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US Army

Colonel Reuben H. TUCKER and the Bulge

Colonel Reuben H. TUCKER's interview

Commander 504th Paratroop Regiment

82nd Airborne Division

 

By Major F. F. O'Sullivan

At CampFoch, Laon, France

28 March 1945.

NARA documents

 
The 504th Paratroop Regiment arrived in Werbomont, Belgium, coming through Bastogne, Belgium, during the night 18/19 December 1944.  Immediately on arrival Colonel Tucker was ordered, when he could get this unit together, to move east in the general direction of Trois-Ponts.  The 'bus' moved out during the morning hours, before daylight of the 19 December, and took up position near Chevron, Belgium.  The positions were taken up without reconnaissance, but with first light Colonel Tucker and Captain Mack Shelley, Regiment S-3, made a reconnaissance of the area.  Positions were adjusted so that they covered the high ground around the town and the road about, and also the town itself.  During the night of 19 December, Division ordered Colonel Tucker to proceed over the stream below Chevron, go to Rahier and be prepared to repel any attacks or spearheads coming from the east, that is, from Stavelot.  The march was made in column of Battalions, 2, 1, 3, and the 2nd Battalion took up positions in the dark on the eastern outskirts of Rahier.  The other two Battalions took up positions beside it, one on the right, the third on the left.  Colonel Tucker made a full daylight reconnaissance of the area, and on that day, 20 December, asked permission of Division to move from Rahier and seize and hold the town of Cheneux, instead.  The terrain around Cheneux is higher than the neighboring high ground and if the Germans got there first, they would command not only Cheneux but Rahier.
 

Men of the 1st Battalion of the 504th Parachute Regiment pass through Rahier on the road to Cheneux

 
The 2nd Battalion, reinforced with two Tank Destroyers moved out in attack formation along the toad to Cheneux and had proceeded only about 800 – 900 yards when its point ran into a German motor cyclist who was the forward point of a German motor reconnaissance patrol.  The cyclist was knocked out, but the point of the 2nd Battalion got only about 200 yards farther when it was pinned down and the Battalion forced to deploy off the roads.  The two Tank Destroyers had not yet come up and Colonel Tucker went to the rear to find them.  While he was gone, the 2nd Battalion had knocked out a German half track mounting a 77mm gun and when he returned he recruited a crew for it from the 80th AA Battalion.  It was getting dark and Colonel Tucker was not over familiar with the terrain and definitely without knowledge of the enemy positions.  The 2nd Battalion reported movement of tanks and men up the front, but their force was an unknown quantity.
 
Lieutenant-Colonel Harrison, Commander 1st Battalion called about that time, 1700 Hours, and requested information on whether Colonel Tucker intended to advance or consolidate.  Colonel Tucker said that he intended to advance, and reach the high ground, taking Cheneux.  The advance began with the 1st Battalion leading.  They ran into well dug-in enemy positions which fired point blank into the 1st Battalion, with resultant heavy casualties.  The 1st Battalion was pinned down and was so reported by Colonel Harrison to Colonel Tucker, who then called on reinforcements from the 3rd Battalion.  The 1st Battalion was a Company short at the time because Company 'A' had been sent with the 505 Parachute Regiment to cover high ground in the vicinity of Trou de Bra.  The 3rd Battalion reinforcements moved up and at daylight Colonel Tucker found that the 1st Battalion was pinned down but holding on the outskirts of Cheneux.  Their positions were well covered by enemy fields of fire.
 
Colonel Tucker then ordered the 3rd Battalion, minus Company "G" to attack Monceau and thus outflank the Germans.  One Monceau was taken both Battalions were to move in, clear the area between Monceau-Cheneux-Ambleve River, taking the town of Cheneux as a prerequisite.  The 3rd Battalion, because of terrain of woods and hills, was forced to spend six hours before taking Monceau.  Their greatest handicap was terrain and also two flak wagons in Monceau.  At 1700 hours Monceau was captured and Colonel Tucker who was then with the 3rd Battalion ordered en radio, the 1st Battalion to attack in its sector.  By 1900 hours, the 504th held Monceau, Cheneux and the area around there and up to the river.
 
On the next day, 22 December, patrols were sent across the AmbleveRiver, where contact with the 30th Infantry Division was made.  Colonel Tucker thinks but is not sure that the regiment contacted was the 117th Infantry.  He then learned that the 30th Division was attacking towards La Gleize and Stoumont, to his left.The repulse at Cheneux had prevented a breakthrough at that point and the enemy went south, seeking soft spots in the line and finally began to center his attacking strength at Regné and Manhay on the south west of the Division line.  Because of this General Gavin ordered Colonel Tucker to send reinforcements to the 325th Glider Infantry sector, and the 2nd Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Wellems was sent across country.  The regiment (504) held its defensive line until ordered to displace to the new defensive line and take up positions near Lierneux.  The 505th Regiment relieved the 504th Regiment at Cheneux and the 504th hinged on to their left flank.  The new Regiment Command Post was at Bra and when the 325th Glider had withdrawn to its new defensive sector, the 2nd Battalion (504) returned to its regiment and took up positions in the vicinity of Bra.  This remained the status of the regiment until moving out for the attack on 3 January 1945.
 

On 2 January, the 504th Regiment moved into the vicinity of Fosse, in position for the attack to secure the high ground opposite (on the west bank of the river) Grand-Halleux and Petit-Halleux.  The 2nd Battalion moved out at dusk on the 2nd January and took the high ground overlooking Grand-Halleux.  Next day, the 1st Battalion attacked due east from Fosse to seize the ground overlooking the SalmRiver.The 3rd Battalion was to attack and seize Mont.  The 551st Paratroop Infantry Battalion was attached to the 3rd Battalion.  Colonel Tucker requested tanks but they were not available for all the Division which was attacking as part of XVIII Corps.  There were not enough tanks to go around and supply all needs.General James Gavin promised that if the 504th Regiment got held up during the attack he would do his best to get tanks.  Of the two Tank Destroyers attached to the 3rd Battalion, one had its track blown off by a mine.

 

The attack by the 1st and 3rd Battalions jumped off at 0530 hours, an hour before the general attack.It was a sneak attack, knifing out to the river.  By 0830 hours all regimental objectives, including part of the 2nd Battalion were taken and by 1200 hours all positions organized.  The attack did not meet organized opposition except at Mont.  This was overcome however and the 2nd Battalion received heavy casualties at that town.

 
The regiment held these positions until 7 January when it was ordered to prepare for relief by the 75th Infantry Division, and at the same time prepare for the establishment of bridgeheads across the Salm River at Grand-Halleux.  The 504th Regiment was not to be used for the project but units of the 517th Paratroop Regiment then attached to the 504th were to be used.  On 10/11 January 1945, the 75th Infantry Division relieved the regiment which then moved into a rest area east of Aywaille, Belgium, and remained in this area until 26 January when it moved out in preparation for the attack on the Siegfried Line.
 

The 504th Regiment plod forward through heavy snow, toward Herresbach.  28 January 1945.  Photo NARA: National Archives

 

Colonel Tucker and Lieutenant-Colonel Julian Cook, 3rd Battalion's Commander, reconnoitered the area from a Cub.  The Regiment CP was established at Wallerode when "the most back breaking trek in the regiment history" began on the morning of 28th January.  The attack jumped off from Wallerode with the 3rd Battalion leading, followed by 1, 2, in column of Battalions.  The attack followed the ridge on a northeast axis towards the town of Loscheim.  The 325th Glider Infantry was on the left.  The enemy resistance was scattered but the woods were thick and the snow knee deep.  Jeeps could not operate in this terrain and the two weasels which were given for the occasion, broke down.  By the late afternoon, the 3rd Battalion had reached the main road running north from Herresbach and Colonel Tucker who was on the scene ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Julian Cook and the 3rd Battalion to take the town.  To do this Colonel Tucker Brought up the 2nd Battalion so that it was due west of the town while the 3rd Battalion was to move due south and attack the town under covering fire supplied by the 2nd Battalion.  The 1st Battalion was to cover the left flank during the attack.  More than 180 Prisoners of war were taken in the town without a single casualty in the regiment.  The German did not seem to expect an attack.

 

During the night Colonel Tucker was ordered by Division to send a force to relieve the 508th them before Holzheim.Accordingly the 1st and 2nd Battalions were sent to relieve the 508th Regiment which had not taken Holzheim and Eimerscheid.  Both towns were captured by the 504th Regiment.  The reason for the relief was that the original plan called for the 504 and 508 to leapfrog.  Now the 504th Regiment was to take these two towns while the 508th Regiment pushed on east.  The 3rd Battalion of the 504th Regiment having taken Herresbach was moved up to Lanzerath, whose southern portion it took over, and thus putting all three Battalions of the regiment abreast.  Meanwhile the 508th Regiment and 505th Regiment were pushing on east while the 504th Regiment was mopping up in the rear.

 
The Regiments next move was to take up positions for the attack on the Siegfried Line.  The 325th Glider was on the left, the 504th Regiment on the right – the attacking regiments.  The attack went off well initially, but about 1000 hours, the lead battalion, the 2nd, was stopped at a streambed by barbed wire and a mine field.  There were pillboxes on either side of the Battalion which had approached through a firebreak.  In front of them was the stream from which rose high steep ground on which the Germans had dug in positions.  The terrain and obstacles halted the 504attack.
 

Colonel Tucker inquired as to the progress of the 325th Glider on his left and was told by Division on that the 325th was in the outskirts of Neuhof.  He then requested and received permission from General James Gavin to send the 3rd Battalion through the hole made in the line by the 325th Glider; the Battalion to go through them turn south and outflank the pillboxes and high ground.  The 3rd Battalion moved up and found that the situation of the 325th Glider was precarious and that the way was not clear for a flanking movement.  Ira Swift, Assistant Division on CG, came along and asked Lieutenant-Colonel Cook, 3rd Battalion why his Battalion had not gone through.  Colonel Cook answered, "How can I?  The 325th Glider is still far from taking Neuhof."

 
While all this was happening the 2nd Battalion forced the stream and fought its way up the hillside.  Colonel Reuben Tucker then brought up the 1st Battalion and passed it through the 2nd Battalion and fanned out, with the strength to the right.  The 3rd Battalion had not yet come from the north and ammunition was running short.  When the 325th Glider cleared the passage, the 3rd Battalion moved and came down on the regiments left flank.  Colonel Cook found the 1st and 2nd Battalions in position on the high ground.
 

The regiment remained in this position until entrucking for Grand-Halleux from which it again entrucked for a crossing of the Roer River.  The crossing did not materialize and on 18 February 1945, the regiment entrained at Aachen for Camp Foch, Laon, France.

 
Source: Combat Interview from NARA: 25 March 1945
 

Col Reuben H. TUCKER

Commander of the

504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

82nd Airborne Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium