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US Army

254th Engineer Combat Battalion

254th Engineer Combat Battalion
 
(This document was previously listed as “SECRET”.)
 
At approximately midnight, 16 December, 1944, a message was received from the 1121st Engineer Combat Group that the Battalion was on a two-hour alert as infantry.   The report also directed our commanding officer to report to the G-3, 99th Infantry Division at once.
 
At the 99th Headquarters, the commanding officer was told that the enemy had broken through and was coming up the Honsfeld-Bullingen highway.  The G-3, 99th Infantry Division also instructed the commanding officer that all roads leading into Bullingen were blocked with tank destroyers and light tanks and this battalion was to form a defensive line south and east of Bullingen, Belgium, to protect these blocks.  The battalion was then formed into two echelons; the forward set up a command post in Bullingen with the companies dug in on the south and west side of the town and the rear echelon commanded by Captain Fairfax of Headquarters and Service Company, moved to the vicinity of Waimes, Belgium, to await further orders.
 
After setting up the command post in Bullingen all guards of units stationed there were notified of the situation and runners were sent to locate the positions of the light tanks and tank-destroyers.  The runners returned and reported that no light tanks or tank-destroyers could be found.
 
One sergeant of a tank-destroyer outfight was brought in by Company “B” and he stated that he had been captured at Honsfeld, escaped from the Germans, and wanted to report German armor heading toward Bullingen in strength.  He said that he had seen twelve tanks and could hear more coming. 
 
A short time later a 1st lieutenant walked into the command post, stood around to get warm, asked several questions, and stated that he had a platoon of armored infantry in half-tracks.  His identification was checked and was satisfactory.  When asked where his command post was he said that he was mobile and that the Germans were coming and he was leaving.  This didn’t seem unusual as they usually accompany tanks and the tanks had apparently also left. 
 
At approximately 0600 hours four flares, blue, white, red and white, were observed to the right of our Company “B” front.  About five minutes later tracked vehicles were headed in our direction.  These were not positively identified as we presumed that there were still some division units in front of us.  The first positive identification was shouts that were heard in German.  The fire order was then given by 1st Lieutenant Huff, Company “B”, who opened fire with rifles, rifle grenades and machine guns.
 
The German infantry then piled off the vehicles, one panzer tank and six half-tracks, got within 15 yards of our positions before being driven back.  They pulled back and reorganized and in about 20 minutes the infantry charged our Company “B” positions under supporting fire of the tanks.  The tanks fired few large caliber shells but most were 20mm high explosive shells and machine guns.  This attack was in greater force and in spite of the tanks and shouts of their officers, they were driven back after sustaining heavy losses.  The next 10 minutes gave us time to evacuate our wounded but now it was getting quite light.
 
Then, after 10 minutes they charged again, but this time the assault was led by their tanks.  As no heavy anti-tank fire was encountered, the tanks spread out and over ran Company “B” positions crushing two machine guns.  The men stayed in their foxholes and only three men were injured by the tanks passing over them.
 
The German infantry was still unable to over run our positions due to the intensive small arms fire.  The German infantry then withdrew and maneuvered around our flank which was exposed.  In this action one tank was knocked out and two of the twelve damaged while many Germans were left lying on the battlefield. 
 
Having been over-run, the battalion was instructed to fight a delaying action falling back on Butgenbach, by G-3, 99th Infantry Division.  Orders were issued by battalion for Company “C” to fight back out of town and north west along railroad tracks, Company “A”, toward Wirtzfeld, and Company “B” and Headquarters down Bullingen-Butgenbach Road. 
 
Company “C” fought back through town and took positions north of Bullingen.  Company “A” as yet had not been pressed and held, and the battalion took positions on the ridge west of town.  Company “B” having been cut off could not reach the road.  Headquarters men were moved from position to position to give the appearance of a strongly held line with favorable terrain in front of them.  This line could be seen from the town and when their point reorganized it took the St Vith road south.  The enemy point, on reaching crossroads of the St Vith-Butgenbach road, halted for approximately ten minutes and finally moved south.  Our objective had temporarily been accomplished.
 
After the enemy point passed, the support, at about 0800 hours, sent tanks toward Wirtzfeld where the 2nd Infantry Division met them with tank destroyers.  They also knocked out one tank flanking Headquarters position west of town.
 
At about 1200 hours, two platoons of Company “B” had worked their way through the woods and joined Headquarters west of town and three anti-tank guns were found located at CR K93002.  The Germans brought up artillery and shelled the position west of town, and at, approximately 1300 hours, the line, under several light tanks which had just arrived, dropped back to the crossroads. 
 
At about 1500 hours, the 26th Infantry relieved the unit and took over this position.  At 1545 hours Company “A” was subjected to shelling and strafing by our own troops.  Because of this, the company commander ordered the company to withdraw toward Wirtzfeld.  En route the 23rd Infantry was contacted, told of the situation, and they formally relieved Company “A” of the responsibility of their front. 
 
After being relieved the battalion returned to Camp Elsenborn where we reorganized and prepared for our next missions.
 

/s/ Edwin F. Shaffer,

2nd Lt, 254th Engineers,

Adjutant
 
Source: Bulge Bugle, August 2010

Document from

2nd Lt Edward C VICKSTROM

 

254th Engineer Combat Bn

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium