We begin this story at the end of 16th of december 1944. The men of the 304.Pzgr.Rgt. have just been through the first day of the Ardennes offensive and find shelter for the night inside a old Abbey in Marnach, Luxembourg. Losses where plenty, ammo is low. The morale isn't high amongst all of the troops although the first push to Marnach went quickly.
A Kriegspfarrer is called in by higher up to talk to the men and reassure them that god's on their side. For some of them men It really meant the world as for others who had gone through a lot of tough "scheisse" already don't even attend.
Steh Auf! " Got Mitt Uns" says on your beltbuckle. He is. Rest assure that he wil be there. As the Kriegspfarrer goes ahead in prayer: Gottliches herz jezu, bekehre die sunder, errette die sterbenden, befreie die armen seelen aus dem fegfeuer. Im Namen des Vaters und des Sohnes und des Heiligen Geiste. Amen.
After these short words Oberst Braun comes in with a Leutnant from divisional staff. I have a announcement. 2 Of our Kameraden have shown extraordinary effort and courage today. They will be decorated as such! They carried out their orders like everyone of you should. They saw a chance and grabbed it by knocking out a enemy armoured car with grenades. "Hurra! Hurra! Hurra!" it sounds. After a quick congratulation Braun and the Leutnant leave.Morgen gehts Weiter! Leutnant Gorling Übernehmen sie bitte.
The officers left their maps on the table. The NCO's and EM look at the map and debate wether they are going to push through Clerf, sticking to the roads or going through the thick woods with steep hills and unknown enemy strength.
The men are assembled into their Gruppen and stand at attention. Allthough they have slept in some sheds here in Marnach they must have figured they will need to push on as the artillery was firing throughout the night. Some of the Alte Hasen are assuring the new recruits that they'll be just fine if they follow Neumann.
Klubertz showed up in a Typ 100 Zugmaschine. This car was built in late '44 and sent out for field testing. Klubertz was the lucky one to get issued one. Well, lucky. If you look at Klubertz' length you can only imagine his head against the ceiling of the car.
"Well, about time!!" says Braun.
He hastily drove up from leave. After he heard rumours of a possible german offensive he put his efforts into getting to his troops. Klubertz was very much connected with his troops. Unlike other officers he stayed with the men. When the men slept in Trenches, he did too. Even when there where beds offered in local villages he preferred to stay with the men. Probably the reason why he ditched his mp40 and picked up a k98.
3.Kompanie marches off. There are all kinds of men amongst them: young, old, short or tall. Leutnant Klubertz redistributed the ammunition, he unloaded 2 MG belts and passed them out to his men.
The men march off. They carry their backpacks with blankets as they will probably spend the next night in the woods. Panzerfausts and MG ammunition are passed around in the whole Zug to distribute the weight evenly over the men.
The men closest to the MG carry the ammunition around the neck so it can be passed to the gunners faster.
The men walk into the fog. Soon they will be out of sight.
Oberst Braun and Leutnant Neumann look over the map to find the bridge they where supposed to take. Other companies will be burdened with taking the town wich will be much more costly. The bridge leads the road out of "Clerf" and will probably be the best route for the yanks to retreat when Clerf is taken. They decide to avoid the town of Clerf but go around it through the thick woods that surround it, in this way they hope to reach the bridge more or less unscaved.
Coming nearer to the forest Leutnant Gorling splits the zug up into individual schutzenketten by individual gruppes. The men are ordered to kneel and wait whilst a small spahtrupp advances 50 meters.
20 meters is the distance between the Gruppen. In this way the Gruppe is less vulnerable for enemy fire. Feldwebel Mayer gives the order " Laden und Sichern".
Feldwebel Mayer orders the men to assemble in Schutzenketten. More eyes and ears up front saves blood in dense terrain where you can't see far.
Panzergrenadier Krug observes American foxholes at 75 meters which is about as far as you can see in these dense woods. The men immediately go in prone position. Mayer observes and decides it's best to take them by surprise. Sturmangriff am Feindliche Schutzengraben, 75 meter. Marsch-marsch!
Gefreiter Spitze quickly fires a couple of rifle grenades at the enemy foxholes.
2e Gruppe quickly takes the left flank.
The Americans are caught by surprise. One of them throws a smoke grenade to try and cover for a retreat. Some of them surrender straight away. One runs away but is put down by rifle fire quickly.
Gefreiter Gebhart is standing next to a fallen yank. He's just laying there. Not a movement. It's his first time in combat and he realizes it is nothing like advertised in Signal.
What do we do with this guy? He's the sole survivor of his squad. All his mates where decimated in front of his eyes. As he looks up with teary eyes they offer him a cigarette. Luckily there are other survivors from other squads too. They are rounded up, searched and marched off by Stabsgefreiter Schmidt.
The only wounded on our side is Feldwebel Meyer. A bullet went straight through his right knee. He is quickly bandaged up and sent to the rear accompanied with 2 grenadiers. They have to help him walk as the terrain doesn't allow any vehicles to pick him up. Stretchers are obsolete in these hills, too.
Left are the dead. Searched for cigarettes and rations. But 3.Kompanie has to push on. They still have 8 kilometer to push on to their target: the bridge west of Clerf.
The men are still going forward. Passing small groups of POW's which need to be taken further back. Leutnant Neumann orders everyone to halt as provisions have arrived. Some men are sent out on Spahtrupp whilst others are brought back to get some warm food.
Grenadier Stein is just transferred from another unit where he guarded a airbase. Hoping to see some action he quickly volunteered to go 50 meters forward to check the terrain for enemy activity.
Neumann orders a few men to occupy the the enemy foxholes. The Americans held a ridge on the top facing another hill. Obergefreiter Ochse and Grenadier Dorn now have a good view down the hill. They can hear vehicles, but they must be some kilometers away..
The thick pea soup accompanied with wurst is warmed up by a "Kleinkuche". It's not so common for these grenadiers to get a hot
meal in the field.
The rumour spreads and quickly there is a long line of waiting men. Leutnant Klubertz can be seen in the row, not really bothering about being served first. He'd rather see his men who carry the heavy equipment being served in front of him.
Scraping the bottom of their messkits the grenadiers quickly devoured this "feast". Maybe there is something left for a second fill!
Oberst Braun arrives at the scene. He asks if the Grenadiere have had their shares. A loud "Jawohl" can be heard. "Good, now we can push on to the road near the bridge. It's not far now!"
The men get their gear ready, reassemble and march on.
The road leads higher up, the men get more cautious the higher they get.
Leutnant Neumann spotted movement and realizes its a American MG covering a part of the road. He quickly orders the MG to go into position. Grenadier Schreiber is joking that the Americans don't know what's hitting them with the MG zeroed in on their position.
MG, FEUER FREI! The MG quickly shoots 2 belts into the American position whilst the others push forward to capture it.
Leutnant Neumann is in the position and orders his men to push even further. With little effort they can overrun the position overlooking the road.
The enemy position is taken. Quickly the enemy vehicles are checked on provisions. Neumann orders to reassemble and push on.
Your MG should be on the left flank of the road. There is a hole next to the road that's leading to the bridge. "Zum Befehl Leutnant!". Zuckerbauch and MG-schutze 2+3 go to the designated position.
It will be a two-stage attack. First the road and immediately after that they need to push on to the riverbank. The Gruppe in the center is under command of Leutnant Klubertz.
Grenadier Leuchter is Spah and is sent forward to see if the way to the bridge is safe. He holds his rifle vertical wich means that there is no enemy within visible distance and the way is clear.
He comes back to Klubertz to rapport on the situation. The Americans can only see some 40 meters into the dense forest. In the first stage of the approach we should be safe.
Leutnant Gorling is going to lead his group up the hill. Their task is to take the right flank of the bridge. It's clear they have the hardest task in this operation. They have to first push up the hill which is still held by Americans and after that take the right flank of the bridge and if possible cross the river.
The hill is steep. Still the men run up as they know they are close to the target. They know that they need to get on the top of the hill before the rest opens fire. If the right flank is not secure their kameraden in the other Gruppen won't stand a chance storming the bridge.
The men run into position and are just on time to provide some more much needed cover.
Everybody is in position facing the bridge. The Americans are dug in behind the river but are still organizing. Seems they are alerted by all of the battle noises that could be heard for hours in these woods.
Gefreiter Hartung waits for the attack to commence. He and his Gruppe are to move out if enemy armour enters the scene. Other then that they are to function just like any other Gruppe.
An enemy truck and 2 jeeps near the bridge. They are trying to get much needed supplies to the Americans on the other side. Rations, ammunition, blankets and medical items.
Oberst Braun and Leutnant Neumann see this opportunity clearly. Zuckerbauch has a clear shot at the bridge 400 meters down the road. They look at each other and tap Zuckerbauch on the back. " Jetzt geht Los!"
MG Schutze Zuckerbauch fires a few belts signaling the rest to commence the attack.
American troops flee the scene. Little do they know that they are racing towards the 3e Gruppe laying in position.
1e and 3e Gruppe take on the frontal assault. They storm down the hill, firing on the go. Although they are out in the open field the front is too wide for the Americans to repel the storming Germans.
The Americans are under fire. Attempts to push back the attackers into their initial starting positions fail.
The Americans on the right flank quickly retreat. Leaving behind 3 dead and running back
Oberst Braun isn't impressed by the American fire and leads his men right at the front. His are in cover but he is standing tall. Braun, being a former boxer isn't really quickly overwhelmed by anything really.
A smokescreen covers the retreat of the last Americans. Leutnant Neumann orders Melder Schreiber to pass the order to the other Gruppen to secure the perimeter and dig in. The Americans might still be around and Neumann can't push any further.
2 Americans surrender. Knowing their unit is decimated it's better to surrender then to parish like the rest.
The field is scattered with dead. This final push was a tough one.
This American is wounded, Gefreiter Gebhart hears the moaning and goes to check on him. After putting his rifle away he can see that the American is hit in his neck. Lucky for him it's just a fleshwound.
During the attack these Fallschirmjäger find their own troops again. Being pinned down after a misdrop with a wounded man they are more then happy to see a friendly face.
Grenadier Krug looks in envy at Himmel's trophy; a Colt pistol. Having a bigger caliber then the German counterparts these are often referred to as being small cannons. This will surely come in handy later on.
Oberst Braun walks back to the hill to overlook the scene. The bridge has been taken, the yanks are trapped. We're a step ahead on the yanks now but loud engine noises can be heard in the direction of Bastogne. American armoured divisions are sure to be close. Let's hope the Panzers arrive quickly. Let's hope this war is over quickly.
Photo's by JT Bruyn, text by me.https://www.facebook.com/derwindhundhttp://www.3kompanie.eu