figure 2. St. Vith, Belgium, and also villages in the Ardennes. (Map indigenous the Armor School publication, The fight at St. Vith, Belgium, 17-23 December 1944.)

Editor’s note: The U.S. Military marks the 70th anniversary that the fight of St. Vith in mid-December 2014. Although one more battle in the as whole Battle of the Bulge, the fight for Bastogne, is better known, Armor and Cavalry defensive actions in ~ St. Vith helped break the earlier of Hitler’s Ardennes offensive. Together LTG troy H. Middleton assessed in the foreword come the Armor School’s publishing The battle at St. Vith, Belgium, “Two that the most crucial tactical localities ~ above the 88-mile front hosted by the VIII Corps in the Ardennes woodland at the beginning of the fight of the Bulge … were Bastogne and St. Vith. With these localities were the road nets that, if held, would disrupt the plan of any type of aggressor. Bastogne was crucial communications center and also was precious the gamble made for its defense. That garrison created a brilliant chapter in background by denying the locality come the enemy; therefore, lot of the comment pertaining come the fight of the Bulge has actually centered roughly this necessary terrain feature. This reality has caused plenty of to shed sight of the prominence of St. Vith and the gallant stand created its defense by aspects of corps troops, by remnants the 106th division and through of 7th Armored Division. ... In mine opinion, it was CCB that affected the subsequent activity and resulted in the enemy so much delay and so countless casualties in and near this crucial area. Despite Armor was no designed mainly for the duty of the defensive, the procedure of CCB was nonetheless a great example of exactly how it can assume together function in an emergency. Its aggressive defense measures fully disrupted the enemy’s plan in the St. Vith sector.” The very same publication, in the introduction, stated, “The stand at St. Vith has actually been recognized by both German and Allied commanders as a transforming point in the fight of the Bulge.” ARMOR magazine bring you the good, bad and ugly about the battle for St. Vith and the on-scene management that do the distinction in the battle. First, the scene-setting.

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Battle of st vith


The battle of St. Vith, which began Dec. 16, 1944, was part of the battle of the Bulge. St. Vith represented the right flank in the advance of the German offensive, i beg your pardon intended a pincer movement on U.S. Pressures through the Losheim Gap and toward the can be fried objective the Antwerp.

The town of St. Vith, Belgium, was a critical road and also rail center the Germans essential to supply your offensive. St. Vith was also close come the western end of the Losheim Gap, a vital valley through the densely forested ridges that the Ardennes Forest and the German offensive’s axis. Therefore St. Vith to be a “must capture” by the German LXVI Corps and also its 5th and sixth Panzer armies.

Opposing the Germans were devices of U.S. VIII Corps. This defenders were led by U.S. 7th Armored division and contained 424th Infantry (106th U.S. Infantry Division), elements of ninth Armored Division’s CCB and also 112th Infantry Regiment the U.S. 28th Infantry Division. End the course of almost a week, 7th Armored division – plus those elements of the 106th Infantry, 28th Infantry and also 9th Armored departments – absorbed much of the weight of the German drive, cram the German timetable into disarray prior to being compelled to retract west of the Salm river Dec. 23.

Under order from field Marshal young name Montgomery, 7th Armored offered up St. Vith Dec. 21, 1944, and U.S. Troops fell back to positions sustained by 82nd Airborne division to the west, as noted. However, also in retreat, 7th Armored presented an imposing obstacle to a effective German advance. By Dec. 23, as the Germans shattered your flanks, the defenders’ position became untenable, and also U.S. Troops were ordered to retreat west that the Salm River. Together the German arrangement called because that the capture of St. Vith by 6 p.m. Dec. 17, the prolonged action in and around it gift a significant blow to their timetable.

Dec. 10-15

The 106th Infantry division (422nd and 423rd Regiments), a “green” unit, replace instead replace the veteran 2nd Infantry department Dec. 11 in the area the St. Vith and also the Schnee Eifel (Snow Plateau). Components of 106th room deployed east, with most of its force isolated top top the Schnee Eifel. The 106th’s 424th Infantry Regiment is sent out to Winterspelt. On the eve of the battle, the 106th is covering a former of practically 26 miles.

The 14th cavalry Group, commanded by COL note Devine, moves right into the area. Supporting 14th space 820th Tank Destroyer Battalion, with 12 three-inch towed anti-tank guns, and 275th Armored field Artillery Battalion, with 18 M7 priest self-propelled howitzers. The headquarters group additionally brings through it a 2nd cavalry squadron (18th mounties Reconnaissance Squadron) to display the Losheim Gap, which is top top 106th Division’s left flank.

The defenders’ battleground is the Ardennes. Many of the Ardennes is in southeastern Wallonia, the southern and an ext rural component of Belgium. The southern component of the Ardennes is likewise the northern section the Luxembourg, and also on the southeast, the Eifel region continues into Germany. The region is typified through steep-sided valleys sculpted by swift-flowing rivers, the most significant of i m sorry is the Meuse River. Much of the Ardennes is dense forests, with hills averaging about 1,148 to 1,640 feet high however rising to an ext than 2,276 feet in the boggy moors the the Hautes Fagnes (Hohes Venn) region of southeastern Belgium. The Ardennes’ many populous cities room Verviers in Belgium and Charleville-Mézières in France, both exceeding 50,000 inhabitants. The Ardennes is otherwise reasonably sparsely populated, with couple of of the cities exceeding 10,000 occupants – through a few exceptions prefer Eupen or Bastogne.

The two cavalry squadrons, 14th and 18th, collection up fortifications in tiny villages in the area. This transforms them into isolated strongpoints guarding roadway intersections. Most of their supporting firepower comes from LTG trojan Middleton, commander of VIII Corps, who arranges because that eight the his 13 reserve pho battalions to support the area that the Schnee Eifel and also the Losheim Gap, the central area the his prior line.

Dec. 16

The German Ardennes-Alsace Campaign strike is thrown in force at U.S. 106th Infantry Division. A little before 5:30 a.m., a selective German artillery bombardment begins to loss on 106th’s forward positions top top the Schnee Eifel, relocating gradually ago to the department headquarters in St. Vith. This strike cuts up many of the telephone wires the U.S. uses because that communications. The Germans likewise use radio-jamming stations the made wireless communications difficult. This has the impact of breaking the defense into isolated positions, and also denies corps and also commands information on occasions at the front line.

German soldiers find an undefended void running in between Weckerath come Kobscheid in the north. This movement corresponds with a southern advance around the appropriate flank the the Schnee Eifel v Bleialaf to Schoenberg, surrounding U.S. Positions on the Schnee Eifel ridge. This double envelopment comes as a finish surprise come U.S. Forces as result of intelligence fail at first level.

LTG Courtney Hodges, commander of first, and also Middleton go combat regulates of 7th and also 9th Armored departments to assistance the 106th Division’s defense. MG Alan Jones, the 106th’s commander, sends out reinforcements come Winterspelt and Schoenberg about noon. COL Charles Cavender the 423rd Regiment counterattacks, i m sorry retakes the town of Bleialf.

The Germans catch Steinebruck (six miles east of St. Vith), with its leg over the our River.

The only significant check in the German development is in ~ Kobscheid, where 18th mounties Reconnaissance Squadron had actually circled the village with barbed wire and also dug in machineguns from their armored cars. Here, they organize the village for the day; after dark, they destroy their vehicles and also abandon your positions, withdrawing to St. Vith. In various other villages, the cavalry troops are forced to withdraw previously in the day to protect against being surrounded and also cut off. Devine directs the squadron to take it up location on a brand-new defense line follow me the ridge to run from Manderfeld to Andler, top top the north side of the our River.

Village strongpoints collection up by the U.S. Cavalry groups, plus continual artillery fire native VIII Corps to make reservation units and 106th department units, refuse German devices the roads.

Dec. 17

Before dawn, the German LXVI Corps renews its advancement on the our River. Winterspelt falls early in the day. The Germans then advancement to the crucial bridge in ~ Steinebruck and past it, yet are thrown ago by a CCB nine Armored department counterattack.

BG Bruce Clarke, leader the CCB 7th Armored Division, arrives at Jones’ headquarters in St. Vith in the morning v news that his command is top top the road to St. Vith however will most likely not come until later that afternoon due to its progression being snarled on the roads. Adding to this negative news for Jones, who is hoping for deliverance through the come of arranged reinforcements, the instance isn’t improved by the appearance of a demoralized Devine with news that German Tiger tanks are ideal on his heels. Devine is sent out to a greater commander to make a “personal report.” with the appearance of German scouts on the hills east of town, Jones decides the has had actually enough. He turns over defense of the area to Clarke.

Clarke sees his very first task as gaining his command into St. Vith. By midnight the sets up the starts of a “horseshoe defense” the St. Vith, a line of devices to the north, east and south that town. These systems come mainly from 7th and 9th Armored Divisions but include troops indigenous 424th Regiment the 106th Division, and various supporting artillery, tank and tank-destroyer battalions.

Dec. 18

As German troops massive on the opposite bank, ninth Armored blows increase the bridge on the Our river at Winterspelt. American fall back to a protective line v 7th Armored division on the left and also 106th’s 424th Regiment ~ above the right. The Germans overrun Bleialf and also Andler. The Germans catch the bridge at Schoenberg by 8:45 a.m., cutting turn off American artillery systems attempting to retract west of the our River.

The 106th Infantry Division’s 422nd and also 423rd Infantry Regiments are encircled and also cut off from the rest of the division by a junction of foe forces near Schoenberg. After they receive an order from Jones in ~ 2:15 a.m. To break out to the west follow me the Bleialf-Schoenberg-St. Vith road (Jones called them come “clear the area that Germans in the process”), they begin the breakout at 10 a.m., through COL Charles Cavender leading the attack (commander, 423rd Infantry). Through nightfall both regiments had regrouped for a counterattack, spanning three miles to the basic of the ridge developing the east side that the Our river valley, and are prepared to attack and also capture the leg at Schoenberg in ~ 10 a.m. The following day.

However, they room blocked by the enemy and also lost come the division. The German southerly pincer, proceeding from Bleialf against scattered American resistance, closes at nightfall on the Schnee Eifel Dec. 17. Jones had provided the troops eastern of the Our river permission to retract at 9:45 a.m., however it was as well late to organize one orderly tap the money by the time. This order, and the sluggish German southern arm, gave an ext Americans a opportunity to escape, but due to the fact that they had newly arrived in the area and had few compasses or maps, many were can not to take advantage of the opportunity. The American positions eastern of the ours River become the Schnee Eifel Pocket.

Dec. 19

At 9 a.m., 422nd and 423rd’s positions come under artillery bombardment. The American assault on Schoenberg launches at 10 a.m. As scheduled, but comes under German assault-gun and also anti-aircraft gunfire native armored fighting vehicles top top the ridge to their front and from German troops firing small-arms fire. This is negative enough, however then tanks show up behind them and also it is the critical straw – the Americans space under fire from every sides and running low on ammunition. In ~ this suggest COL George Descheneaux, command of 422nd, decides come surrender the American forces in the Schnee Eifel pocket. In ~ 4 p.m., this surrender is formalized, and the two regiments that 106th division and all their sustaining units, some 7,000 men, come to be prisoners of the German Amongst the prisoners is PVT cut Vonnegut that 423rd Infantry Regiment, whose experiences as a prisoner of war type the communication of his novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

A various group the scattered American soldiers numbering some 500 males surrender later, and by 8 a.m. Dec. 21, all organized resistance through U.S. Pressures in the Schnee Eifel bag ends. This point out the most substantial defeat endured by American pressures in the European theatre of Operations.

Dec. 20

Supreme command GEN Dwight D. Eisenhower provides command of every troops phibìc of the German development to Montgomery, command of 21st Group.

Forces of 82nd Airborne division make call with 7th Armored Division, conference the condition Hodges set for command of the St. Vith pressures shifting come XVIII Airborne Corps under LTG Matthew Ridgway.

Dec. 21

Holding St. Vith has become an ext of a liability to the Americans 보다 an asset. Strikes from 1st SS Panzer division have reduced the Rodt-St. Vith road. The LVIII Panzer Corps’ advance south that St. Vith endangers to nearby a pincer approximately the whole St. Vith salient at Vielsalm, 11 mile west the St. Vith, trapping most of first

The German assault on St. Vith starts at 3 p.m. With a hefty artillery barrage. The climax of the attack is the German 506th heavy Panzer Battalion. Six of the titan Tiger tanks strike from the Schoenberg-St. Vith road against American location on the Prumberg. Attacking after dark at 5 p.m., the tanks fire star shells right into American positions, blinding the defenders, and follow up v armor-piercing shells, ruining American defending vehicles. Roughly 9:30 p.m., Clarke assignment American pressures to withdraw to the west. German pressures pour right into the town, happily looting the remaining American supplies and equipment, in the procedure creating a website traffic jam that avoids pursuit that U.S. Forces.

Dec. 22

Ridgeway come in Vielsalm. He is conscious Montgomery has already decided to withdraw from the St. Vith area. Ridgway is still ready to take into consideration holding location in the area, but interviews with commanders change his mind.

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Dec. 23

A “Russian High” begins blowing – a cold wind indigenous the northeast and also clear weather – freezing the ground and allowing free movement of tracked vehicles and also the use of Allied air superiority. American forces are able come escape come the southwest, cross-country to towns such together Crombach, Beho, Bovigny and Vielsalm west that the Salm River. U.S. Forces are able come outrun the panzers and also join forces with XVIII Airborne Corps.