, the crossroads were ours.  Prisoners, frozen, hungry, and disorganized, were picked up in small, wandering groups.  They said they were surprised again.  An attack in such harsh weather was completely unexpected.  Our interrogators heard that story almost every day.  As soon as we captured the crossroads, the enemy was deprived of the only two first-rate roads to the east, the La Roche Road and the Houffalize Road. 
 
From then on, he must have been inhibited in his intentions, though he would never retire without a fight.  Nevertheless, he always had to consider that his chances of successfully pulling his forces out of the trap were getting slimmer and slimmer.  Partly because German resistance above the La Roche Road on our right flank was so much stronger than on our left, we were able to cut the road first on the extreme left of our zone at the crossroads.  As we gained full control of the road, we continued to move from left to right.  Next, one of our task forces came down from Amonines to Dochamps and from Dochamps we launched the attack on one of the enemy's positions, Samree.  The trip from Amonines to Dochamps was the same, old story.  
 
The road, though the best in the sector, was so icy and narrow that the tanks were held up repeatedly.  Road blocks, which took about two hours each to reduce on the average, some small-arms fire but this time very little artillery, represented the enemy’s main effort to hold us up.  Mine fields and trees felled across the road by detonating TNT charges, antitank guns and tanks, were effective sources of enemy resistance.  We took the high ground northwest of Dochamps on the night of 6th January 1945, and were able to move into Dochamps the next night.  
 
One incident was symbolic.  After we had spread out in the village, a German tank with 60-80 infantrymen suddenly pulled out from behind the church and made for Samree.  Our tank destroyers could not fire a shot because their turrets were frozen, striking example of weather conditions which lessened the effectiveness of our mechanized equipment and threw the main burden of attack and defense on our infantry.  Samree was seemingly impregnable.  It was perched on a 1,80-foot hill.  First we had to take two other hills, northeast and northwest of it.  Our troops had to move through 1,500 yards of rolling ground in knee-deep snow.  The enemy had perfect observation every inch of the way.  To tell the truth, it was hard to see how we could make it. 
 
At 0630, 9 January 1945, the 3rd Battalion, 335th Infantry went out of Dochamps to get those hills.  By nightfall, it had progressed to the edge of some woods about 1,500 yards from Samree on the west side of the road and had taken one of the heavily wooded hills guarding the town.  Company "L" was withdrawn and sent around through Dochamps to occupy the second hill on the east side of the road.  That night, our artillery concentrated on Samree.  
 
Next day, at 0730, the 3rd Battalion, 335th Infantry, pushed forward to capture the eastern half of Samree and was joined by the 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry, which aimed at the western half.  This time, tanks went in first, blazing away their guns, a sight a Doughboy love best, thinking of all the Dough’s it takes to work up that much fire power.  By 0925, the village was cleared.  We were pleasantly surprised.  The enemy was determined to delay us but as long as we showed our determination not to be delayed, we could always take what we wanted.  The infantrymen who went into Samree had been fighting steadily for eight days, for 192 hours.  They were certainly helped by the fact that the La Roche Road had been cut three days earlier.  The artillery concentration on Samree was extremely effective.  But in the end, men had to live in some more freezing cold and wade through some snowdrifts, now as much as four and five feet high, to get Samree for us.  The battle of Laroche is a good example of the battle of supply and the battle of stamina which every Battle in the Bulge was.  The roads to La Roche were particularly bad, the hills particularly high and the woods particularly dense.  A few tanks and trucks turned the snow on the roads into ice and the trouble started.  The Doughboys depended more than ever on the Engineer and Artillerymen.  The main attack was launched from Devantave by the 1st Battalion, 334th Infantry.  The first objective was Marcouray.  Over a hundred guns softened up the village for five minutes.  
 
Then, at 1500, 7 January 1945, the infantry jumped off.  The ground was rocky and steep.  It was snowing again.  Thirty minutes later, all German resistance in Marcouray was overrun.  We found that the enemy positions were carefully prepared.  Snow was a natural camouflage.  Fortunately, we were achieving tactical surprises and much of the preparation was wasted.  As prisoner after prisoner told us, the weather and terrain were so bad that our infantry was simply not expected.  That is one compensation for "impossible" conditions - they are apt to lead the enemy to drop his guard.  The enemy's surprise at Marcouray was shown by the equipment he was forced to leave behind.  We picked up 36 vehicles: eight half-track, two command cars, six U.S. jeeps, six civilian type cars, five six-wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, five U.S. tanks, and two German 1½-ton trucks.  When we took La Roche, we sealed the fate of the Bulge.  Yet in no sense did it mean that the fighting became less difficult.  The terrain and weather were still the enemy's chief allies.  His forces had more and more hills and woods to withdraw to.  Above all, the German command was now fighting for time, time to regroup and reorganize behind the Siegfried Line, time to meet the overwhelming Russian threat.  There were some significant differences between the two phases.  As long as our main objective was La Roche, the enemy's main effort was made on the right flank.  
 
As soon as we took the La Roche road and Houffalize became our main objective, the enemy's main effort was made on the left flank.  In the second phase, the 333rd Infantry was temporarily attached to the 2nd Armored Division.  The 84th Infantry Division was given the right half of the zone, the 2nd Armored Division the left half.  In this phase we were faced by elements of the 116th Panzer Division and the 130th Panzer Lehr Division.  As far as the La Roche Road, the 333rd Infantry had advanced with relative ease.  Once beyond the road, it ran into much more trouble.  In Les Tailles and at the edge of the woods to the south, an estimated enemy battalion was dug in.  On the other side of the Houffalize Road, an estimated reinforced company was holding Petites Tailles.  The 2nd Battalion went out from the La Roche Road to Les Tailles, the 1st Battalion to Petites Tailles.  The experiences of both were significantly similar.  To get to Les Tailles, we had to cross some more woods.  The German positions were well camouflaged.  The enemy's fields of fire and barrages were well planned to catch us as we came out into the open.  
 
At 0800, 12 January 1945, Company "F" and Company "G" jumped off.  As they came out of the woods north of Les Tailles, they were met by very heavy fire and were held up.  At 1500, they began to move again.  Ten minutes later, Company "G" and tanks were entering Les Tailles but the opposition was so sharp that the village was not cleared until 2100.  About 140 prisoners were taken.  This happened again and again - we had to fight hard for a place but when we took it we gathered in batches of prisoners.  Looked at more closely, however, this phenomenon may tell us a good deal about a German stratagem in fighting this final phase of the war.  From Les Tailles, we had to get to Dinez.  To get Dinez, we had to go through four thousand yards of woods.  To go through these woods, we faced problems which were typical of the fighting in the Ardennes forest. 
 
At 0800, 13 January 1945, the 2nd Battalion, 333rd Infantry, jumped off from Les Tailles for the third time in two days.  After taking Collas, a little village southwest of Les Tailles, at 1000, it struck out for the woods.  Immediately, the terrain became worse than the enemy, though the latter did his best to help.  The roads were terrible, barely more than trails.  Under the snow, which now had ten days to accumulate, they were invisible.  By 1200, the enemy's activity became more stubborn.  By the end of the day, we had penetrated only five hundred yards.  The problem of getting through the woods was faced that night.  Two narrow trails ran through the woods to Dinez and two special task forces were formed to get through these trails.  Both started out at 8000 the next day, 14 January 1945.  
 
The woods, snow, cold and narrow trails made supply, evacuation, contact, control and communication a battle of nerves.  The only supplies came in with half-tracks.  Mortar ammunition had to be carried by hand over two miles.  In Odeigne, the 2nd Battalion had captured an enemy horse and sled.  They held on to them and in these woods the horse and sled were their only means of evacuating the wounded.  Radios would not work in the woods as it was impossible to lay wires.  Visibility was so poor that it was always like night in the middle of the day.  Since a small group of five or six infantrymen worked with one tank it was hard to put a company or even a platoon together - a troublesome problem for the infantry whenever they work with armor.  Companies "F" and "G" rode light tanks part of the way but progress was too slow that way because the tanks were held up so much of the time.  By pushing themselves to the limit, both task forces were able to move through the entire woods by 1600.  Without stopping once the woods were cleared, Company "F" attacked Dinez and Company "E" attacked Willogne.  Surprise paid off again.  Both were captured before the night was over and about one hundred prisoners were taken in Dinez.  Most of our casualties resulted from shell fire and frostbite.  We were about 4,500 yards from Houffalize.  Meanwhile, on the right flank, in the 84th Infantry Division zone, the enemy was wedged in between the La Roche Road and the Ourthe River.  On the whole, progress was much easier but one minor crisis resulted in perhaps the most unusual experience of the campaign.  The first important objective was Berismenil.  
 
At 0730, 13 January 1945, the 1st Battalion, 334th Infantry, moved out from the La Roche Road to take a hill about 1,500 yards north of Berismenil.  Only sniper fire was encountered and the objective was taken by 1100.  At 1415, the 1st Battalion went forward again to take another hill about 750 yards northeast of Berismenil - one of our commanders once said wistfully: "Every time I see a hill, I know it's going to be our next objective."  By 1800, the 1st Battalion had taken its second hill against light resistance.  Nevertheless, the situation was confused because orientation in the dark was difficult.  When a patrol carrying blankets was fired on from the rear, it was clear that the battalion was almost entirely surrounded by the enemy.  Later that night, a reconnaissance patrol was sent to investigate the enemy's position south of the hill but failed to return.  Then the battalion commander, Major Roland L. Kolb, decided to see for himself.  Leading another patrol, he suddenly observed a German "command car" pull up to the base of the hill and halt.  Two men stepped out and began to walk up the hill.  When the pair approached near enough, the patrol jumped out of hiding.  One of their prisoners turned out to be Captain Hana Gottfried von Watzdorf, commander of the 1st Battalion, 60th Panzer Grenadiers, 116th Panzer Division.  Unaware that his MLR had been penetrated to a depth of more than one thousand yards, the German commander was out on a tour of inspection.  In perfect English, he exclaimed: "I am astonished."  The commander of one battalion had personally captured the commander of the enemy's battalion opposite him and he had to keep him all night before he could deliver him safely.  Berismenil itself was captured by the 2nd Battalion, 335th Infantry.  It covered three thousand yards of trails, thereby achieving a considerable degree of surprise but giving up all possibility of using any vehicles to back up the attack.  As a result, Berismenil was captured almost without opposition.  By the end of the day, 13 January 1945, the enemy had been cleared out of approximately half the 84th Infantry Division's zone.  The other half was rapidly cleaned out the next day.  Nadrin was occupied by the 1st Battalion, 334th Infantry, at 1130, 14 January 1945.  Only some machine guns and small-arms resistance was encountered.  
 
At the same time, the 3rd Battalion, 334th Infantry attacked Filly, about a mile southeast of Nadrin.  Tanks and tank destroyers could not use the roads because they were heavily mined and the infantry went on alone.  Filly was entered at 1530 without any artillery preparation and fully occupied a half hour later.  The 3rd Battalion went on to take the last two objectives, Petite-Mormont and Grande-Mormont by 1915.  By this time, the Bulge was practically a memory and the chief interest of every commander - company, battalion, regiment, and division - was how to send out the patrol to make the first contact with the Third Army.  We made Houffalize completely untenable on 15 January 1945.  
 
At 1100, the 1st Battalion, 333rd Infantry, jumped off from Dinez and captured the village of Mont, midway between Dinez and Houffalize, by 1400.  Tanks, infantry, and artillery worked together smoothly.  At 1600, the advance was renewed to Hill 430, overlooking Houffalize.  It was taken by 1730 without opposition.  Credit for going into Houffalize went to the 2nd Armored Division.  The 1st Battalion, 333rd Infantry, held Hill 430 until 1700, 16 January 1945, when it was relieved by a reconnaissance element of the 2nd Armored Division. 
 
By 1745, 16 January 1945, elements of the 2nd Armored held the northern part of Houffalize, while elements of the 11th Armored Division held the southern portion.  When was the Bulge wiped out?  That may never be decided to everyone's satisfaction because a number of patrols were frantically trying to make contact with a number of other patrols at the same time.  I can merely report how and when the 84th Infantry Division closed the Bulge for itself.  A 33-man patrol, led by Lieutenant Byron Blankenship, representing the 334th Infantry, left Filly at 1100, 15 January 1945.  At 1145 they crossed the Ourthe in two 400-pound rubber boats, which they carried.  The rest of the afternoon they spent in an old mill on the other side of the Ourthe.  Just before dark, Lieutenant Blankenship led a small patrol into the village of Engreux, about one thousand yards from the Ourthe, where he expected to meet a patrol from the Third Army.  He found the village free of the enemy but he found no sign of the Third Army's patrol. Late that night, Lieutenant Blankenship received word that the rendezvous had been changed.  Starting off again at midnight, the patrol moved out across some more woods and over a 1,200-yard ridge.  
 
At 0220, 16 January 1945, in the dead of night, they stopped at a small Belgian farmhouse.  The whole family, papa, mama, a son and a daughter of 22 turned itself into a reception committee.  There were bread, butter, and hot coffee.  The patrol decided the rendezvous had been changed for a good reason. 
 

Jonction 

That morning at 0930, Private First Class Rodney Himes, second in command of the patrol, spied a soldier walking outside the farmhouse.  Since the patrol had been ordered to stay inside the house, Private First Class Himes began to "Bawl him out" and asked him "What outfit he was from".  The answer was a platoon of Cavalry from the 11th Armored Division, U.S. Third Army.  
 
 

16th January 1945 

The junction was officially achieved at 0945, 16 January 1945, by Lieutenant Blankenship of the 334th Infantry and Lieutenant Lucas of the Cavalry.  The Bulge was wiped out after thirteen days of hard, continuous fighting.  The Battle of the Bulge was one of the hardest, if not the hardest, fight of the Allied Armies in Europe.  The weather, the terrain, and the enemy combined to make a campaign of peculiar and bitter difficulty. 
 
The Lieutenant Blankenship 84th Infantry Division and Lieutenant Lucas 11th Armored Division  
 

By Sgt Theodore DRAPER

 

84th Infantry Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium