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US Army

591st Field Artillery Battalion, A.A.R.

591st Field Artillery Battalion,

from 106th Infantry Division

December 1944, After Action Report

 
The 591st Field Artillery Battalion relieved the 37th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division in position on 10 December in the vicinity of Heckhalenfeld, Germany (coordinate 902788).  "A', "B" and Headquarters Batteries were situated in and around Heckhalenfeld.  "C" Battery was in position at Stefeshausen, Belgium, and Service Battery was located at Burg Reuland.…first round was fired by "B" Battery, commanded by Captain Robert A. Likins, at 16.53 hours, 10 December 1944.  The battalion was engaged chiefly in firing harassing fire with a primary mission of direct support of the 424th Infantry Regiment until the early morning of 16 December.  The enemy began shelling the front lines shortly after 2400 hours, 15 December and also started sporadic counter-battery fire on our positions about 0530.  This latter continued for about two hours and then the Germans launched a determined attack all along the Division front.  No casualties were suffered in this unit from enemy shellfire at that time, but communications were continually being disrupted.
 
During the next 24 hours the Germans moved up and attacked with very heavy forces, including tanks, infantry and artillery.  Considerable horse drawn artillery was also seen in this area.  The Battalion fired 2622 rounds of HE during that time in support of the infantry and could have fired more of it if it had been available.  Late in the afternoon of 16 December the 1st Battalion, 424th Infantry was committed at Winterspelt, Germany, to fill a gap caused by the overrunning of the Infantry Cannon Company and the Division Reconnaissance Troops.  Captain Edward A. Chateauneuf, the liaison officer with the 1st Battalion, Private Harold R. Schnerfinger, his wire man, Lieutenant John D. Mac Kinnon, the forward observer and two men from his section, Corporal Harold B. Walker and Private Frank Carey were reported missing in action during this operation.
 

While the Combat Team awaited assistance from the 9th Armored Division advancing south from St Vith and held doggedly to its position along the 2nd and 3rd Battalions fronts, the enemy succeeded in driving the 1st Battalion from Winterspelt in a savage, costly attack by tanks and infantry.  With the lost of Winterspelt the only good route for withdrawal was lost.  Division Artillery relinquished control of the 591st Field Artillery Battalion to Colonel Reed, commanding the 424th Infantry Regiment.Colonel Reed, still counting on support from the 9th Armored Division, decided to hold his position and the Battalion remained in support.  Fighting continued throughout the night and considerable enemy patrol activity was encountered on our north flank and to the rear.  The following day, 17th December, the situation remained critical and the 9th Armored Division made no headway.  During the day some of the forward observers with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions were cut off but managed to withdraw back into our lines.

 
In spite of their experience, all Forward Observers displayed a marked courage and coolness under fire and did a superb job.  1st Lieutenant James J. Kelly, Forward Observer of "C" Battery, was cut off twice.  The first time he was rescued in a counterattack by our infantry and 193 prisoners were taken in and around the battered house in which he was situated.  The second time he managed to crawl back to safely under cover of darkness.  1st Lieutenants Herbert A. Pihl, John H. Stauff, Peter F. Fleischmann, Lawrence O. Meyers and Bernard Rosenthal and 2nd Lt William Nolan had similar experiences and in several instances during the day were compelled to defend the Observation Post with their pistols and carbines whiles conducting artillery fire on the attacking enemy.  The infantry of the 424th Regiment fought savagely and heroically, and a firm bond of mutual respect and confidence between them and their artillery was cemented in the cooperation and support that existed throughout the battle.
 

In the artillery Battalion the critical item was ammunition.  The main supply route had been cut off and the only alternate was a cross-country route to Service Battery at Burg Reuland.  Due to the heavy mud this route was impassable to any but light vehicles.  All day long ammunition for both the artillery and infantry was hauled over this route in jeeps.  Just prior to the fall of Winterspelt the Battalion Executive, Major Carl H Wohlfeil, managed to get a detail of three trucks back to Elcherath, Germany, to get the ammunition left there by the Infantry Cannon Company.  This ammunition was used by the artillery batteries.  About this times, too, Private Bill T Ervin, "B" Battery, driver of an ammunition truck displayed great courage and heroism in hauling a truckload of ammunition through enemy fire which knocked off the right front shock absorber and riddled the truck with holes.

 

Finally, about 1500 hours, 17 December, Colonel Reid decided that the situation was no longer tenable.  The enemy was pouring into the gap at Winterspelt and the 112th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division on the right flank was being hard pressed and falling back.  He gave the order to evacuate as soon as darkness closed in.  Lieutenant Colonel Hoover called in the BC's of Headquarters, "A" and "B" Batteries, 1st Lieutenant Bernard L. Lockridge, Captain Arthur W. Corcoran, and Captain Robert A. Likins respectively, explained the situation and showed them the proposed route of withdrawal.  This route led back to within 300 yards of the then known front lines and then proceeded northward to Burg Reuland.  He then left with Captain Wetherhill, the liaison officer from the reinforcing 965th Field Artillery Battalion, who had been over the route, the S-3, and a route-marking party.  The remainder of the Battalion under the Battalion Executive followed about a half hour later.  During the march the route was under sporadic nebelwerfer fire.  About 1900 hours the infantry withdrew on a compass of 270.  At approximately 2330 hours the Battalion was reunited at Burg Reuland and proceeded to Grufflingen, Belgium, where the batteries were put into position.  Except for three vehicles and some personal equipment abandoned at Heckhalenfeld, the Battalion remained intact and no casualties were suffered.  "C" Battery abandoned one truck and howitzer at Steffeshausen, Belgium, but returned the next day, 18 December, and retrieved the howitzer.  The truck had been burned.

 
At Grufflingen the Battalion again rendered direct support to the 424th Infantry which had taken up a defensive position along the high ground between Bracht and Burg Reuland.  The Battalion Commander adopted one platoon of the Infantry Cannon Company which had managed to escape and employed it as a forth battery.  This platoon remained attached to the Battalion for the following two days and, under Lieutenant Beudingen, le Cannon Company Executive did a magnificent job.
 

While in position at Grufflingen, all Batteries of the Battalion were continually under enemy artillery fire and two linemen, Private Richard D Savage and Private John R Panizza, both of Headquarters Battery, were wounded.  The Battalion Commander decided to displace Braunlauf and this was accomplished the night of 21 December.  That night the enemy again broke through at St Vith, thereby threatening our flank and rear once more.  The Battalion received orders to withdraw to the vicinity of Commanster the following day.  During the occupation of Braunlauf the Battalion continued to receive hostile artillery fire but no casualties occurred.

 

At daybreak 22 December the Battalion Commander with the S-3 led the Battalion less "C" Battery to the new positions in the vicinity of Commanster.  The Battalion Executive with a second of the FDC was left behind with "C" Battery to give the infantry artillery support until such time as the infantry withdrew.  Visibility was limited to approximately 50 years and radio communication with the front was very poor--only one Forward Observer was in the net.  No missions were fired for almost three hours and finally the Forward Observer reported that the infantry was moving to the rear.  "C" Battery fired an unobserved mission to the front of the infantry to cover its withdrawal and then, having received permission by radio from the Battalion Commander, executed march order and proceeded to its position at Commanster.

 
The Battalion remained in this position, attached to the 7th Armored Division, and continued to support the 424th Infantry until the morning of 23rd December when a general withdrawal was ordered to the west of the Salm River.A  t 0800 hours, 23 December, the Battalion Commander and S-2 left to reconnoiter a rendezvous area in the vicinity of Ville, Belgium.  The Battalion, under the control of the Battalion Executive, followed at 1130 hours crossing the river at Vielsalm.  At about 1600 hours, the Battalion closed in Ville and was quartered in civilians homes.  The next day, 24 December, was spent in reorganizing, cleaning equipment, and replacing supplies.
 

At 1900 hours, 24 December, the Battalion again moved to the vicinity of Chene-al-Pierre to go into action behind the 7th Armored Division.  Since the position was exposed to a threatened enemy armored attack, positions were reconnoitered by the Battalion Executive to the rear in the vicinity of Fays.T  hese positions were occupied on the morning of 25 December with the Battalion CP at Sodelheid (??).

 

Meanwhile the 424th Infantry was again committed on the front of the 7th Armored Division and the Battalion rendered them direct support.  This situation continued until the 75th Infantry Division relieved the 424th Infantry about noon 28th December at which time the Battalion again displaced to the vicinity of Chevron and was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division with a mission of general support.  In this position replacement supplies are being received daily and replacement personnel are on the way.  By midnight, 31 December, the Battalion had lost in 21 days of continuous action against the enemy 2 enlisted men wounded, 2 officers and 3 enlisted men missing in action; and 7 men evacuated sick or injured as non-battle casualties.  No material was lost with the exception of one howitzer which "B" Battery was forced to abandon and destroy in the general withdrawal on 23 December.  This howitzer has since been replaced and the Battalion continues to perform its mission at 100% efficiency.

 
(Source: 591st Field Artillery Bn After Action Report, 31 December 1944 based on research in unit records by John D. Bowen, in the National Archives Suitland Branch US Army Unit Records.)  Bulge Bugle February 1994.
National Archives
 

591st Field Artillery Bn

106th Infantry Division

Campaign

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium