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US Army

Crossing the Ambleve River Bridge in Stavelot

 

Crossing the Ambleve River Bridge in Stavelot
 
I would like give you more detail on my memory of what happened as we crossed the Ambleve River Bridge and the action that followed in the early morning hours of December 18, 1944. 
 
Two halftracks and a tank destroyer crossed the bridge and moved up the hill.  I was a medic in Company “A” in one of those halftracks. 
 
As I try to remember the events of those early morning hours I find some blank spaces in my memory.  I was always under the opinion that Captain Mitchell was in our halftrack, but I guess I was wrong I do know that others in the track were John Sankey, John Kalisek, Perry Dykes, Orvik, Jerome Stapp, Lang and Dewey Lowe as well as some officer. 
 
We arrived at the outskirts of Stavelot at about 3 or 4 hours in the morning.  It was dark, quiet and cold.  We followed the main road down into the village with absolutely no idea that part of the town was occupied by part of an SS Panzer Division. 
 
 The Stavelot's bridge after the battle
 
About one block from the bridge an officer hailed us who it turned out was a member of the 291st Engineer Battalion.  They were operating a sawmill in the town of Stavelot.  I don’t remember the conversation but that he alluded to strange going-on across the Ambleve River Bridge, that they had been fired upon.  Captain Mitchell mentions this incident.  Was he in our halftrack at first then dismounted to try to control the situation?  We then proceeded across the bridge and up the hill to the left on a narrow country road.  As the three vehicles made their way up the hill we passed a number of farm houses.  Little did we know that not only were the houses filled with Germans, but their vehicles were also around and behind the houses.
 
Our two tracks and the tank destroyer stopped about a ½ mile up the road.  Everything was quiet.I believe it was Sergeant Dewey Lowe who dismounted from our track and crossed a farm fence and walked up a pasture hill to another fence.  Shot were heard and he ran back with information that shots had been exchanged with a German sentry or patrol.  We all jumped back into the tracks and attempted to turn around realizing we were behind German lines.  As we were turning around the Germans in the farm houses we had just passed shot up flares, lighting up the entire area.  We turned around and headed down the hill trying to make it back to the bridge.  As we passed the farm houses the first track hit a cable stretched across the road by the Germans.  All hell broke loose at this point.It was chaos!  
 
We all jumped from the tracks and hit the pavement.  In the light of the flares, firing, and fire in one of the halftracks I could see Company “A” people as well as Germans running helter shelter all around the tracks and the tank destroyer.  There was a firefight at the farm houses and as a house was lit up from all this activity I could see a German in the upstairs window and the outline of his helmet. 
 
I don’t know how long this chaos lasted, but according to John Sankey who seems to be in agreement with me, it all lasted only about five minutes.  One of the halftracks was burning.  There was one track that was still operational.  Most of us tumbled into it and hit the floor boards as the driver sped down the hill to the Ambleve River Bridge.  John Sankey, unable to get into the track was hanging on the outside and was forced off by the firing from all sides by the Germans.  John was missing in action for awhile, but somehow was able to get to American lines. 
 
Finally we reached the other side of the bridge and I jumped off because I saw a medical jeep containing four medics.  I ran up and asked for assistance.  They wouldn’t talk to me and acted very evasive and then drove off.  I’m sure they were members of the Skorzeny group who wore American uniforms and spoke perfect English.  I also remember vividly at this point a woman yelling a threat from a second story window, “the Boche has returned”.  We moved back into town and fought some light action until ordered to move back up to the gas dump area on the road to Spa. 
 
I’ve wracked my memory of the events of that night, but I’m afraid that some is lost. 
 

Source: The Pekan, Vol.10, N°3, September 1990

By Allen E. BREED

"A" Company,

526th Armored Infantry Battalion

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium