The Main Effort Continues
After the 112th Infantry's 2 November attack through the draws south of Vossenack was abandoned, in its stead was substituted an advance in a column of battalions through Vossenack, thence to the southeast into the Kall River gorge, up the slope to Kommerscheidt, and on to Schmidt. (Map 21) The 3d Battalion was to lead, the 1st to follow on order, and the 2d to continue to hold in Vossenack. With the Germeter-Richelskaul road as a line of departure, the attack was to be launched at 0700 on 3 November.
Company K, with one heavy machine gun section from Company M's 2d Platoon attached and supported by the 3d Tank Platoon of Company A, 707th Tank Battalion, was ordered to spearhead the 3d Battalion's advance. Echeloned 300-400 yards to the left rear of Company K was to be Company L, with the other section of Company M's 2d (machine gun) Platoon attached and the 2d Tank Platoon, Company A, 707th, in support. Company I was then to follow Company L, and the 1st Tank Platoon, Company A, 707th, was to be in mobile reserve. After the advance units had cleared Vossenack, the 81-mm. mortars were to go into position in a small draw north of Vossenack, while the 1st (machine gun) Platoon of Company M was to fire from the southeastern nose of Vossenack ridge to support the movement across the river valley and up the Kommerscheidt-Schmidt ridge line. The so-called "Greene Hornets," a special patrol group of eleven men under 1st Lt. Jack B. Greene, assistant S-2 of the 3d Battalion, was to patrol the woods to the north between Wittscheidt and Vossenack to provide flank protection. From its positions just east of Richelskaul where it had made its short-lived attack the day before, Company B was to provide a demonstration by fire at H Hour and would not accompany the 1st Battalion when it followed the 3d.1
The day of attack brought again the type of weather that characterized almost all the Schmidt operation: cold, but not quite freezing, with a heavy mist hanging about the wooded draws. The mist, threatening to turn at any moment to drizzling rain, made visibility poor and employment of aircraft doubtful. A morass of mud blanketed the area, miring vehicles on rear supply routes and sticking to the boots of the infantry.2
Since Vossenack, the first objective for the new attack, was already held by the 2d Battalion, there was no artillery preparation before the attack except for continuation of normal harassing missions. Unheralded by the big guns, the riflemen crossed the Germeter line of departure and shifted into the accustomed five-yard interval between men. The movement was uneventful until about 0730 when the formation halted at the church in Vossenack to begin reorganization and adjustment to a new line of departure, the main street of Vossenack. As the direction of the move was shifted from east to southeast, a brief but intense enemy artillery concentration struck the battalion. The troops took cover in near-by buildings and, except for one man wounded in Company L, escaped casualties.3
While the infantry reorganized, the supporting tanks of Company A, 707th Tank Battalion, were scheduled to pull ahead to the nose of the high ground southeast of Vossenack and fire their machine guns at the woods line to the southeast in order to neutralize any enemy opposition which might be present. The 3d Tank Platoon accomplished its mission without difficulty. The 2d Tank Platoon moved farther east than had been planned, and the lead command tank of 2d Lt. John J. Clarke struck a mine 300 yards east of the church and was immobilized. The other tanks in the platoon pulled back, turned to the south, and joined in spraying the woods line with fire as the infantry pushed forward.4
The Spearhead Advance of Company K
Company K moved out across the open space to the south of Vossenack, its left flank guiding on the Vossenack-Kommerscheidt trail. Shells from light enemy mortars fell with muffled explosions in the muddy ground, but there was no artillery fire. The men moved rapidly, and by 0845 the lead elements had entered the woods, their presence masking the fire of the supporting tanks. According to plan, the tankers raised their fire, using their hull guns as direct fire artillery against Kommerscheidt beyond the wooded Kall River gorge.
Descending the steep wooded slope toward the Kall River, the men of Company K were hit by enemy artillery fire. Tree bursts among the tall firs heightened the effectiveness of the shelling. One man was wounded and three were killed. Occasional sniper fire also began to harass them, and a man laying telephone wire was wounded in the leg and a staff sergeant killed.
At the Kall River the scouts came upon ten Germans and opened fire, killing one. The other nine surrendered. The enemy offered no other ground opposition, and the men of Company K, surprised with the ease of their attack thus far, waded out into the chilling water of the Kall to continue their advance. They forded the river at a point just south of a mill, Mestrenger Muehle, shortly after 0900.
The Germans continued to shell the wooded valley with sporadic eruptions of artillery that failed to halt Company
Drive on Schmidt
3 November 1944
K's advance up the steep slope east of the river. When the men reached the edge of the woods slightly southwest of Kommerscheidt, they saw the little town clearly. Shells from the supporting tanks near Vossenack were falling among the scattered buildings. A small group of Germans fired desultorily from the open field between the woods line and the town. Company K returned the fire, and eight Germans came forward to surrender. As the Germans moved in, Company K's scouts deployed across the open and into the village to reconnoiter, the supporting tank fire lifting as the tankers spotted the scouts moving across the field. The scouts signaled all clear, and Company K moved into the first objective, a drab little community of scattered houses. It had captured the initial objective, against virtually no opposition, by 1300.
Schmidt, the final objective, was clearly visible from Kommerscheidt. It was perched on the sloping eastern portion of the Kommerscheidt-Schmidt ridge line (the highest portion of the ridge was southwest of Schmidt). Woods on all sides fringed the ridge, and between the two towns there were several pillboxes along a dirt road. A group of Germans ran from a pillbox on the right that was marked by the wreckage of an American airplane which had crashed almost on top of it. Opening fire, the Americans drove some of the Germans back into the pillbox and others into a wooded draw to the west.
The Company K commander, Capt. Eugene W. O'Malley, had begun to reorganize his men to continue into Schmidt when the enemy fired a short but violent artillery concentration into Kommerscheidt, holding up the advance
HUERTGEN FOREST. Enemy artillery fire falling over the heavily wooded slopes caused many casualties from tree bursts.
momentarily. As soon as the fire lifted, the company headed down the main road toward Schmidt, only occasional shots from enemy rifles contesting the advance. A base of fire from the attached machine gun platoon and flanking fire from a group of riflemen disposed of the Germans who remained in the pillbox marked by the crashed airplane. At the outskirts of Schmidt Captain O'Malley split his company, one group continuing through the town's center and the other going to a small sector of the town on the southwest along the Schmidt-Strauch road.
They found the enemy in Schmidt, but little resistance. The attack was evidently a complete surprise to the Germans. Some were captured in the houses where they were eating or had just eaten, and some were reported drunk. Others were caught as they rode bicycles or motorcycles into the town, and still others were taken as they strolled along the main road into town from the west without any apparent thought of danger.
In slightly more than seven and one-half hours--the time now: 1430--Company K had advanced to Schmidt, the division objective. In neither Kommerscheidt nor Schmidt had there been appreciable German resistance, although G-2 sources determined later that a battalion of the 275th Division with a strength
of 8 officers and 276 men had been charged with the defense.5
Company L Also Advances
At the start of the move from Vossenack to Schmidt, Company L was echeloned to the left rear, its 2d and 3d Platoons forward. As Company K entered the Kall woods, Company L was still in the open between the town and the woods and received heavy mortar concentrations, probably because Company K's movement had alerted the enemy. Once inside the woods the men could hear artillery fire falling near by but could not see it, and their movement was unimpeded except by the steepness of the slope and the wooded terrain.
The 3d Platoon on the right guided along the main Vossenack-Kommerscheidt trail and neared the river. Spotting a lone German near a bridge across the stream, one of the scouts shot him, and the platoon joined the remainder of the company in fording the river 300 yards north of the bridge, finding the river narrow and shallow with sloping banks and a rock bottom. The company's advance was keeping pace with Company K, which at about the same time, 0900, was fording the stream to the south near the Mestrenger Muehle.
Company L, with two platoons forward, continued up a steep slope beyond the river, keeping inside the woods in order to skirt the open fields to the north of Kommerscheidt and come upon the town unobserved from the east. One stray enemy soldier was taken prisoner, and later, about noon, some of the men reported they saw Germans in the houses of Froitscheidt, a small settlement across a shallow wooded draw to the east. The company halted almost abreast of this settlement, set up two heavy machine guns, and fired on one of the houses. Nothing happened; so the company commander, Capt. Jack W. Walker, sent a patrol to the buildings only to find the settlement unoccupied.
The Americans continued and by 1400 had reached their assault position in the edge of the woods east of Kommerscheidt. When Captain Walker checked in with his battalion headquarters, he learned that Company K had already taken Kommerscheidt and that Company L was to move on immediately to assist in taking Schmidt.6
Walker shifted his unit's attack formation to put the 1st and 2d Platoons forward and the 3d in support, and Company L moved south again toward Schmidt, staying within the woods line east of the Kommerscheidt-Schmidt clearing. It met no opposition. Two German troop shelters with smoke coming from them lay on the route of advance, but they housed no enemy except for one wounded German whom the men deemed beyond assistance.
It was now well after 1500, and another message from battalion said Company K was already in Schmidt and directed Company L to move ahead quickly. The men pushed on and entered Schmidt at the junction of the Bergstein and Harscheidt roads on the east, taking approximately thirty prisoners from the first houses. Darkness, which came early
in the forests during the misty winter days, began to increase, joining with harassing sniper fire to hamper the company in its mop-up of the town. Finally, complete darkness and a battalion order to shift to the defense halted the mop-up. Sniper and machine gun fire still came from a group of buildings at the extreme southeast of town along the Hasenfeld road.7
Company I Follows in Reserve
The 3d Battalion's reserve company, Company I, minus its 1st Platoon, which was on security guard at division headquarters, was still in Vossenack when the mortar concentrations in the open area between the town and the Kall woods hit the two leading companies. As Company I started to follow the advance, mortar fire fell on its column as well, causing the company's 60-mm. mortar section at the rear of the column to lose contact. The rest of the company entered the woods before the section leader could re-establish contact. Since mortar fire continued on the open ridge and since he had no knowledge of his company's assigned location beyond the Kall, the section leader kept his group in Vossenack and attached it to Company H. The main body of Company I had no difficulty in the advance after entering the Kall woods and closed into Schmidt shortly after 1600.8
Company M Moves to Schmidt
When the Company M commander, Capt. Guy T. Piercey, received word that Company K had captured Kommerscheidt, he directed his 81-mm. mortars in Vossenack and his machine gun platoon on the Vossenack ridge to move up quickly in order to provide close-in fire support for the subsequent attack on Schmidt. Company K's later advance into Schmidt was so rapid, however, that there was no reason for the weapons men to halt in Kommerscheidt, and they moved directly into Schmidt. It was well after dark when they arrived.9
3d Battalion Medics
At the start of the attack on Schmidt the 3d Battalion medical aid station was located in the woods west of Germeter. After the battalion reached Vossenack in early morning, 2d Lt. Alfred J. Muglia, Medical Administrative Corps, established a forward collecting point in the Vossenack church. He used two jeeps and an M-29 weasel to transport patients back to the rear aid station west of Germeter. That afternoon, when the 3d Battalion had reached Schmidt, Lieutenant Muglia and several enlisted medics moved forward in a weasel to reconnoiter for another aid station site. On the narrow and slippery Vossenack-Kommerscheidt route through the Kall woods the weasel threw its tracks and had to be abandoned, blocking the trail. Lieutenant Muglia returned to Vossenack, secured a litter squad and a jeep, and drove back for several patients, possibly wounded men of Company K, who had been attracted to the weasel's Red Cross flag. He evacuated all of them and, since it was almost dark, instructed the
litter squad to dig in for the night along the edge of the woods. Then he returned to Vossenack and assisted evacuation there during the night.10
The Greene Hornets
The special patrol group of twelve volunteers, nicknamed the "Greene Hornets," served in effect as an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon at the disposal of the 3d Battalion commander. Led by Lieutenant Greene the group moved out early in the morning on its mission of patrolling the woods north of Vossenack just as the 3d Battalion was leaving Germeter. Lieutenant Greene and his men traveled north to Wittscheidt, crossed the Huertgen road, and entered the woods to the east. They found an abandoned German antitank gun and later came unexpectedly upon an enemy outpost defended by two machine guns and a burp gun. So close did the patrol come before either group discovered the other's presence that the resulting fire fight became a hand grenade duel. The Americans quickly demolished the outpost, killing one German, severely wounding another, and putting the rest to flight. Greene's men suffered no casualties.
After investigating a draw in the woods, the patrol moved back into the open and into Vossenack. Lieutenant Greene decided against carrying out a secondary mission of reconnoitering to the southeast for an alternate supply route across the Kall River because of heavy enemy shelling in the area. For the same reason he made no effort to rejoin his battalion across the river in Schmidt.11
The 1st Battalion Follows the 3d
The 1st Battalion, minus Company B, moved out of Germeter about noon on its way to Vossenack. Company B, after completing its demonstration east of Richelskaul, had withdrawn into Company A's former positions around the Richelskaul road junction. The rest of the battalion, in the order A, Battalion Headquarters, C, and D, reached Vossenack by 1330. There it changed direction at the church and moved out across the open space toward the Kall woods. Enemy artillery fire hit the column while it was in the open and killed a Company D messenger. In the woods sporadic enemy shelling continued, severely wounding a sergeant of Company A and killing a mortar section runner.
Probably because the river was to be used as a reorganization phase line, Company A halted just north of the bridge site and began to dig in to protect itself against enemy artillery fire. Upon reaching the river farther to the south, Company C too began to dig in. When orders were soon given to continue, Company C shifted to the lead in the column of companies and advanced across the bridge and up a winding trail toward Kommerscheidt. Darkness was rapidly approaching. At the woods line overlooking the open fields leading into Kommerscheidt, Company C halted and again began to dig in, and Company A and the remainder of the column passed through and into Kommerscheidt.
At 1614 the 28th Division chief of staff sent a message to Colonel Peterson, the 112th Infantry commander, instructing him to send his 1st Battalion to Schmidt to assist the 3d. These instructions accorded with the regiment's original attack plan. Regiment must have changed plans, however, for the 1st Battalion made no effort to continue past Kommerscheidt. The battalion, minus Company B back at Richelskaul and Company C at the northern woods line overlooking Kommerscheidt, closed into the town about 2100. Division must have concurred in the change, for at 2255 Colonel Peterson reported to it that he had a battalion in Schmidt and a battalion in Kommerscheidt, and division issued no further recorded instructions. A division letter of instructions for 4 November (evidently prepared during the night of 3 November) instructed the 1st Battalion to continue to hold in Kommerscheidt.12
The night was black, and the enemy harassed the defensive preparations in Kommerscheidt with fire from heavy mortars. The Company A commander, whose men composed the bulk of the town's defenders, deployed his platoons as best he could in the darkness, the 1st Platoon defending to the east, the 2d Platoon to the south, and the 3d Platoon to the southwest. A gap of several hundred yards between the 2d and 3d Platoons was partially closed with a thin cover of personnel from the battalion Ammunition and Pioneer Platoon, and Company A's light machine guns went into position with the 2d Platoon to cover the main road to Schmidt.
Company D's machine gunners and mortar men had found the going slow and arduous in the darkness and over the rugged terrain on the slopes of the river draw. Arriving in Kommerscheidt almost an hour behind Company A, the men set up their defenses as best they could. The blackness of the night added to the normal confusion of moving into strange territory. The move was finally completed, one section of machine guns going to the left flank (east) and one to the right (west), and the 81-mm. mortars going into position in the rear (north) of the town. The other machine gun platoon had been left with Company B at Richelskaul.
The 1st Battalion command group, including the battalion commander, Major Hazlett, was established in a small, partially covered, trench-type dugout, in an orchard near a road junction on the northern edge of the town. Thus the 1st Battalion prepared for the night, its Company B still defending far back at the line of departure at Richelskaul, its Company C in a support position at the northern Kommerscheidt woods line, and Companies A and D (minus one machine gun platoon) in Kommerscheidt itself.13
1st Battalion Medics
The 1st Battalion medical personnel followed the battalion's initial advance from Germeter to Vossenack and there set up a forward aid station. Within an hour, the medics were ordered to follow the battalion in a continuation of the advance. Knowing neither the proposed route nor the destination, Capt. Paschal A. Linguiti, the battalion surgeon, and his Medical Administrative Corps assistant, 2d Lt. Henry W. Morrison, joined the rear of the battalion column with their medical personnel and a weasel carrying aid station equipment. The advance proved to be cross-country toward Kommerscheidt, and they were forced to abandon the weasel as they entered the Kall woods, five of the medics transferring the equipment to their own backs. They reached Kommerscheidt about 2200 and selected for their aid station the cellar of a house on the northern edge of town.14
Requests for supporting artillery missions were few on 3 November, probably because the 3d and 1st Battalions advanced with comparative ease. The 229th Field Artillery Battalion in direct support did fire 132 missions, most of them harassing. At 1340 Battery C, 229th, displaced forward farther east in the woods west of Germeter. Although it was planned to displace the other two firing batteries, later developments showed that proper support could be given from the original locations.15 Company B, 86th Chemical Battalion, in direct support of the 112th Infantry, fired only seventy-one high explosive and sixty-three white phosphorous rounds during the day, while Company C, in general support of the entire division, smoked the open ridges around Strauch and Steckenborn to the southwest of Schmidt. Company D was scheduled to follow the 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, in its early morning attack, but in the open between Germeter and Vossenack the mortar men were pinned down by enemy machine gun, mortar, and small arms fire from the woods north of Vossenack. With tank support, the company was finally able to move into firing positions near Bosselbach Farm. There the enemy fire continued, and the chemical mortar men were forced to defend their position with rifles and bazookas throughout the night.16
While the 3d and 1st Battalions advanced to Schmidt and Kommerscheidt, the 2d Battalion, bothered but little by enemy artillery the first night in its Vossenack ridge positions, retained its defensive role. The men noted an increase in enemy shelling on 3 November, and those on the forward slopes of the exposed ridge discovered they could not move from their holes in daylight without drawing the fury of enemy artillery and mortars. The ridge became more and
more pock-marked with the eruption of shells, many of them from self-propelled guns on the Brandenberg-Bergstein ridge, and the building housing the battalion command post was hit several times. The supporting tanks of Captain West's Company C, 707th Tank Battalion, remained inside the town, seeking cover alongside the battered buildings. Communications to the rear were difficult, heavy shelling cutting telephone wires almost as soon as they were put in. Night brought intermittent relief from the shelling and became a period of almost frantic resupply.17 Sometime during the day the 2d Battalion was ordered by regiment to send one platoon east into the Kall gorge to secure the north-south river road north of the Kall trail, but for some unexplained reason the mission was not carried out.18
The Engineers and the Kall Trail
In close support of the 112th Infantry's Schmidt attack was the 20th Engineer Combat Battalion of the 1171st Engineer Combat Group. The battalion's mission was the development and maintenance of a main supply route from Germeter through Vossenack, across the Kall River, and on to Kommerscheidt and Schmidt. (Map 22) Company B, 20th Engineers, was to be responsible for opening and maintaining a one-way road from Richelskaul to Vossenack to the Kall River bridge, while company A was charged with bridging the Kall, if necessary, and opening and maintaining a one-way road from the river through Kommerscheidt to Schmidt. Company C was to be held in battalion reserve in the woods west of Germeter with the stipulation that it not be committed except with approval of the group commander. Battalion headquarters was to furnish three reconnaissance teams, each composed of an officer, an SCR 300 operator, and an additional man for security.
Attack planning had decreed that, because of the expected poor condition of the Kall trail and exposed nature of the Vossenack ridge, engineer vehicles (with the exception of three-quarter-ton weapons carriers and quarter-ton jeeps) could not accompany the leading engineer troops. To meet this problem, a forward tool dump was established in the woods just northwest of Richelskaul. Engineer troops near by were to be on the alert to hand-carry the proper tools and equipment after preliminary reconnaissance should determine the type needed.
The first information that the engineers could go into action came on the morning of 3 November with a message that a street clearance project in Vossenack needed attention. Capt. Edwin M. Lutz, commander of Company B, 20th Engineers, and Capt. Joseph W. Miller, battalion liaison officer, went forward with a platoon of Company B and a reconnaissance team, reaching the Vossenack church about 1300. When they found the road leading south toward the Kall from the church blocked by two disabled American tanks (probably those of Captain West and Lieutenant Novak) and a fallen wall, leaving only enough
The Kall Trail
space for a jeep to pass, the Company B engineer platoon began immediately to clear a path around the block.
At a company command post of the 2d Battalion, 112th Infantry, Captain Miller and Captain Lutz were informed that the Kall River bridge shown on their maps did not exist but that the river was fordable, provided corduroy was supplied for the approaches. Radioing back to the tool dump for another platoon of Company B to come forward, Lutz and Miller left on foot for a reconnaissance of the bridge site. After the trail from Vossenack entered the woods, it became very steep, and a weasel with a thrown track (Lieutenant Muglia's abandoned weasel) blocked the narrow route. The trail was a kind of shelf, a dirt wall with rock obstructions rising on the right. On the left the bank dropped off sharply. It would be a tight squeeze for tanks, the two captains calculated, but once the weasel was removed tanks might pass by hugging the right bank. At the bridge site itself they found that, contrary to the information they had received, there was a Class 30 stone arch bridge in good condition.19
The two engineer officers returned to Vossenack about 1600 and reported their findings to Company A of the 707th Tank Battalion. The tank company commander, Capt. Bruce M. Hostrup, and his men, whose fire had been masked by the advance of Company K, 112th Infantry, into Kommerscheidt about 1300 (3 November), had taken cover in a slight defilade around the southernmost houses of Vossenack. On hearing that the trail across the Kall gorge was passable, Hostrup with one of his tank platoons raced across the open southern slope to the woods line in the gathering darkness. He then halted the platoon and went forward in his command tank to test the trail.
About a quarter of the way from the woods line to the river Captain Hostrup found the trail becoming narrow, precipitous, and slippery. The trail's left shoulder, which dropped sharply toward the draw, began to give way under the weight of the tank. Although the road was nine feet wide, so was the tank, and rocky formations jutting out of the right bank confined movement to the trail itself. The tank slipped and almost plunged off the left bank into the draw. Reversing his tank, Captain Hostrup returned to his platoon at the woods line and reported to his battalion commander that the trail was still impassable. About 1900 the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Richard W. Ripple, radioed that the engineers were to work on the trail all night and that Captain Hostrup's tanks should be ready to move through to Schmidt at dawn. The tankers returned to the slight defilade near the southern edge of Vossenack, and spent an uncomfortable night. Throughout the hours of darkness, considerable enemy artillery and mortar fire plagued them. Shell fragments blew off sirens and headlights and perforated bed rolls and shelter halves on the outside of the tanks.
Sometime during the afternoon, as Captain Hostrup's tankers had waited for word that the trail across the Kall
was open, one of the tanks had thrown a track and another had bellied on a sharp ridge in the open south of Vossenack. These mishaps together with the loss of Lieutenant Clark's tank (immobilized by a mine in eastern Vossenack at the start of the 3 November attack) left the tank company with only thirteen of its original sixteen tanks when it had to move forward at daybreak.20
To the engineers the approach of dusk gave an opportunity to cross the open ridge without danger of receiving observed enemy artillery fire. Led by 2d Lt. Robert E. Huston, the B Company platoon that had been working on the Vossenack road block moved down into the woods with instructions to remove the damaged weasel. With picks and shovels, the engineers were to clear the road as best they could by morning. They knew from preliminary planning that they would have to provide their own security while working: the infantry would not take time to mop up in the woods and would leave no troops there for defense.
Another platoon of Company B, under 1st Lt. George E. Horn, arrived shortly after Lieutenant Huston's platoon had moved out, but it holed up for the night in Vossenack. Captain Miller and Captain Lutz returned to their battalion command post to report the situation (including their belief that the road was passable for tanks as it stood) and to request a bulldozer in order to whittle down some of the right bank and widen the trail. From six miles in the rear, both a bulldozer and an air compressor reached the work site about 0230. By this time Lieutenant Huston's men had pushed the damaged weasel from the trail by hand. The bulldozer proved of little value, for after about one hour's work it broke a cable and could not be used further.
Meanwhile, late in the afternoon, information had reached Company A, 20th Engineers, that it could proceed to its work beyond the Kall, and the company moved toward Vossenack. As the men crossed the open space between Germeter and Vossenack, small arms and artillery fire killed one engineer and wounded another. In Vossenack, the main body of the company waited while the 2d Platoon under 2d Lt. Robert K. Pierce reconnoitered the bridge site and as far as it could toward Schmidt.
Lieutenant Pierce and his men returned about 2230 with news that the bridge was in good condition. They had gone as far as the positions of Company C, 112th Infantry, at the top of the hill east of the river. The road, said the platoon leader, was clear except for some debris and abatis and possible mines. Under no apparent pressure except to get the trail open by daylight, Company A remained in Vossenack for several hours, suffering three men wounded and another killed by enemy artillery as it did so. At 0200 the 1st Platoon under 1st Lt. John O. Webster went out with mine detectors to clear the trail from the river toward Schmidt, and the remainder of the company joined the 1st Platoon beyond the river at approximately 0600.21
About midnight an infantry supply train of three M-29 weasels loaded with rations, ammunition, and sixty antitank mines negotiated the supply trail across the Kall and moved on to Schmidt. Since capture of the division objective some ten to fifteen hours earlier, very little had been done to improve the admittedly precarious supply line that led to Schmidt. No vehicular traffic other than the three supply train weasels managed to get through on the night of 3 November.22
The Night in Schmidt
The men of the 3d Battalion, 112th Infantry, who had found their afternoon entry into Schmidt virtually uncontested, suspended their mop-up operations shortly after dark because of the darkness and the necessity for readying their defense. Sniper fire continued to hamper defensive efforts the remainder of the night, and Company L drew some machine gun fire from the uncleared houses along the southeastern Hasenfeld road. But in general the night was quiet, and the infantrymen felt a natural buoyancy over their easy afternoon success.
Company L established its 3d Platoon astride the Hasenfeld road to the southeast, its 2d on the left of the 3d, and its 1st Platoon on the 2d's left at the Harscheidt road on the northeast. (Map 23) The company's two light machine guns and a section of heavy machine guns from Company M were tied into the defense, and contact patrols operated between rifle platoons in order to cover the assigned ground adequately.
Night 3/4 November
Company K, whose aggressive movement had landed the first American troops on the division objective, drew the defensive assignment on the south and southwest and placed its three rifle platoons on line to cover the Strauch road and the open area between the Strauch and Hasenfeld roads. With the company went a section of heavy machine guns from Company M. Stray Germans, apparently unaware that Schmidt had been captured, continued to wander
into the Company K positions from the southwest and were taken prisoner. All together Company K collected forty-five prisoners and placed them under guard in the basement of a house. They were to be removed after daylight by regimental military police. Occasional sniper fire and one or two light enemy shellings hampered Company K's night defense preparations, and the company commander, Captain O'Malley, was hit in the stomach by an enemy bullet.
The reserve company, Company I, dug in on the north of town with its two rifle platoons and light machine gun section, one platoon extending Company L's left flank to the left rear and the other extending Company K's right flank to the right rear. Because of the all-around nature of the Schmidt defense, Company I was reserve company in name only, and none of the three rifle companies had been able to hold out a support platoon.
Company M's 81-mm. mortars were emplaced in the yard of a house about one fourth of the distance from Schmidt to Kommerscheidt. Near by, facing northeast to assist one platoon of Company I, was the remaining machine gun platoon of Company M. The mortar men dug in their weapons adequately but were so fatigued that they postponed digging individual foxholes and prepared to pass the night in a small building in the yard near their mortars.
The battalion commander, Lt. Col. Albert Flood, in a pillbox along the Kommerscheidt road, which served as his command post, wanted to get tanks or tank destroyers, or even 57-mm. antitank guns, into the Schmidt positions before daylight; but the hours passed and no reinforcement arrived. The battalion had to content itself with the sixty antitank mines brought by the three-weasel supply convoy after midnight. The mines were placed on the three hard-surfaced main roads into the town. No camouflage was attempted, but organic bazookas and small arms fire covered the mines and defensive artillery fires were plotted around the town. Distribution of the water and rations that arrived with the three-weasel convoy was to await daylight.23 According to available records, no staff officer or headquarters representative of either the 112th Infantry or the 28th Division visited either Kommerscheidt or Schmidt during the night.
109th and 110th Infantry Summaries
Northwest of the 112th Infantry's sector in the early morning of 3 November, the 3d Battalion, 109th Infantry, was renewing its attack to get through the mine field along the Wittscheidt-Huertgen road and reach the woods line overlooking Huertgen. Just as the attack was beginning, the Germans counterattacked the 1st Battalion, 109th Infantry, in its woods-line positions west of
the road. (See Map 21.) Beginning about 0730 the enemy hit twice with approximately 200 men each time. Although both attacks were repulsed, the 3d Battalion heard the battle and, misinterpreting a message from regiment, sent two of its companies to the 1st Battalion's aid. These two companies then dug in behind the 1st Battalion while the remaining rifle company stayed at Wittscheidt. Since the 2d Battalion remained in reserve, the 109th Infantry's effort to complete its northern mission had thus been temporarily thwarted.24
In the woods to the south the 1st Battalion, 110th Infantry, was partially committed during the day in a defensive position along the Richelskaul-Raffelsbrand road. It engaged in no offensive action, however, and was still considered division reserve. The 3d Battalion made two attacks during the day toward the southeast while the 2d Battalion hit again at the Raffelsbrand pillboxes, but neither battalion gained and both took heavy casualties. Later in the day General Cota, the division commander, ordered the 110th's 1st Battalion to move the next morning to Vossenack and attack due south to seize Simonskall. Such a move might be expected to weaken the Raffelsbrand resistance by threatening the enemy rear. To fill the gap that would be left when the 1st Battalion moved out, Task Force Lacy was formed, consisting of a total of sixty-six men from the Antitank Mine Platoon, the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon, and a special patrol group, all under 1st Lt. Virgil R. Lacy. Commitment of the 110th's 1st Battalion would leave the 28th Division with no infantry reserve.25
Although weather on 3 November again prevented any large-scale air support, one armed reconnaissance mission by twelve P-47's of the 366th Fighter Group was over the target area at 1235 and claimed three armored vehicles destroyed and three damaged northwest of Huertgen. The same squadron claimed a house believed to be a headquarters, five motor transports, and three motorcycles destroyed northwest of Huertgen, three light flak positions destroyed northeast of Kleinhau (one mile northeast of Huertgen), a barracks strafed south of Heimbach, and a radio tower damaged in Kleinhau. Another squadron of the 366th Group was prevented from attacking in the 28th Division area because of weather conditions. It dropped its bombs far afield in the Zuelpich area.26
The Enemy Situation
On 2 November the Germans had met the American offensive with resistance from the 275th Division and plans for a Kampfgruppe of the 116th Panzer Division to join local reserves in a counterattack against the 109th Infantry's penetration northwest of Germeter. Utilizing approximately 200 men (according to American estimates), the counterattack took place at dawn on 3 November but admittedly experienced little success.
The higher German commanders, still engaged in their map study at Schlenderhan Castle, ordered one regimental combat team of the 116th Panzer Division to move immediately to the Huertgen area. The remainder of the division was to follow that night and the night of 4 November. As a precautionary measure, major elements of one regimental combat team of the 89th Division, which had begun to move out of the line for refitting after being relieved by advance elements of the 272d Division, were held at Harscheidt, northeast of Schmidt, since the American attack now appeared to be aimed in that direction. The map conference was discontinued at noon.
When Schmidt itself was captured by the Americans during the afternoon, elements of the 1055th Regiment of the 89th Division waited at Harscheidt and prepared for commitment. The 3d Battalion, 1055th Regiment, dug defensive positions astride the Harscheidt-Schmidt road and that night sent reconnaissance patrols toward Schmidt. The 2d Battalion, 1055th Regiment, had not completed its move from the west to Harscheidt; when it did arrive in the vicinity before daylight on 4 November, it took position astride the Schmidt-Strauch road west of Schmidt. Several prisoners captured on 3 November by other units of V Corps had indicated that this German regiment was in process of relief, and the 28th Division had been so informed.
When details of the 112th Infantry's success at Schmidt reached Seventh Army, a dawn counterattack on 4 November was ordered to eliminate the American advance. It was to be launched by the 1055th Regiment, assisted by assault guns and an armored group of about twenty to thirty tanks from the 116th Panzer Division's tank regiment, 16th Panzer Regiment, which had already been en route south and now was moved quickly to the Harscheidt area.
Meanwhile, the 60th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (116th Panzer Division) reached the Huertgen area and laid plans to counterattack at dawn on 4 November against the 109th Infantry's penetration north of Germeter. Because of the difficulties of terrain and their own mine fields, the Germans planned to commit the 116th Panzer Division's grenadier regiments on the north flank of the American bulge as infantry. A sizable part of its tank regiment was to fight with the 89th Division around Schmidt and Kommerscheidt.27
Summary for 3 November and Night of 3-4 November
Since the 28th Division had no knowledge of these extensive German preparations, the 112th Infantry's situation as daylight approached on 4 November looked surprisingly good. Its 3d Battalion had moved with almost amazing facility to the division objective, Schmidt; its 1st Battalion had advanced and halted in Kommerscheidt and along the woods line to the north of Kommerscheidt; and its 2d Battalion had held and
consolidated its defenses in Vossenack. Supporting engineers had begun work on the main supply route through the Kall valley, although their work thus far had been minor; and a company of tanks was poised to move over the Kall trail at dawn to join the Schmidt defense. Another company of tanks was present to aid the Vossenack defense.
The division picture was not so bright, because two stubborn interrelated facts persisted: abominable weather was preventing isolation of the battlefield by air--indeed, preventing all but minor air activity; although no major enemy armor had been sighted and prospects were good for getting American tanks to Schmidt, those American tanks still were not there. The 109th Infantry to the north had experienced limited success; the 110th Infantry to the south had made no gains.
It was logical to assume that, if the Germans were going to hit back against the forces across the Kall, they would have to strike soon. Otherwise the 28th Division would be ready to start its push to the southwest toward Strauch and Steckenborn; in fact, a G-3 letter of instructions the night of 3 November initiated plans for such a push.28 Already the capture of Schmidt had cut the enemy's supply line to troops manning the forts north of Monschau, and it would be illogical to expect the Germans to accept this situation with only a minor display of resistance.
1. 112th Inf FO 31 and Atk Overlay, 2 Nov 44, supported by subsequent entries in 112th Inf S-2 and S-3 Jnls, 3 Nov 44, and 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Greene, and Capt Guy T. Piercey, CO, Co M, 112th Inf; Combat Interv 76 with the following: Capt Bruce M. Hostrup, 1st Lt Raymond E. Fleig, and 2d Lt Richard H. Payne. All from Co A, 707th Tk Bn. See also V Corps Study, G-3 Sec; 112th Inf Sit Rpt, 3 Nov 44.
2. 112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; V Corps Study, G-3 Sec; Ltr, Col Edmund K. Daley (formerly Comdr, 1171st Engr (C) Gp) to Hist Div, 20 Sep 48.
3. 112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne; Combat Interv 75 with Capt Jack W. Walker, CO, Co L, 112th Inf, and 1st Sgt Robert C. Toner, Co I, 112th Inf.
4. Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne.
5. Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Walker, and 2d Lt Richard Tyo, Co K, 112th Inf; Combat Interv 76 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne; 112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; V Corps Study, G-3 Sec; V Corps AAR, Nov 44.
6. Combat Interv 75 with Walker.
7. Company L story is from the following: Combat Interv 75 with Walker, Piercey, and S Sgt Frank Ripperdam, Co L, 112th Inf; 112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44.
8. Combat Interv 75 with Toner.
9. Combat Interv 75 with Piercey; Interv with Capt Wayne E. Barnett (formerly 81-mm. mortar sec ldr, Co M, 112th Inf), in Kane, Pa., 22 Sep 48.
10. 2d Lt Alfred J. Muglia, MAC, Rpt of Evacuation to 28th Div Surgeon, 11 Nov 44, in Combat Interv File 76 (hereafter cited as Muglia Rpt).
11. Combat Interv 75 with Greene.
12. Combat Interv 75 with Perll and Quinton-Hausman-Lockwood-Kertes-Norton; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44. Colonel Peterson has notes from a 3 November conference saying only, "3d Bn to be supported by 1st." He says it was his plan to send the 1st Battalion behind the 3d by bounds, and he does not recall that he ever planned to send the 1st Battalion to Schmidt, because he wanted to provide a defense in depth in deference to the regiment's exposed salient into enemy territory. He does not believe the battalion would have stopped if it had not had orders to do so, for "Major Hazlett [the 1st Battalion commanding officer] was a man who had the courage to do what he was told to do." See Interv with Peterson.
13. Combat Interv 75 with Perll, Holden, Kelly-Hunter, Quinton-Hausman-Lockwood-Kertes-Norton, and Sgt Tony Kudiak, A and P Plat, 1st Bn Hq Co, 112th Inf; 112th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44.
14. Capt Michael DeMarco and Capt Paschal A. Linguiti, Report on Evacuation of Wounded from Vossenack, Kommerscheidt and Schmidt, 2-11 Nov 44, to 112th Inf surgeon, 11 Nov 44, in Combat Interv File 76 (hereafter cited as DeMarco-Linguiti Rpt); Capt Linguiti, Report on Misuse of Aid Station Site, to 112th Inf surgeon, 16 Nov 44, in Combat Interv File 76 (hereafter cited as Linguiti Rpt).
15. 28th Div Arty Jnl, 3 Nov 44; V Corps Study, Arty Sec.
16. 86th Cml Bn AAR, Nov 44.
17. Combat Interv 75 with Condon, Beggs, Pruden, Nesbitt, Cascarano, Johnson, Crain, Kauffman, Nelson, and 1st Lt Melvin R. Barrilleaux, CO, Co F, 112th Inf.
18. Overlay, 112th Inf to CO 2d Bn, 3 Nov 44, 112th Inf S-3 Jnl and File, 3 Nov 44. Although the situation overlay for 4 Nov, 112th Inf G-3 File, 4 Nov 44, shows this platoon in position, it is not supported by either journals or interviews.
19. Combat interviews do not make clear that the bridge was checked for demolitions, but in Colonel Daley's letter to the Historical Division he says that, in compliance with the engineer plan, engineers of 103d Engineer Combat Battalion should have been with the assault battalions and presumably did the checking. A Class 30 bridge, capable of supporting a load of approximately thirty tons, could be expected to meet the weight requirements put on it by an infantry division.
20. Combat Interv 75 with Hostrup-Fleig-Payne, Lutz.
21. Engr story from Combat Interv 75 with the following: Daley; Lt Col James F. White, Ex Off, 1171st Engr (C) Gp; T/4 James A. Krieder, Co A, 20th Engr (C) Bn; Maj Bernard P. McDonnell, S-3, 20th Engr (C) Bn; Lutz; Capt Henry R. Doherty, CO, Co A, 20th Engr (C) Bn. See also Maj Bernard P. McDonnell, Rpt of Bn Activity from 29 Oct-9 Nov 44, 14 Nov 44 (hereafter cited as McDonnell Rpt); Statement, Capt Lutz, relative to the opn of the engr plan, n.d. (hereafter cited as Lutz Statement); Statement, Capt Doherty, relative to opn of engr plan, n.d. (hereafter cited as Doherty Statement); Statement, Capt Miller, relative to engr opns 2-3 Nov 44, n.d. (hereafter cited as Miller Statement); Lt Col J. E. Sonnefield, CO, 20th Engr (C) Bn, Personal Opn Rpt on Bn Activities from 29 Oct-10 Nov 44, 14 Nov 44 (hereafter cited as Sonnefield Rpt); Statement, Col Sonnefield, relative to opn of the engr plan, 6-10 Nov 44, n.d. (hereafter cited as Sonnefield Statement). All in Combat Interv File 75.
22. Combat Interv 75 with Dana; V Corps Study, G-4 Sec.
23. Combat Interv 75 with Dana, Piercey, Walker, Ripperdam, Tyo, Toner, and 1st Lt Leon Simon, asst S-3, 3d Bn, 112th Inf; Interv with Barnett; Interv with S Sgt Robert E. Black, 1st Plat; Co I, 112th Inf, Bradford, Pa., 22 Sep 48 (hereafter cited as Interv with Black); V Corps Study, G-3 and TD Secs. The V Corps Study says the Antitank Company commander tried to get forward with three weasel-towed 57-mm. guns but could not because of the "blocked MSR," but other records show that the main supply route was never blocked until just before dawn, except for Lieutenant Muglia's medical weasel, which was removed shortly after dark. Although the 112th Infantry S-3 Jnl for this date indicates the battalion was in communication with regiment, no request for tanks is recorded. Such a request was sent to the rear by the three-weasel supply train, but this train obviously would not reach regiment until almost dawn or later.
24. Combat Interv 77 with 109th Inf personnel; 109th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44.
25. Combat Interv 77 with 110th Inf personnel; 110th Inf S-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44; 28th Div G-3 Jnl, 3 Nov 44.
26. FUSA and IX TAC Sum, 3 Nov 44; V Corps Study, G-3 Air Sec; Combat Interv 74 with Howison.
27. MSS # A-891 and A-892 (Gersdorff); MS # A-905 (Waldenburg); ETHINT 53 (Gersdorff); ETHINT 56 (Gersdorff and Waldenburg); Sit Rpts, 2-4 Nov 44, found in OB WEST KTB Anlagen 1.-10.XI.44; 28th Div G-2 File, Nov 44; Order of the Day commemorating the battles of Kommerscheidt and Schmidt, entitled "Division Review of the 89th Division" (hereafter cited as 89th Division Order of the Day). This captured document is available only in translation by V Corps IPW Team 11, as reproduced by Maj. Henry P. Halsell in his unpublished manuscript, Huertgen Forest and the Roer River Dams.
28. 28th Div G-3 Jnl and File, 3 Nov 44. Despite his division's early success at Schmidt, General Cota never actually expected to be able to execute this second phase of the attack without assistance. With all his troops already committed, he had no unit with which to attack toward Strauch and Steckenborn unless he took the 1st and 3d Battalions, 112th, thus leaving what would become the 112th's rear (Schmidt and Kommerscheidt) completely undefended. See Interv with Cota.