Thursday, November 19, 2009

Between the Lines: Bill in Combat Dec.1-12, 1944

The first day of December is clear and sunny. Bill’s unit, Company A, First Battalion, 399th. Infantry Regiment, 100th. Infantry Division, U.S. Seventh Army is in reserve resting in Schneckenbusch, a small town outside of Saarbourg, France. Bill is one of a number of Replacement Soldiers who join the 399th during this time. He uses the break to send home a Christmas card and acclimate himself to his new surroundings.

At dawn of December 3 the Regiment moves out northward across the Lorrainian Plains toward the Little Vosges Mountains. Ahead lay the Maginot and Siegfried Lines. The Regiment rolls northward for three days fighting horizontal rainstorms in addition to enemy mortar and artillery. Bill and Company A spend the night of December 4th in the village of Petersbach, taking over houses for the night.

Chow is served promptly at 0700 on the morning of December 5 and at 0730 Company A moves out toward Tiffenbach. They encounter small arms fire along the way taking no casualties and no prisoners. The night is spent in Tiffenbach.

After a hot breakfast in the morning of December 6 Bill moves out along the road to Wingen. The day’s march is relatively uneventful and Company A is billeted in Wingen for the night.

On the morning of 7 December Bill’s Company makes a long climb up the hill toward Goetzenbrock which they reach at noon. The platoons are moved into buildings to await further orders when they are hit by a barrage of German 88’s. It is the first heavy shelling Bill is to experience in combat. Fortunately there are no casualties. Ahead lay Lemberg.

The following morning, December 8, 1944, after eating hot chow Bill moves out under intermittent shelling from 88’s. The objective for the day is to move onto the high ground southwest of Lemberg and secure it. Flak guns and mortars smash onto the road where the troops advance. Adding to the difficulties booby traps and mines are encountered. Despite casualties Company A secures its position and digs in along the ridge near Lemberg where it will spend an exceptionally dark, cold and wet night. The official Division history will note that this position was “captured and held against great odds.”

At noon, the ninth of December, the Company is relieved by elements of the 398th Infantry. After a four hour rest Bill and his fellow infantrymen move south of the St. Louis-Lemberg Road in the attack on Lemberg, entering the town at dusk. The enemy, occupying unsecured high ground rakes the troops with heavy fire of all kinds. Company A engages in house-to-house fighting with the German defenders. Under strength, the unit can only progress so far, and finally establishes outpost houses for the remainder of the night. During the night, “Jerry” snipers and burp gunners, aided by the illumination of burning buildings, sweep the streets with gunfire.

On the morning of 10 December the Company moves through Lemberg clearing it of snipers and taking prisoners. The remainder of the day is spent in houses on the north edge of town. Interdictory fire from enemy 88’s continue throughout the day and into the night.

At 1600 the next afternoon Company A (Able Company) receives orders to move to the rear for rest and reorganization. The nights of December 11 and 12 are spent in houses in St. Louis les Bitche. It is here that Bill writes his next several letters as he rests, reorganizes and trains for the drive on the bastion of the Maginot Line, the city fortress of Bitche.


  1. Wow, house to house fighting in Lemberg! That must have been some experience for young Bill. Which German troops were they fighting?

  2. The German forces operating in the Lower Vosges area at this time consisted of an amalgam of First Army units. The primary German infantry unit at Lemberg was the 953rd. Infantry which was attached to the 361st. Volks Grenadier Division. Their assignment was to secure the bastion of Bitche and delay the advancement of American troops in their sector. This was part of the overall plan to support and protect the planned German invasion commonly known as the "Battle of the Bulge".


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