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US Army

The Story of 422d Cannon Company

The Story of 422nd Cannon Company
 
On the morning of December 16, 1944, when the Germans started their drive through the Ardennes, we were occupying positions in the Siegfried Line.  Our company area and gun positions were located approximately 3,000 yards Southwest of a little town called Schlossenbach, which at that time was our regimental headquarters C.P.   Between regimental headquarters and our positions was located the Anti‑Tank Company of the 422nd Regiment.  We had occupied these positions from December 11 until December 18, 1944.  Our guns were so registered as to be firing due East, and we had fired on numerous targets within our zone of fire, one being the town of Waschied. 
 
On December 11, 1944, amid much confusion and in bitter cold, we moved into our positions that were formerly occupied by the 2nd Infantry Division.  It was surprising to our inexperienced minds to find such well‑prepared gun positions and section huts.  The particular position that we occupied was a beautiful pine woods with a broad opening to the East, which gave us excellent fields of fire for our howitzers.  We immediately layed our guns, and got everything in instant readiness for whatever surprises might arise.  We were all quite excited and anticipative of what was in store for us, this being our first experience in actual combat. 
 
The days between the 12 and 16 passed with routine duties, such as improving our gun positions, establishing O.P.'s, reconnoitering routes to our battalions, and working out fire plans with our S‑3.  On the morning of December 16, we were awakened at approximately 0530 by artillery fire which began falling in our area.  We were quite surprised as this was our first taste of enemy fire.  At about 1300 commanding officer of Cannon Company received a message from Regimental Headquarters stating that about 70 German infantrymen and several tanks had broken through to the northeast of our positions and were endangering the positions of the Regimental C.P., anti‑tank company, and cannon company, and ordered us to establish a defense line running East and West, with our positions facing to the North.  We quickly organized our company into three platoons, leaving just enough men behind to man the howitzers.  We established this defensive line which ran along the road from Schlossenbach to Auw to St. Vith.  Shortly after establishing these positions we received word by radio that our company was to advance to the northeast and attack the town of Auw.  We were to do this with the help of Company “L”.  Our company being a cannon company had only carbines, M1 rifles, and a few anti‑tank grenades.  This attack had to be made across wide open terrain which offered us absolutely no protection or concealment. 
 
After we had proceeded about 250 yards, we were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire.  We had also noticed a German armored car to our northeast.  We dispatched a patrol to investigate this armored car.  The majority of the machine gun fire seemed to be coming from a small clump of woods located to our northeast.  We dispatched another patrol to make a wide encirclement and come into the woods from the rear of where this machine gun fire was located.  In the meanwhile we had contacted our company C.P. and asked for some support.  We were given two howitzers, which firing from our original company positions were able to knock out two enemy machine guns and route an enemy tank. 
 
After this we pressed the attack further, feeling that our patrol which had gone down to silence the machine guns in the woods was at that time reaching its objective.  At this point we received a message from our regimental C.P. telling us to withdraw to our original company area and set up a perimeter defense.  We had to inform our patrol of these instructions.  Pfc. Eldon E. Marks volunteered for this assignment.  Showing outstanding courage, and at great personal risk, he crept, crawled and finally ran to the woods, enemy fire constantly kicking up the dust behind him.  Our withdrawal to our company area was executed without suffering any casualties.  We returned to our C.P. and established a perimeter defense for the night.  On December 17, we had our communications with regimental C.P. severed.
 
At 1100 of that day was the time it happened, and we tried to combat this deficiency by sending Lt. Clarence A. Husterlid with his radio operator and another man as liaison.  On their way to the C.P. they had to pass through the area occupied by our anti‑tank company.  As soon as they reached this area, they were fired upon by members of the Antitank Co. thinking they were enemy machine gunners, and they were never able to complete their mission.  Lt Husterlid at this point was very seriously wounded.
 
Later in the day, the commanding officer of the cannon company made his way to the regimental headquarters, where he stayed, and was able to direct the fire of our howitzers on several enemy convoys, knocking out many horse‑drawn artillery pieces, and ammunition trucks.  Our observers constantly on the watch throughout the day were able to spot a large concentration of enemy vehicles that were located to our Northeast.  That night plotting our fires very carefully we were able to set fire to the woods in which these vehicles were located causing a large explosion and a huge fire, and probably demolishing most of the vehicles.
 
From about 1600, we had been out of contact with the regimental C.P, and had no information as to what the situation was, as our commanding officer did not return.  We received a message at about 1900 stating that supplies of food and ammunition would be dropped at certain coordinate points, and that we were to send a patrol out to pick these up.  Whereas regiment could contact us, we could not contact them.  Later we received a message that these supplies would not be dropped.  Sensing the worst, a meeting was called, and it was decided that if we had no further word, we would withdraw from our positions, and head in a Southwesterly direction the following morning.  We laid plans to destroy the weapons and vehicles, so as not to cause any alarm. 
 
At about 0500 of the morning of the 18th of December we contacted the company commander of regimental headquarters company by radio and asked him what the situation was.  He said he could not tell us over the radio but that there was a plan.  The reason he could not tell us more was that the Germans were in on our radio frequency and had succeeded in tapping some of our phones.  As we were making ready to vacate our positions the morning of the 18th, we received a message from the regimental headquarters stating that we were to fire smoke and whatever remaining ammunition at points designated by regimental headquarters to cover their withdrawal, and the withdrawal of regimental headquarters company. 
 
After firing this mission, we made ready to vacate our positions.  Our instructions were that after firing this mission, we were to destroy our howitzers.  We left in vehicles by a route which we had reconnoitered earlier that morning.  After we had gone approximately four or five miles, we ran into the 423rd Regiment of our Division, which was going to attack the town of Schönberg.  Later that afternoon, we contacted elements of our Regiment, namely, “HQ” Company, Anti‑Tank Company, and together with them, and the majority of the regimental vehicles, set up positions about four miles west of Schlossenbach.  We were told to remain here while the remainder of our regiment went into the attack of Schönberg with the 423rd Regiment. 
 
We spent the night of the 18th being constantly harassed by enemy patrols.  The following morning we set up a perimeter defense around the woods that we had occupied during the night.  For the first time in our army career we found the men anxious to get their foxholes dug a little deeper and to have their fields of fire exact enough.  As the day progressed we noticed a large number of men at a great distance to our northeast.  At first we thought, perhaps, they were the advancing Germans, and we were getting ready for a real fight.  At this point, two officers from our regiment came upon us and told us that the men we saw in the distance were our own men that had been captured by the advancing Germans.  These two having escaped capture.  We were also told that the Ninth Armored Division was on its way to assist us, and at this time should be at the town of Bleialf. 
 
At this point, Captain E. Bruce Foster, the commanding officer of the special units battalions namely, Cannon Company, Anti‑Tank Company, and “HQ” Company, asked for a volunteer to go to the town of Bleialf and contact the Ninth Armored Division.  A patrol of three jeeps was organized.  As the patrol proceeded to the town of Bleialf, we realized that the Germans were already to our rear, as we captured two German linesmen stringing communication wires, but we decided to proceed to the town anyway. 
 
As we approached the outskirts of the town, we were met by overwhelming enemy forces which opened fire on us as we went down the road, causing the vehicles to stop.  Showing exceeding courage, Corporal Troy H. Kimmel manned a 50 caliber machine gun and emptied a full belt of ammunition into the onrushing enemy.  After doing this, he wanted to bring up another jeep and continue firing into the advancing Germans, but he was ordered not to do so. 
 
By this time, our patrol numbered about twelve men.  We had all left our vehicles and were lying in a ditch alongside of the road.  It was decided that we would try to withdraw over a hill to our left and rear.  As we made our way up the hill, being hotly pursued by the advancing enemy, we discovered that the hill was much steeper than we had anticipated, and we were forced to stop. Corporal Kimmel was sent to the top of the hill to have a look on the other side to see whether the coast was clear so that we could continue our withdrawal.  As we got up to continue our withdrawal several men were wounded, one of them by a land mines.  As we once again paused to regain our breaths, we decided to make one more try to get over the hill.  However, we were so greatly outnumbered that we were overtaken and captured by the enemy.  As to how the remainder of the special units battalion was captured is not known by me, as I was a member of the advance patrol.
 
As it was my pleasure to be an officer with the Cannon Company from its inception until the day that it no longer existed.  I wish to commend each and every man for the spirit and loyalty which they displayed throughout their training as well as their fighting days.
 
Source: The CUB: 106th Infantry Division Association, December 1946
By 1st Lt Ervin JUSTER

 

 Cannon Company 

422nd Infantry Regiment  

106th Infantry Division

 

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium