The 5th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge – Photo series
January 15, 2017 joedemadio 14 Comments
The 5th Infantry Division To Luxembourg
Picture: Through heavy snow in the night, units of the 3rd Army, including the 5th Infantry Division, reached Luxembourg from the Saar in the afternoon of December 20th, 1944. Photo: IWM, London.
Picture: Pvt. Charles Breston from Nicholasville, Kentucky, brushes snow from his 30-calibre machine gun. He belongs to the 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Divison. December 21 1944. *K048_21 – Collection MNHM Diekirch / Luxembourg*
The 5th Infantry Division belonged to Patton’s 3rd Army. They were the second wave of troops that were sent to stop the Germans in the south on the Ardennes front. The 5th division arrived on the line Bech – Consdorf – Breidweiler – Christnach on the 23rd of December. Therefore, this picture was taken before they were sent to the Bulge and marks the first in the photo series. I’ve seen the picture quite a lot on the internet, but without a proper description.
After the 5th Infantry Division arrived on the 23rd their mission was to push back the Germans across the Sauer River between Echternach and Beaufort. (I suggest you should look this up on Google Maps) The 10th Regiment had the sector in the east and their mission was the city of Echternach. The 2nd Regiment was in the middle and had to fight from Consdorf to the village of Berdorf. The 11th regiment was on the left and cleared the area between Christnach and Beaufort.
The picture below shows troops of the 11th regiment in a field near the Village of Haller. They are wearing a snow camouflage suit. Out of experience and reading a lot about the 5th Infantry Division I can tell that this picture is a true setup. The division actually had a shortage of white snow suits and only issued them for attacks and patrols over over the Sauer river.
West of the Müllerthal the 11th Infantry set out on the wheeling movement planned the night before to reduce the stubborn resistance in front of its right flank. Company A of the 91st Chemical Battalion smoked Haller while the 3d Battalion, reinforced by ten Jumbo tanks from the 737th Tank Battalion, crossed the southern face of the village and attacked toward the Hardthof rise. After this rapid and successful advance, the tanks withdrew to help the 1st Battalion drive the enemy off the Hohwald northeast of Waldbillig. Haller itself fell to the reserve battalion, which at twilight sent a rifle company and tank platoon against the village. Nearly two hundred prisoners were rounded up from the 988th, the center regiment of the 276th Volks Grenadier Division.
The operations of the 11th Infantry on Christmas Day had forced considerable retraction in the southern flank of the 276th Volks Grenadier Division. Colonel Black ordered the attack continued on the 26th, sending two battalions against what was left of the 987th and 988th Regiments. Before daybreak the 2d Battalion wheeled right and began an attack along the road running from Haller to Beaufort. The leading company encountered the first of the enemy in the wooded ravine of the Hallerbach, well camouflaged in unorthodox positions facing both sides of the ravine so that the attackers found themselves receiving mortar, Werfer, and bullet fire from front and rear.
Picture: Allied convoy carrying soldiers, supplies and munitions, advances through snow-covered country and heads toward positions threatened by the German offensive. 28 December 1944. *K054_94 – Collection MNHM Diekirch / Luxembourg*
In the previous pictures I explained how to 5th Infantry Division had the task of pushing the Germans back across the Sauer river. All three regiments succeeded after 4 days of heavy fighting. They were then send to another part of the bulge. The marks on the jeep in front of the convoy suggests that it probably belonged to the 2nd Regiment of the 5th Division.
After their succesful pushback, the “Red Diamonds” were sent to take up positions south of Diekirch. Here they would stay for the rest of January. The 11th Regiment was put in reserve while both the 2nd and 10th regiment were taking up positions south of the Sauer River. The line stretched out from Ingeldorf to Reisdorf. I assume that the convoy is heading to Diekirch for the Division to settle itself in the villages south of the Sauer river.
Patton Across the Sauer Part 5.
The previous picture showed you how the 2nd regiment was enroute to their destination. The 2nd and 10th regiment held the line between Ingeldorf and Reisdorf.
For two weeks, between January 1st till the 17th 1945, they did reconnaissance patrols and crossings over the Sauer. Hereby, gathering as much information as possible to prepare the regiments for their initial crossing over the river. The 10th regiment even changed their small front troop units 45 times so that the companies were going to be familiar with the terrain. Second lieutenant Nelson of I Company participated in one of those reconnaissance patrols. He is seen in the picture briefing the patrol.
One of the reconnaissance patrols by the 10th turned out to be of much value to the division. The commander of L Company got the order to assemble a battle group consisting of a reinforced rifle platoon. They had to destroy known enemy positions in Bettendorf and bring in prisoners. Lieutenant William Longpre was put in command and briefed the man. The mission was carried out in the early morning at 2:00 AM on January 10th, 1945. The battle group had their white camouflage suits on, as seen in the picture of Nelson. Because there was a shortage of those suits, they had to be returned after the mission. The shores were frozen, but they were able to make it across and moved in the town from the west. After the platoon had divided up in the village a German sentry noticed the patrol and opened fire. The patrol made sure there was no one left in the house where the sentry was located. They then cleared another quarter and took some prisoners here. They then quickly disappeared across a blown-up bridge and left Bettendorf with the German captives. The mission had only lasted for 90 minutes without one casualty!
Patton Across the Sauer Part 6. 72 years ago today:
After two weeks of reconaissance patrols near the Sauer river bank and an initial patrol crossing by the 10th regiment to gather information about the German defences, the 5th Division crossed the Sauer river on January 18th 1945.
Picture: Infantrymen of the US Third Army, advance along snowcovered trail. Their objective is Diekirch, Luxembourg. 19 Jan 1945. The soldiers descend the “Haardt”. *K054_61 – Collection MNHM Diekirch / Luxembourg*
The picture was taken a day after the first crossings!
For the 2nd Infantry regiment, the crossings didn’t go to plan. At 3 AM, the 1st battalion would cross the Sauer to the west of Ingeldorf where engineers of the 7th Engineer Battalion would erect a footbridge. The engineers, however, came under heavy enemy machine-gun fire. The first losses were a fact and several boats received direct hits from German mortar fire. The troops inside drowned in the ice old water and were carried downstream, if they hadn’t been killed by shrapbel. Medics came to help and evacuated the wounded on improvised sleds. When the German machine-gun positions along the Sauer were pinned down by the soldiers who made it across, the rest of the 1st Battalion would cross the river. C company pushed forward to Erpeldingen while the engineers began to build a pontoon bridge in their sector. Later that morning the 2nd Battalion would need to three attempts to make it across on their own sector. With the help of engineers, they were able to cross the Sauer and capture Diekirch
The crossings for the 10th regiment went according to plan. This was probably due to the information that was gathered in the Bettendorf Raid earlier that month. This is the initial crossing I was talking about. For more detailed information click here!
This picture was probably taken in February ’45, a month after the crossings. The snow was also gone, but it is related to the Diekirch crossings that I covered in the previous posts.
Picture: ‘A soldier inspects an abandoned German 7,5 cm PAK 40 antitank gun at the edge of the Seitert Forest North-West of Diekirch. There were two of those guns emplaced here that could fire – and possibly did high explosive shells at opposite “Goldknapp Hill” close to Erpeldange’ heights. One of those two guns is on display at the museum in Diekirc. They were towed away in the summer of 1945 which saved the guns. The German unit that had those was most probably 14. Kompanie/GR 915 of the 352nd Volksgrenadier-Division’ Thanks to Roland Gaul, retired curator of the Diekirch Museum, who helped me getting information on this picture.
So, what has this to do with the 5th Infantry Division? Well as I explained in the previous post, the 2nd Regiment of the division crossed the Sauer at Ingeldorf and several Battalions received fire from the already mentioned ‘Goldknap Hill’, north of Ingeldorf.
In Roland Gaul’s book there’s a little story of a soldier from the 2nd Regiment who crossed at Ingeldorf: ‘During the river crossing, Private Charles H. Schroder, a BAR gunner, was wounded but declined to be evacuated to the rear. He remained with his unit instead. Lying with his weapon in open country between the Sauer and the “Golknapp” hill and he fired constantly at the enemy machine-gun positions on the heights. This way his own platoon was able to dorop back before the German defensive fire. Permanently without cover, he drew the enemy fire on himself until he fell to a direct hit from a mortar.’
Medics of the 5th Medical Bn, 5th Infantry Division examining GI clothing found with German-captured equipment after the liberation of Diekirch in Luxembourg on the 20th of January 1945. This was taken during a much-need rest after the Sauer river crossing operations and drive up to Putscheid. The farmhouse was located at the eastern end of town in direction of Ingeldorf-Ettelbruck. The center figure pointing at a caputured German garment is Frank deFeo’
Interestingly, the National Museum of Military History in Diekirch has a wonderful display of some 5th Infantry Division medics. If you’re ever visiting the Ardennes, make sure to go to Diekirch!
I thought it would be interesting to put a Then & Now picture in this photo series. Somehow, they give an extra dimension to the story that a picture tells you.
Picture: Ambulance and medics of 5th medical Bn evacuating wounded from first line aid station of 3rd Bn/2nd Inf Rgt on the road to Larochette” south exit – last house of Diekirch. The house is still there today! It’s painted dull red and is now a shop for camping gear and equipment.
Picture: “After the recapture of Diekirch on January 19th 1495. These GIs, obviously amused, used civilian nightshirts over their uniform as a snow camouflage. The photo was taken in the Alexis-Heckstrasse in front of the entrance of the house K067_09 – Collection MNHM Diekirch / Luxembourg*
Interestingly, this house is still there! These GIs were probably from the 5th Infantry Division. They used civilian nightshirts over their uniform as a snow camouflage due to a shortage of snow suits. These soldiers were probably recovering from the battles they had just been in. However, they soon had to go in battle again. The town of Diekirch wasn’t the goal for their mission. The 5th Division ended up driving wedge in the German Offensive.
DIEKIRCH, LUXEMBOURG Lt. Edward C. Meleane, Los Angeles, Cal., 5th Infantry Division, utilizes this German built log cabin in the pines as the Command Post of his platoon. It is located in a well camouflaged position, shrapnel proof walls, well dug in, and has a real pane of glass in the window. 24 January 1945
*K067_16 – Collection MNHM Diekirch / Luxembourg*
After the Diekirch crossings, the 2nd regiment went further up north, capturing the villages of Brandenbourg Lipperscheid, Gralingen. On January 24th fought for the village of Hoscheid with support of the 11th Infantry.
The 10th regiment, who crossed the Sauer River on the South-East side of Diekirch at Gilsdorf, went up to Bettendorf. After capturing this village they moved up further north to close in on the 2nd regiment. Around January 24th the regiment began to advance to the village of Putscheid. This village seemed of vital importance to the Germans as it was the last village before crossing the border in to Germany. The Germans would simply not give up their access to it. Many soldiers of the 10th regiment lost their lives here.
Pvt. Albert Smith, a member of the 166th Signal Photographic Company, attached to the 5th Infantry Division, inspects a 5 barreled 21 cm Rocket Launcher “Screaming Meemie” (Nebelwerfer) north of Diekirch near the ‘Kippenhof’ farm, close to the skyline drive. The German Volks Werfer Bridage 22 had a battery of those projectors in position here that shelled the crossing sites of the Sûre river banks on January 18-20, 1945. In 1980, two bodies of German soldiers were found nearby, who belonged to that unit – they are both buried at Sandweiler cemetery in Luxembourg. After identification they are Friedrich Kuster (43) and Georg Maurer (19), an Austrian.
We can clearly see his shoulder patch from the 5th Division, a red diamond shape. The germans were famous for their Nebelwerfer artillery fire and put the 5th Infantry Division under constant pressure. During the Sauer river crossing these were used by the Germans to shell the crossing Americans.
Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy, making his daily rounds of visiting his front line troops, stops to chat with an old lady. Gen. Eddy happens to have some chocolate bars, cigarettes and “K” and “D” rations which the elderly woman is very thankful to accept. ETO, 1/26/45. *K266_01 – Collection MNHM Diekirch / Luxembourg*
Eddy was de Commanding General of the XII Corps and would later be followed up by General Irwin, Commander of the 5th Infantry Division. The picture was taken in Diekirch after the area was liberated and safe. Since September 1944 the civilians of Luxembourg were liberated. They lived in peace for a little 4 months. Diekirch, being so close to the frontline, was a place of joy and activities. Famous singers would perform here for the US troops that were resting in the Ardennes. On December 16th the Battle of the Bulge began and again the civilians were threathend by war. Some stayed and some fled, but those who stayed had to live under German authority again until they were liberated by the 5th Infantry Division.
PFC John Chichilla
3rd Army, 5th Division, 10th Infantry Regiment, C Company.
KIA 28 Jan, 1945 at Putscheid, Luxembourg
Buried at Hamm, Luxembourg
I found this picture on the internet and I unexpectedly came across his name in the book. Before Memories Fade by Melvin H. Dick: “It was C Company’s job to attack Putscheid and the attack started at 06:00 on the 28th with fog and light snow. They had to cross over the high side of a draw leading into the town, exposing them to the enemy. They moved over the hump and were soon pinned down in front of the town by small arms, mortar and tanks or self-propelled guns. The enemy counterattacked and drove the leading elements of C company to the bottom of the draw where well placed machine guns pinned them and they could not move forward or withdraw. Artillery was called, but it was impossible due to fog and light snow to adjust fire on the machine guns. About one platoon including Lt. Robert Neale, Company Commander, three platoon leaders and the forward observer for artillery were captured.
C Company lost sixteen men killed in the attack, the worst loss for the company in a single day during the war. Lt. Robert Dunn, the only remaining officer organized what was left of the company, setting up machine guns to keep the attack going. The remaining troops were finally able to withdraw. At the end of the day Putscheid was in control of the 1stBattalion.
Among the sixteen men who lost their lives that day were Pfc. Melvin Wallace Dunn and two of his friends, Sgt. Phillip Clover and Pfc. John Chichilla. The war ended for them on a cold, snowy Sunday, January 28th 1945.” Tomorrow that will be exactly 72 years ago. Pfc. John Chichilla is the guy on the picture and was one of the friends! May they all Rest in Peace.
Picture: Soldiers of the 5th Infantry Division, most likely 10th Infantry Regiment early Feb 1945 near Weilerbach, Luxembourg – shortly before Echternach. The POWs were taken out of pillboxes on the German banks of the Sauer river. The account is listed in the history book of the 10th Inf Rgt — Operation Rhineland/breaching the Westwall
After the Battles of the 5th Division near Hoscheid and Putscheid, the division was again ordered to take up positions near Echternach. This time they would cross the Sauer river again, but this time between Bollendorf and Echternach to breach through the German West Wall here. Near Echternach a lot of Bunkers can still be found today. They are one of the many traces of war that share their own story of a war fought 72nd years ago.