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Under Construction

COMMAND PAPER

BRIEF PAPER EXAMINING THE FACTS

and

DRAWING A CONCLUSION AS TO WHO WAS IN

COMMAND OF THE

AUGMENTED ATTACK and DEFENSE ON THE HILL,

LA ROUMIERE 24 25 26 DEC 44

and

WHY A 2330 24 DEC 44 NIGHT ATTACK WAS CRITICAL

 

by: Alfred S. Roxburgh

Sacramento, CA

CN CO 289th INFANTRY REGIMENT

75th INFANTRY DIVISION


Introduction

 

At 2330 24 Dec 1944, Companies of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 290th Regimental Combat Team assigned to Combat Command R of the 3rd Armored Division, attacked (as ordered) the German held town of Wy, Belgium and the German fortified hill, La Roumiere.  The objectives were to clear the enemy from this key area south of the Soy-Hotton road.  At this time, the 1st Bn, 290th Regimental Combat Team was assigned by VII Corps Commanding General to the CG XVIII Corps Airborne.  This Corps CG assigned the 1st Bn to the CG 3rd Armored, attached at that time to the XVIII Corps Airborne.  C Co, 1st Bn, was ordered to move south of Manhay on highway N15 and engaged the enemy in the daylight hours 24 Dec 1944.  The key road which connected Bastogne and Liege was N15.  A Co was ordered to the 3rd Armored Task Force Kane south-west of Manhay.  B Co was assigned to the 54th FA Bn for infantry support.  D Co platoons were assigned to provide heavy weapons support to the three rifle companies.  Unfortunately, over the last fifty years, there are several inaccurate versions surrounding these operations.  This paper examines the printed available material pertinent to specific questions in order to arrive at a supported conclusion.

 

Questions

 

There are five questions answered based on the printed evidence:

 

I.  Who was in command, at Battalion level, of the operation to attack, clear, and secure the La Roumiere area south of the road between Soy and Hotton?

 

II.  Which 75th Infantry Division Battalions were engaged in the operation?

 

III.  Which 75th ID Battalion was engaged south of Manhay on the key Bastogne to Liege Highway (N15) during the first critical days of the operation south of the Soy-Hotton road?

 

IV.  Which Battalion and Co's were responsible for attacking, clearing, and securing Wy and the area immediately south of Wy?

 

V.  Was the 290th CIT's CO in the chain of command?

 

VI.  Was the urgent reason for the infantry night attack 2330 24th Dec (instead of a daylight attack by fighter bomber aircraft followed by creeping artillery barrages preceding an infantry modified envelopment attack 25th Dec 44) to clear the German lines for the Hogan Task Force 400 "walk out" beginning at dusk 25th Dec 1944?

 

INFORMATION

 

1.  THE SIOUX INDIAN WARS, Cyrus Townsend Brady, page 142,

 

"I was exercising the command all the time.  One of the articles of war provides that 'when troops join and do duty together the highest in rank of the line of the army shall command the whole, and give the orders needful for the service,' and I could not have avoided the responsibility." Eugene A. Carr, Brevet Major General and Congressional Medalist.

 

2.  THE CANNONEERS, W. Stanford Smith, Major General (ret), page 4,

 

"I don't remember who gave me the news that I was the Company Commander because I was the senior first Lieutenant of the five then assigned to the 103rd Infantry Cannon Company.  However, I took command of the company on 19 March, 1943."

 


3.  THE ARTICLES OF WAR ANNOTATED, Lee S. Tillotson, Colonel J.A.G.D., U.S. Army, Retired, page 261,

 

"When command devolves upon as officer by reason of his seniority, no order placing him in command is necessary (30-1814) (40-1428 [2]

 

4.  THE OPERATIONS OF THE 3RD BATTALION, 290TH INFANTRY (75TH INFANTRY DIVISION) NEAR HOTTON, BELGIUM 24-26 DECEMBER 1944 (ARDENNES-ALSACE CAMPAIGN), page 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19,

 

Preparation for the attack

"...on orders from the Commanding Officer [290th RCT]...regimental commander ...set attack...2330 hours that night...[24 Dec 1944].  ...3rd Battalion...with 2nd Battalion...attack 2330 hours....  ...battalion commander [3d]...to Soy...Regimental [290th] Command Post...informed battalion [CO]...[Co's] in] Ny..."

 

Dawn Attack, 25 December 1944

 

"...troops of the rifle companies [K and L Cos] succeeded in blunting the force of the [German] counterattack [0630 25 Dec 1944]...  ...battalion commander [3rd Bn] requested and received permission from regiment [290th RCT] to commit I Company.  ...F Company, and ...[A Co +] ...517th Parachute Infantry Regiment...attached to the Bn.  ...new attack...1600 25 Dec 1944.  [M Co with its heavy weapons supported the attacking rifle companies]."

 

Afternoon Attack, 25 December 1944

 

"...artillery fire...on the hilltop [La Roumiere] ...K and L Co ...defensive positions...until 1600...   ...1430, on schedule, I Company reinforced by a platoon of M-10 Tank Destroyers...629th Tank Destroyer Battalion crossed ...OURTHE River at Hotton moved south ...the 84th Division area, re-crossed the river by means of a half destroyed bridge, captured WERPIN and attacking from the southwest drew abreast of K and L companies.  Simultaneously, F Company reinforced by the detachment [A Co +] 517th Paratroopers assaulted the enemy positions defenses.  Together the four companies [A Co + attacking on F Co's left flank and slightly behind F Co's leading Platoon] advanced through the woods driving the retreating Germans before them and withdrawing across the open fields to the east [south]."

 

Defense of the Objective, 26 December 1944

 

"...night ...25, 26 December...companies ...3rd Battalion dug in...worked to locate wounded and evacuate on the decks of the tank destroyers...mines were laid, barbed wire strung.  Order was brought out of chaos.  ...Germans never again threatened the road center of Hotton.  Casualites extremely high.  ...K Company lost all of its officers...exception-weapons platoon leader.  L Company lost four of six officers, including the company commander.  [F Company casualties were high plus the loss of one officer]."

 

5.  TOUJOURS EN AVANT 'ALWAYS FORWARD'  THE COMBAT HISTORY OF THE THIRD BATTALION 290TH INFANTRY REGIMENT, page 1, 2,  (Click here to view TOUJOURS EN AVANT)

 

"Dec, 24 1944...  From the wooded area [Ny], 'K' and 'L' Companies moved out in the attack of the high ground [La Roumiere] east of the communication hub of Hotton.  ...attack at 2330...   ...insufficient ammunition...forced to withdraw from hill after they had taken it.  ...K and L again attacked...took the hill...unable to hold against the counter-attack.  K Company reported all officers, except the weapons platoon leader, casualties.  Dec 25 1944...K and L companies held it against counter-attack.  The two companies had made the frontal attack.  I Company moved from its positions in Hotton, crossed the OURTHE (sp) RIVER via a half blown out bridge and attacked the town of WERPIN.  Resistance...was light...I Company assaulted the right [west] flank of the German line of defense.   ...bitter fighting...Germans...driven back...I Company drew abreast of K and L Companies.  M-10 Tank Destroyers moved up on the line..  ...protection against an armored attack.  (In the attack on the high ground past WERPIN, I Company was assisted by F Company of the 290th Infantry and small elements of a paratroop Bn [A Co + 1st Bn].  Dec 26 1944...A Lt. of the Third Armored Division entered the Bn CP...reported enemy troops being reinforced.  ...companies were notified...  ...no counter-attack occurred.  Dec. 27, 28 1944 ...small scale patrolling on both sides.  Jerry artillery fire on...positions on...hill."

 

6.  CITATION, GENERAL ORDER NUMBER 189, JULY 1945,

 

"25 December 1944...Belgium.  Near Soy...as...attack mounted to its peak...enemy launched a powerful counterattack...several battalions supported by tanks...fired at close range...  Every member in his squad...killed or wounded,  Sergeant GORDON [K Co]...continued to man...machine gun in face...of heavily concentrated enemy fire...partially disabled...continued ...effective fire...ammunition...exhausted, ...dashed to enemy  captured machine gun position  ...continued ...deadly fire until reinforcements were brought up to stem the enemy attack."

 

7.  SECOND BATTALION 290TH INF REGT, PASS IN REVIEW VOL. 1 NO.14, Pages 2, 10,

 

"NOTE

...F Co...in Regimental reserve...it was attached to the 3rd Bn, and on Christmas day..."

 

REPORT FROM F COMPANY for DECEMBER 25 to JANUARY 5.

 

"...early hours...December 25, F Company...into Regimental reserve.  ...before daylight...learned 3rd Bn...in trouble...driven off a hill [La Roumiere] which they had taken that morning.  Co F...committed with 3rd Bn.  In a frontal assault across an open field swept by machine gun fire, F Co attacked and took hill 87 despite the enemy's dug-in defenses, there by earning the commendation of the CO of a Paratrooper unit   [Lt Col CO 1st Bn 517th Para Infantry Regiment?] which arrived shortly after the objective had been attained.  F Co then set up a perimeter defense in which they were relieved by elements of the 3rd Bn the following day [26 Dec].  F Co...called out again the following night to strengthen the 3rd Bn...assist Engrs [C Co 275th Bn Combat Engineers] in laying mine fields--under heavy enemy fire."

 

8. SECOND BATTALION 290TH INF. REGT. PASS IN REVIEW VOL. 1. NO. 13, Pages 1, 2, 3.

 

"DEC. 24; Soy, Belgium.

1735--Bn Comdr received orders to attack town of Wy, Belgium.

1945--New CP established at Soy.

2015--Co Comdrs received attack order.  Co F...Regt'l Res.

2315--Bn crossed Line of Departure with Co G leading.

DEC. 25; Wy, Belgium.

0100--Co's report no enemy North of Wy.

0335--E Co...dawn attack on Wy.  Scouts out.

0745--E Co Attacked town of Wy from North.  G Co attacked on right of E Co.

1050--Platoon of tanks to be used to assist attack.

1500--Wy completely cleared.  Nine prisoners...taken.

1755--Bn advised...Third Armored Task Force...had been cut off...coming in tonight.  [Col. Hogan's Command].

DEC. 26:  Wy, Belgium

0100--...TD unit in position.

0510--18 men from 3rd Armored Div who escaped from German trap arrived at BN Cp.

1710--Co F under Capt. Stewart had been committed to help out 3rd Bn. Co [s] was commended by paratroop CO for its splendid work.

DEC. 27:  Wy, Belgium.

0315--Contact established 'L' Co on our Bn right.

1150--[C Co 87th]  Chemical Mortar Bn firing on Trinal.

 

9.  A FURLOUGH IN PARIS...Hogan's Task Force, 83rd Recon Bn.

 

"Christmas Day--1944...Surrounded...in...Marcouray....  Late in the afternoon...orders ...destroyed....vehicles,...weapons,...all equipment...no exceptions...  Just after dusk [1700-1800] ...stay in line...we moved out..."

 

"At daybreak...scouts contacted an American outpost, an infantry road block..infantrymen -- members of the 75th Infantry Division....were expecting us...one of the infantry guys gave me some of his rations -- a small can of frozen beans...6x6's...brought to rear echelon...reunited with 83d...Task Force Hogan was dissolved.  ...400...Hogan's Heroes."

 

10.  SPEARHEAD IN THE WEST.  The Third Armored Division, 1944-1945, pages 225, 226, 227.

 

"On 23 December...290th Regimental Combat Team of the 75th Infantry Division...attached (One battalion [1st Bn] moved into the Division area...night...23 24 Dec [2d 3d Bns] remainder followed at first light.  With ...the attachment...289th Regimental Combat Team, [and 290th RCT] (75th Division) 730 Field Artillery Battalion and two companies [B and C] ...87th Chemical Mortar Battalion (4.2) on 24 December ...General Rose had ...a force approaching Corps strength.  ...two ...Battalions of Parachute Infantry [509th Bn and 1st Bn 517th], ..897th, 898th, 899th and 3rd AD Artillery (FA) Bns, 629th and 772nd TD Bns, 750th Tank Bn...]

 

290th...attacked in the zone of Combat Command 'R'...Combat Command 'R' reached its objective line after overcoming small arms and artillery fire which necessitated the commitment of [ Co A+] 1st Bn, 517th Parachute Infantry to assist the 290th Infantry Regiment.  [Hogan's troops]...started north in groups of twenty at twenty minute intervals...  By noon of the following day all but a few of the four hundred had returned safely...

 

...Letter of commendation to Lt. Col. Hogan, Major General Collins, C.O. VII Corps said in part, 'Acting with the characteristic spirit of the 3rd Armored Division Task Force 'Hogan' had pushed out in front ..., the entire VII Corps was thrilled with your refusal (to surrender)...  "...Your indomitable courage and leadership not only assisted in checking the German advance to the north, but resulted in saving some four hundred men from capture....'

 

11.  REMEMBRANCES, 24, 25, 26 DEC 1944, 3rd PLATOON F Co 2nd BN 290th INF. REGT.

 

"...assaulted the hill...  Machine guns...overhead fire.  ...about 3 pm...secured hill by the woods.  ...dusky...dark...thought  counterattack...Germans...the Colonel...517th Para Troops and Co F firing at each other before we recognize...American.  They were coming up from the left...of the hill.  ...Colonel...ranking officer, took charge...to edge of the cleared [of trees] field.  ...9:00 or 10 at night.  ...a squad of Germans.  ...Colonel challenged...in German...did not respond.  ...BAR man opened fire...they ran off the hill...horse drawn artillery behind them.  Dec 26, 1944...dug in at the edge of...tree line in the cleared field."    McConley Byrd, F Co 2nd Bn, 290th Inf Regt.

 

12.  HISTORICAL RECORD OF 1ST BN, 517TH RCT, pages 1,2.

 

"1st Bn...destination...SOY, BELGIUM...

24 Dec 44:  1630 hrs...1st Bn...Combat Command Reserve...  [A Co+] ...rested until 1100...,  25 Dec 44.  ...night ...24th...75th Inf. Div.  ...make (s) a might attack toward the south passing through 'B' Co [1st Bn 517th PIR] ...objectives were (LA ROUMIERE...) [sp] and WY.  One Bn, ...290th Inf to take the right objective, one Bn to take the left one.

 

"Comment:  This same commendation should have been said about the officers and men who fought, suffered wounds and died to clear the Germans from the Soy-Hotton road line through which the four hundred officers and men traveled to the safety of the American lines.

 

25  Dec  44:  Hy 1200...left objective almost taken...right Bn. held up.  ...Regt. Reserve...290th was committed  [There was no Regt. reserve.  1st Bn 290th engaged at Belle Haie South of Manhay]  ...no progress...decided to commit...Combat Command Reserve.  ...'A' Co. 1st Bn [517th PI] ordered to attack on the left flank of the 290th.  Within 3 hours 'A' Co. reached the top of the objective and then the 290th Inf. came up to the objective.  On the way, 'A' Co. was held up by machine gun and mortar fire, but close artillery fire ...aggressiveness...saved the day...objective ...reached...approximately 1730...reverse slope of the hill...organized.  During the night ...decided ...move over the crest of the hill to the South slope (Lt. Col. Boyle was placed in command of all troops on the hill).  The night passed without event except for enemy patrols and light mortar fire.

 

44...0800...Bn informed that the 290th Inf.  .. relieve ...517th on the hill - effected at 1600..., 25 Dec 44.

 

13.  LIGHTNING JOE, GENERAL J. LAWTON COLLINS, PAGE 284.

 

"I visited General Ridgeway...twenty - third [Dec 44].  He was concerned with a critical situation involving part of the 3rd Armored Division east of the Ourthe River.  I agreed to let him have a battalion of the 75th Division and a battalion of 155 mm howitzers [730th FA Bn] for attachment to the 3rd Armored.  [3rd AD in Ridgeway's XVIII Airborne Corps at the time of this agreement]."

 

14.  1ST BN 517TH PARACHUTE COMBAT TEAM.

 

"FROM:  [Lt] COL. BOYLE and OFFICER AND MEN OF 1ST BN 517TH PRCH CT

TO:  COL. HOWZE AND OFFICERS AND MEN OF HIS COMMAND

26 DEC 44

 

...note of thanks and deep appreciation for the way you have taken care of us while in your command.  These few days have been some of the hottest and most interesting fighting we have ever experienced.  This short workout has given us a new picture of the type of duties you perform and believe us when we say you have our sincere admiration and praise.  To have served with you all has been an Honor and a Pleasure and we hope to soldier again with you someday.

 

* W.J. Boyle   * DONALD W. FRASER

Lt. Col., Inf      Maj.  517 Prcht Combat Team"  */s/