Author Topic: Battle of the Bulge  (Read 528 times)

bayonetbrant

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on: December 17, 2019, 09:14:10 AM
One of the best stories from the Battle of the Bulge, told from both side.  Original text from Mike B over at the Avalanche Press website.


Quote
In 1942, the United States Army eagerly awaited combat with the Germans. Many senior American officers and civilian leaders considered it a moral obligation to open a “Second Front” to relieve pressue on the Soviet Union as quickly as possible.

Nazi-occupied Norway was a favorite target of some planners. In January 1942, Winston Churchill pushed hard for Operation Jupiter, a landing in far northern Norway. This operation would capture the bases used by the air and surface raiders then attacking the convoys to Murmansk. Operation Sledgehammer, a wide-ranging plan for many landings in Europe, also foresaw operations in Norway. The Norwegian segment, called Operation Plough, featured large-scale commando raids rather than a full invasion. King Haakon of Norway and his exiled ministers opposed the large-scale economic devastation of their country, and preferred that the Germans be driven out completely with a conventional assault.

In the summer of 1942, the U.S. Army set up the 99th Infantry Battalion (Separate) to be ready for such operations. The men would be Norwegians, Norwegian immigrants, and second-generation Americans of Norwegian descent. All would be fluent in Norwegian. The troops gathered in July 1942 at Camp Ripley in Minnesota, and trained in ski operations, guerrilla tactics and other special operations as well as their standard infantry training. And yes, their weapons training included expertise in the Thompson sub-machine gun.

While the unit often flew the Norwegian flag and its men made a habit of speaking Norwegian rather than English even when fluent in both, it was a formal part of the U.S. Army in all respects. The War Department had been adamant in this respect: No precedent would be set for establishing foreign military units in the United States, drawing on potential U.S. military manpower.

At year’s end the Norwegians moved to Colorado for mountain warfare training, and shipped out for England in September 1943. By this time an invasion of Norway had become much less likely, and the battalion eventually became the palace guard for First Army headquarters.
 
In late June 1944, the 99th moved to France, but spent its time training and on security duties. Not until late August did the Norwegians see limited combat duty, attached to the 2nd Armored Division. Through September and October they fought alongside 2nd Armored and 30th Infantry divisions, but higher headquarters still seemed to be lacking an appropriate mission. Throughout November the 99th served in First Army’s rear areas, on the lookout for nonexistent German paratroopers.

The battalion saw its heaviest combat in the Battle of the Bulge, when it was reinforced with tank destroyers and armored infantry and sent to hold Malmedy against Skorzeny’s 150th Panzer Brigade. “They were good,” Private Howard R. Bergen recalled later, “but not good enough.”

The Norwegians smashed the SS attack, and held the crossroads for most of January before being sent back to France for re-training as part of the 474th Infantry Regiment, a unit made up of the 1st Special Service Force (the so-called Devil’s Brigade). The new unit never saw serious combat, and in June, the 99th went to Oslo for ceremonial duties before returning to the U.S. in October.

The Norwegian unit became surplus as soon as it was sent to France. Though it had specialized training and fought very well during its brief commitments to battle, commanders don’t seem to have had great confidence in it and the Norwegians were clearly considered an eight-ball outfit. This was definitely an unfair assessment, but there weren’t a lot of missions calling for Norwegian skiers in Belgium. Why the battalion was not attached to the 10th Mountain Division in Italy, despite having trained with the 10th in Colorado, is not clear.

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Although the Germans devoted most of their remaining resources to their attack in the Ardennes forest in December 1944, they still would face enormously superior Allied forces. To help capture the bridges over the Meuse River from the unwary Americans, Adolf Hitler himself suggested the formation of a special tank brigade equipped with American vehicles and weapons, its troops dressed in American uniforms. English-speaking soldiers would interact with any genuine Americans encountered.

Hitler selected his favorite SS commando, Otto Skorzeny, to command the unit. Hitler summoned him on 22 October 1944, giving him a promotion and the new command. Skorzeny produced his plan on the 26th, requesting 3,300 men and all available captured equipment. Though Hitler had woven tales of mountains of ex-U.S. gear, the Germans managed to find only two Sherman tanks in their depots, one of which broke down and could not be repaired (probably the cause of its capture to begin with). The other broke down on the night before the attack (one must wonder how much its crew had to do with this).

Skorzeny's new command, designated 150th Panzer Brigade, instead received 22 PzKpfw V Panther tanks and 14 StuG III assault guns. All received a coat of green paint (which quickly began to flake off) and sloppy hand-crafted white stars. About half (the exact number is unclear) of the Panthers were given a sheet-metal extension on the rear of the turret that might make them resemble an American M-10 tank destroyer with the help of darkness and/or drunken observers.

Volunteers proved hard to come by, and so Army troops from 11th Panzer Regiment were transferred as well as some Luftwaffe paratroopers. All were to wear pink or blue scarves, and the tanks were given a large yellow triangle on the rear for identification.

The new brigade moved out on December 16 as part of I SS Panzer Corps, and promptly became tangled with other units. The poor march discipline of the hastily-assembled unit made it impossible to get it to the front, and when two days had gone by without the brigade seeing any action Skorzeny suggested giving up the special plan and using his troops as a regular battle group. Sixth Panzer Army headquarters agreed, and sent them toward Malmdy for their only action of the campaign.

The hapless SS men did not strike the Americans until the 21st, a day later than planned, by which time the U.S. Army's 99th Norwegian Infantry Battalion and other units were dug in and ready for them. The SS men charged, screaming "Surrender or die!" in English, but had managed to attack the only non-English-speaking Allied unit in the Ardennes. The baffled Norwegians simply mowed them down.

A handful of tanks made it into the positions of the 120th Infantry Regiments Company K, but here they were stopped by a single man. Pvt. Francis Currey, carrying a load of anti-tank rockets, saw Lt. Albert Snyder knock out one tank with a bazooka, and then apparently went totally berserk. Currey grabbed Snyder's weapon and knocked out three more Panthers by himself, then fired the rest of his rockets at their accompanying infantry, killing several and driving off the rest in blind panic.

Skorzeny's men never recovered from Currey's attack. For 150th Panzer Brigade, the war was over. It withdrew behind 18th Volksgrenadier Division and by the 28th had been dissolved.

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Martok

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Reply #1 on: December 17, 2019, 10:41:57 PM
I'd read about the 99th before.  Apparently a couple of my distant relations served in it, although I suspect that may be apocryphal. 

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bayonetbrant

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Reply #2 on: December 17, 2019, 11:00:58 PM
I'd read about the 99th before.  Apparently a couple of my distant relations served in it, although I suspect that may be apocryphal.


That's a pretty cool connection to have

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bob48

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Reply #3 on: December 18, 2019, 06:54:45 AM
Time for me to read Beevor's 'Ardennes 1944' book again.

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mirth

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Reply #4 on: December 18, 2019, 07:59:24 AM
It is great. I think  A Time For Trumpets is still my favorite on the Bulge.

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bob48

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Reply #5 on: December 18, 2019, 08:44:49 AM

“O Lord God, let me not be disgraced in my old days.”

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mirth

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Reply #6 on: December 18, 2019, 08:50:25 AM
I am aware.

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BanzaiCat

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Reply #7 on: December 18, 2019, 08:51:47 AM
A Time for Trumpets was the first Bulge book I read many years ago - my grandfather had a copy.



mirth

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Reply #8 on: December 18, 2019, 08:53:50 AM
A Time for Trumpets was the first Bulge book I read many years ago - my grandfather had a copy.

It's a classic.

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mirth

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Reply #9 on: December 18, 2019, 02:56:30 PM
Even though staged, this is still great footage

https://twitter.com/WWIIpix/status/1207232290860027904

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bob48

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Reply #10 on: December 18, 2019, 04:27:49 PM
Yep, seen it, and stills from it, lots of times; but they remain powerful images.

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mirth

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Reply #11 on: December 18, 2019, 04:31:13 PM
The Jagdpanzer IV is impressive.

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bob48

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Reply #12 on: December 18, 2019, 04:42:30 PM
'Guderian's Duck' as it was nicknamed.

Very difficult to drive, apparently due to the overhang weight of the 75mm L70 ( same gun as the Panther) making it nose heavy.

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Reply #13 on: December 18, 2019, 07:47:04 PM
I understand ducks everywhere protested that name claiming they are NOT clumsy and could easily fly circles around it.  :2funny:  But it was a Stone-Cold Killer on the battlefield. Some say better than the Jadgpanther.

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Reply #14 on: December 18, 2019, 07:59:34 PM