4TH INFANTRY DIVISION BATTLE OF LUXEMBOURG
2ND BATTALION 22ND INFANTRY
Captain Arthur C. Newcomb, Bn S-3 (by Lt. S.J. Tobin) at Berbourg, Luxembourg, and interviews at Beaufort, Luxembourg, 21 January 1945 (by Lt. Col. Wm. T. Gayle) with the following:
Captain Robert B. McLean, Bn S-1
Captain James W. Graham, then Cmdg. H Co. 22nd, and during the action with the Bn. Command Group.
1st Lt. Harold Simon, Bn S-4
Captain James B. Burnside, Ex. O., 2nd Bn, 22nd.
The following is an official overlay map from the 22nd Infantry Regiment:
On Dec. 16 the 2nd Bn. was in 22nd Inf. regimental reserve at Oetrange. In the afternoon orders were received to move by truck next morning to the 12th Inf. area for attachment to that regiment. The battalion moved out of Oetrange at 0730 Dec. 17 and proceeded to an assembly area about 300 yards south of Bech. About 1030 Co. F entrucked and moved to Berbourg where they mounted on tanks of Co. A 19th Tank Bn. of the 9th Armored Division, to go to the aid of Co. L 12th Inf. at Osweiler.
Co F. joined the tanks and moved from Berbourg thru Herborn, thence north towards Osweiler. As they passed the Miesbusch woods (064310) they received small arms fire. The column stopped, the infantry dismounted and fanned out, and then with the tanks advanced thru the western edge of the woods. The Germans withdrew before this attack and 16 men of Co. C 12th Inf. were recaptured.
Co. F and the tanks returned to the road and moved into Osweiler arriving in the middle of the afternoon. As they neared the town an American plane attacked the column and knocked out one tank. Panels were immediately displayed and the attack by our planes was stopped, but as the tanks entered the town the enemy put down a heavy artillery and mortar barrage. One tank suffered a damaged track from this fire but was evacuated after dark. The situation at Osweiler was well under control by this time. An enemy attack, the last made on Osweiler, had been beaten off that morning. Co F. remained, reinforcing Co. L 12th, while the tanks withdrew to Berbourg that night.
While Co. F was moving to Osweiler (Start), the rest of the battalion marched northeast from Bech, with companies in column G, E, H.
One section of heavy machine guns and a section of mortars were with Co. G and a section of machine guns with Co. E, which left four machine guns, four mortars, and 48 men, and four officers with Co. H at the tail of the column. The Battalion Command Group was between G and E. At a road junction a thousand yards south of Michelshof, the column turned right on the trail which leads to the eastern part of the woods. About 800 yards beyond the RJ, just beyond the point where the trail crosses the small road to Geyershof, the column encountered a mudhole at least knee deep. They were never able to get any vehicles thru this obstacle and from there on the move was entirely by foot.
The advance continued, following the trail around to the north along the crest of the ridge. (Omit) Exact location was difficult to determine in the woods and the march went on past the point where they should have turned east to get on the road to Osweiler. The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Kennan, realized this about 1500 when the head of the column was at approximately 041330. He ordered Co. G to turn to the southeast and move out on the nose at the edge of the woods (046327) where they could get observation to the east. (<- out) (Start again) (No paragraph here) It was just after this move started that the column was attacked.
The Germans had evidently been moving south at the foot of the steep bank on the east edge of the woods. They came up this bank at several points, cutting and eventually passing thru the American column. The first attack hit the head of Co. H. The Germans were apparently as much surprised at the first encounter as were the men of Co. H. The first enemy seen was a single scout who reached the top of the bank, (omit) (at about 040318), to find himself face to face with the Americans. The Germans opened fire with a burp gun, but the radio operator of Co. H killed him with a carbine. Then more Germans came up attacking Co. H on the right flank and also passing across the front of their column and getting on the left flank also. Practically all of the German troops had automatic weapons and they also opened fire with a 50mm mortar. The men of Co. H had been caught flatfooted while carrying machineguns and mortars. There was a dogfight for a while until Co. H succeeded in pulling back a few hundred yards to a draw at 03613 where they formed a circular defense. There Co. H was surrounded for the rest of the afternoon, fighting off an enemy which considerably outnumbered them.
The machine gun section which was at the rear of Co. E’s column had also been involved in the first enemy attack. But as the Germans came up in force between then and the rest of Co. B, they moved forward to catch up with Co. E. It was a while before the rest of the battalion knew that Co. H was in a fight. The battalion headquarters heard the firing but it sounded so distant that they did not suppose it to be in that battalion; they had been hearing considerable remote firing all afternoon. The first information that the battalion had of this attack was when the Executive Officer of Co. E ran up to the command group and said that Co. H was in a fight. About the same time the radio operator of Co. H. – the same man who had killed the first German – got thru with a message to the same effect. Col. Kennan ordered Co. E to turn around, go back astride the trail, and relieve H. Co. E made hardly any progress before they ran into strong German forces and were stopped. The enemy had evidently come up from the east in at least company strength between companies E and H. At the same time they came up all around Co. G. For the rest of the afternoon these two companies were under heavy small arms and 50mm. mortar fire and for a while were separated from each other as well as from Co. H. The battalion suffered a number of casualties during the afternoon skirmish.
That night contact was restored between E and G and they formed a circle near the east edge of the woods, with the battalion command group and a section of machineguns completing the circle on the north. There was no contact with Co. H, the last radio message having been received shortly after the attack started when the H Co. operator said, “Don’t call me any more; the enemy are too close”.
Apparently there had been no enemy activity north of the positions of Companies E and G; during the afternoon it had been possible to move to the trail junction about 500 yards north of Co. G and back down the other trail to E without encountering the enemy. After dark there was no contact and no firing thruout the night. Evidently the hostile force had gone its way to the southwest. Co. H. also was able to withdraw after dark and returned to Bech.
When the battalion first moved out the Bn CP remained at Beck. Later I went forward to reconnoiter the supply route. Finding the mudhole in the trail at 029309 impassable, I went to Michelshof to look for a route from there. When I got near the CR at Michelshof, I came under artillery fire that followed me around so closely I’m sure it was observed. There was one TD somewhere near Michelshof, and they were taking great care to keep hidden on account of the enemy fire.
Seeing that we would not be able to use a route thru Michelshof, and having heard from Co. F that they had reached Osweiler without difficulty, I asked permission by radio to move the CP to some point on the Herborn–Osweiler road. Col. Kennan replied emphatically, “let me tell you my situation”, and he made it clear that the battalion was pretty well surrounded. He ordered the CP to move to Geyershof.
Captain Burnside, the Bn. Ex. O., brought the CP up on foot except for a few wire vehicles, but later all the battalion transportation was brought to Geyershof and dispersed in an open field just back of the CP.
An AT gun was placed about 800 yards north of Geyershof on the road to Michelshof, near the south edge of the woods. Captain
McLean moved to the same point with the radio because of difficulty with reception in the low ground at Geyershof. The cannon platoon which was attached to the battalion also went into position nearby. But this position soon came under heavy shelling. The cannon platoon and the radio moved back down to the vicinity of the building in the northern part of the village where the CP was set up.
The AT gun remained in the exposed position.
Communication was difficult and uncertain thruout Dec. 17 and.l8. When the battalion advanced from Bech in the morning a wire vehicle accompanied the command group in the usual way, but it was stopped at the mudhole north of Geyershof. The wire crew then removed the reel from the vehicle and tried to follow the advance on foot, but they were unable to keep up. Thruout the afternoon this
crew was by itself in the woods doggedly laying wire, but they never succeeded in reaching the forward CP. Thruout the fight in the afternoon and the passage of the German battalion thru the woods, the wire crew was never attacked, but next day German wire was found tapped in on our line. Apparently the enemy deliberately allowed our linemen to go on with their work.
There was only intermittent wire communication from the CP at Geyershof to the rear. The line back to Bech was cut repeatedly by artillery fire and though repair was continuous the line was out a great deal of the time. During the night this line stayed in but just south of Bech the wire to the 12th Inf. CP was cut by shelling. Because of this difficulty with its wire, most of the communication to the rear during the late afternoon and night was transmitted thru the artillery, which managed to keep in its line from Geyershof to the battery at Bech, which had a line to 42nd FA Bn. and thence to 12th Inf.
There was, however, little positive information to transmit to the regiment that night. About all that was known at the CP about the situation was that the battalion was surrounded by enemy in unknown strength. There was no wire forward and little use could be made of the radio partly because of poor reception in the Geyershof hollow and partly because Col. Kennan was unwilling to talk much on the radio. Again the artillery battery (B44th) did an excellent job of maintaining communication in spite of the difficulties. When the artillery radio jeep was stopped at the mudhole, the radio operator showed excellent initiative in finding a way to operate in spite of being left behind. He brought his jeep back to Geyershof and parked it at the window of the switchboard room at the CP. He remained in contact with the forward observer by portable radio, and the next day successfully controlled fire by receiving radio messages from the FO, and shouting them in the window to the telephone operator who transmitted them to the battery at Bech. (This man was killed next day when a shell fragment hit him in his hole).
Supply was also a problem. The impossibility of getting vehicles thru the mudhole on the route followed by the battalion and the fact that the enemy was putting observed fire on Michelshof, made it necessary to resort to carrying parties. Supply jeeps went as far forward as possible, which was about 200 yards east of Michelshof, and there they were met by the A & P platoon which handcarried everything for the remaining mile and a half to the battalion. It was a source of amazement to the battalion officers that in spite of the enemy battalion which was somewhere in the woods nearby, the A & P Platoon worked without interference all night and completed the carriage of supplies.
The lone TD which was in Michelshof was very uneasy about its exposed position and asked for infantry protection. This the battalion was unable to furnish and the TD wanted to withdraw. With much persuasion they were induced to remain, Captain McLean pointing out that members of the carrying party and the jeep drivers would be near their position most of the time. McLean was very anxious to keep the TD there to furnish a little protection for the sensitive transfer point on the supply line. After the last trip the carrying party remained with the TD until morning, which led to their being cut off when the Germans advanced.
On the morning of Dec. 18 the battalion up in the woods found itself free of any enemy contact. They moved south to the lateral trail, turned east, and marched toward Osweiler without any opposition from the Germans. But as they came out of the woods on the road, north of Fromburg Farm they received heavy fire from American tanks, the same tanks that were with Co. F. These tanks, which had spent the night at Herborn, had returned to Osweiler in the morning and had been sent eastward to assist the battalion. In view of the situation which had existed the previous night, it was not reasonable to expect that the battalion would march out of the woods unopposed, without the firing of a shot, and the assumption by the tanks that they were the enemy was natural. It was a difficult situation for nearly two hours with the infantry battalion pinned down and suffering some casualties. Eventually a patrol with a white flag made its way around thru the draw on the right and made contact with the tanks.
A little before noon Companies E and G entered Osweiler and joined Co. F. For the rest of that day and the 19th they remained at Osweiler taking no action except the out-posting of the town. Here the three rifle companies were reunited but were far separated from the battalion headquarters at Geyershof and the service elements and the greater part of Co. H at Bech. (Omit) Co. H after its fight in the woods had made its way back to Bech during darkness). These elements were ordered to move to Herborn but before the move could be made they became heavily involved with the German 316th Regiment. (Stop go to page 11 narrative)
CAPTAIN McLEAN AND CAPTAIN BURNSIDE
All was quiet at Geyershof until about noon. Realizing how uncertain the situation was, Captain Burnside had made all arrangements for security which his means permitted. There was still the TD at Michelshof and 500 yards south of it the battalion’s AT gun. Outposts composed of battalion headquarters personnel were occupying some abandoned artillery positions about 200 yards northwest of the CP. The two infantry cannon were in position just west of the CP sighted to fire up the hill to the northeast. The only possible exit from Geyershof was via the CR to the north; the road and trails leading south were not passable for vehicles.
The CP received some shelling a little before noon. Sometime afterward small arms fire was heard to the south. This was from a platoon of towed TDs (2A802) which was in position a thousand yards south on the Jacobsberg road. This seems to have been the first American unit hit by the German 2nd Bn. 316th as it advanced southeast from Scheidgen. This platoon being unable to get out southward to Jacobsberg, retreated to the north, passing thru Geyershof. As they approached the CR 500 yards north of the village, they were fired on from northeast and northwest and were unable to get thru. About the same time a platoon of the 803rd TD Bn. (SP) which had been in position 500 yards east of Geyershof firing as artillery, tried to withdraw thru the village but found the road blocked by the towed platoon.
It was obvious now that all the Americans at Geyershof were bottled up. Accordingly Captain Burnside had the TD’s pull back to the village and put them in position on the east alongside the cannon platoon. All three of these units were manning their guns with minimum personnel and put the rest of their men out as infantry. The part of the A & P Platoon which was present took positions in the houses in the southern part of the village covering the south. The west was still held by the outposts of the battalion headquarters in the old artillery position up the hill. It was a slim defense and the enemy were now all around. They did not close in but their presence in the woods on all sides was proved by the heavy small arms fire they were delivering. Considerable numbers of enemy were also observed on the open hilltop a thousand yards to the east.
The TD and the infantry carrying party at Michelshof were completely cut off. However they seem to have escaped detection and later in the day escaped down the highway to Wolper. The AT gun south of Michelshof was overrun. Two of the crew were found dead there later, the balance presumably captured.
The enemy kept up a heavy fire on the Geyershof defense, both small arms and observed artillery fire; they scored two direct hits on the CP building. They also placed artillery on our vehicles knocking out a jeep and two trailers. When the attack first developed, an ambulance with a casualty, and a jeep, had made a run for it. The enemy poured a stream of bullets at these vehicles as they went thru the CR but they escaped. However the volume and close range of the fire decided Captain Burnside against trying to make a dash out with all the vehicles. The defenders could not reply effectively to the hostile fire since the enemy stayed out of sight in the woods, although the TDs did some firing into the woods to the northeast. What may have been the enemy’s intentions as to attacking the place never appeared, for the siege was broken by the arrival of our tanks.
Co. C 70th Tank Bn. had been detached that morning from TF Luckett and ordered to report to 2nd Bn. 22nd. During the morning Captain Taynton ?, having left his company in Bech had reported in at Geyershof and been instructed to bring his company there. At that time Captain Burnside did not yet know that the battalion had marched out of the woods without opposition. During the time that Captain Taynton returned to Bech and led his company forward, the enemy attack developed. As the tanks moved up the trail toward the CR north of Geyershof they were fired on by the Germans in the woods. Captain Taynton attacked into the woods but his own tank was knocked out by a bazooka. Deciding that he could not break thru the enemy without infantry support, Captain Taynton mounted another tank and returned to Bech were he called on the Battalion S-4 for assistance. Lt. Simon the S-4 had no men except cooks and supply personnel and apparently was not very encouraging about the possibility of using them for infantry. At any rate Captain Taynton then went to the 174th Field Artillery Bn. (l35G), obtained 25 men and took them back to join his tanks. The attack on the Germans in the woods was renewed, but they were unable to dislodge the enemy, who were present in considerable numbers. Then the tank captain decided to move around by the trail. The tanks did an enormous amount of firing on this move with all their guns, especially into the woods to the northeast where the main body of the enemy seemed to be. Under fire from our tanks the hostile small arms fire slackened considerably and the tanks moved down to the CP.
All arrangements for departure had been made during the tank action, which had lasted an hour and a half. The column was quickly formed, with tanks at the head and tail and a few dispersed thru the column. Just at that time the weather intervened on our side. A heavy fog came down like the dropping of a curtain. Under this concealment the column moved out and returned to Bech without loss. The enemy continued firing but with the visibility limited to a 100 yards got no hits.
When the head of the column was in motion a sergeant went back into the field where the vehicles had been parked, to unload some equipment from the damaged trailers, but was driven away by close range machinegun fire. Apparently the enemy moved in from the south the moment we pulled out to the north. On the way out a party went up the road to Michelshof. The squad was missing except for two dead but the gun and halftrack were untouched. The halftrack motor could not be started so the platoon leader removed the pin from the gun and it was abandoned.
The CP went thru Beck to Herborn.
The TD at Michelshof and the nine men of the 2nd Bn. 22nd who were with them (carrying party and wire men) remained there during the fight at Geyershof, watching large numbers of the enemy pass thru the woods just south of them. Later they rode down the highway to Wolper without interference.
About 1330 Dec. 18 I had just returned to Bech after a trip to the Service Co., when the tank company commander ran in and said, “I’ve just had a tank knocked out. How about giving me some infantrymen to help get the tank out.” Since I had nobody ready for action, the tank captain went off to 174th Field Artillery, I rounded up 22 men- cooks, KP’s, and others- and loading them in jeeps along with rations and other supplies moved forward to the RJ (023305), where the trail for Geyershof leaves the road. We stayed there at the RJ and watched the tanks a few hundred yards away trying to get into Geyershof and having a hell of a fire fight. Too much artillery was falling on the road so I sent the jeeps back to Bech. After the tanks broke thru, I tried to follow them, but the Germans were still in the woods and we could not get thru. I led my men back to Bech and was standing at the CR when the column came thru. Captain McLean told me as he went by that the CP was moving to Herborn. But the service elements remained in Bech that night.
Since the Jerries were all around the area, we had to get up a defense for Bech. I had thirty-some men of the service personnel of 2nd Bn. 22nd. I looked around the town and found several other outfits – Battery B 44th Field, Co. Hq. of A and B 12th Inf., the Service Battery 174th Field Artillery, and some TDs. We got together and organized a defense. Battery B of the 44th took the east side of the town, Service Battery 174th the northeast, and I organized cooks, clerks, and so forth, including the Co. Hq. of A and B 12th, and outposted the open hill northwest of Bech. The TDs took position to cover the west. One of the 12th Inf. companies had a 60mm. mortar, but the only man we could find who knew anything about a mortar was one of Co. B 12th who was back there awaiting courtmartial. We put this man in charge of the mortar and set it up to cover the road to the north. We took two 50 caliber machineguns off the trucks and a couple of 30’s from the jeeps. During the night Lt. Turchin brought in the part of H Co. which had been surrounded in the woods.
We were not disturbed at Bech during the night; there was no firing. But next morning just as I was ready to move my outfit to Berbourg, Bech got a terrific shelling.
The Battalion CP first set up in Herborn in a cafe at the road fork in the north end of the town. About Dec. 20 we got a terrific shelling with 210mm. – identified by the artillery from fragments. The first shelling destroyed both our radios which were on the upper floor, and cut every wire line. When we thought the shelling was over, I left the basement with several men and went back to the CP in the top floor. Immediately afterward the Jerries threw some more 201s in, one of which made a direct hit on a small basement window, taking out the whole base of the front wall of the building and completely wrecking the basement. This shelling immobilized all our transportation; the jeeps that weren’t wrecked had flat tires. We then moved in with CP of 3rd Bn. 12th, which still had wire to the rear and radio communication with Osweiler.
On Dec. 20 patrols were sent out, to Rodenhof, and to the woods where the battalion had been surrounded on the 17th. The latter got well into the woods before meeting enemy, and did not return until after dark. The other patrol found the enemy holding the high ground in front of Rodenhof strongly. This patrol got back to the battalion under cover of artillery fire called down by the forward observer who was with them.
The battalion organized an attack on this resistance, getting started in the late afternoon. They got just across the steep ravine which runs southwest from Rodenhof and were stopped by enemy strongly entrenched on the opposite bank. E and F organized their position for the night. After dark the Germans made a strong counterattack on F, which lost about 20 men.
On Dec. 21 G relieved F and at 7:30 E and G moved forward and ran head on into an enemy attack. The fire fight lasted all day with no further change of position after our initial 200 yard advance.
That night orders were received from 12th Infantry to hold our ground, and the battalion remained on the defensive until relieved on Dec. 24th by 3rd Bn. 22nd.
Co. E then had 78 men and Co. F 50.